There has been a lot of talk about inflammation lately. I am so thrilled to see people gaining more awareness on this topic, as I think it is an often un-addressed root to many problems or at least a symptom of deeper underlying problems that need to be sussed out and addressed.
Two of the biggies that get looked past in our western medical practices are arthritis and digestive issues. These both often involve high levels of inflammation that need to be decreased while the deeper underlying core problems are being addressed. Key words “deeper underlying core problems”, as inflammation is a byproduct of something stressing the body. Just taking anti-inflammatories is not addressing the core reason why your body is inflamed to begin with. Using anti-inflammatories without treating the underlying cause is like pouring a cup of water on a forest fire.
An inflammatory response is a good and bad thing. It is your body’s way to reduce what is irritating it and heal what has been damaged in the body. In an acute situation this is a good thing. When we get a cut, injury or infection we want the body to be on high alert and send in forces to prevent infections and bring in the environment for cell repair. When the irritants keep coming and the body is put into a state of chronic irritation/ inflammation, over time it can lead to several diseases and conditions like: cancers, arthritis (rheumatoid and osteo), heart disease and chronic allergies, to name a few.
What are some signs that inflammation is present in the body?
Acute or chronic pain
Flushed skin or rosacea
Rash, hives, skin inflammations like eczema or psoriasis, acne
Chronic stress or agitation
High blood pressure
High blood sugar
What are some potential causes of inflammation?
Imbalance of or lack of fatty acids
Pesticides and environmental toxins
Over consumption of NSAIDs(anti-inflammatories)
What are some common diagnosis, that are related to inflammation?
IBS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease and various other digestive system issues
Autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis, MS & Lupus
Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are potentially linked to inflammation as well
How can you reduce the inflammation load on your body?
First and foremost try and determine the deeper cause. Diet and lifestyle play a major role in the level of irritation in your body. The over consumption of addictive irritating substances like sugar, alcohol, processed foods (especially processed grain products), and fried foods. If your food does not come from a farm and it needs to be made in a factory, chances are it will produce inflammation in the body. Start reducing the above irritants and start adding in these inflammation reducers:
Essential Fatty Acids: foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish & fish oils (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines), nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, beef, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, salad greens. Omega 6 & 9 we generally get an overabundance in our diet. If you do take a supplement of EFA’s look for one that is just Omega-3 or fish oils.
Eat Your Greens: When I do an Ayurvedic nutritional consultation I look at a 5-7 day diet log of the client. Consistently I see a lack of greens being eaten in our culture. The green foods that I see eaten on occasion are asparagus, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and usually in that order. Why should you eat those bitter tasting greens like collards, mustard greens, kale, dandelion greens (yes, you heard me dandelion greens), arugula, beet greens, turnip greens, nettles (yes again, nettles. Steam them first of course)? They are high in Vitamin A, C, E, K, calcium, iron and other minerals, they help cleanse your liver and blood, help in weight reduction, cleanse your skin, prevent or lower high blood pressure, they supply enzymes to help break down heavier foods or fats and are high in fiber.
Other anti oxidant, anti-inflammatory fruits and veggies:
Non heated olive oil
Onions and garlic
Tomato sauce for high lycopene content
Tart cherries(not sweet cherries)
Bromelain: Is an enzyme extracted from pineapples. It is one of my favorite supplements for inflammation, next to ginger and turmeric and you often see it in formulas with Ginger and Turmeric as these spices are strong anti-inflammatories. I envision these enzymes going around and eating up the inflammation in the body as enzymes like to process and “eat things”. One study showed that Bromelain worked as well as NSAID’s like ibuprofen for pain relief. If you are going to use it, take it on an empty stomach to get the benefits of it “eating up” the inflammation on the body. If you take it with food it will focus more on helping to break down your food, not a bad thing but not what your focus is. Also do not take if you are currently taking other NSAID’s like aspirin or ibuprofen or prescription anti-inflammatories. Choose one or the other. My vote is for Bromelain as it does not have the side effects of NSAID’s. Do not take with Antibiotics as it increases the absorption of them. Do not take with blood-thinning drugs as it may also increase the effects of these drugs.
Vitamin D: too much or too little of this vitamin can have detrimental effects. It’s a good one to get blood tested to see your levels.
Other supplements to look into: especially for arthritic pains: Glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, SAMe, Pycnogenol
Get the basic vitamins and minerals your body needs each day.
Get regular exercise, proper sleep and relaxation
Read my past articles on digestion and healing your gut.
What Ibuprofen/aspirin and other NSAID’s are doing to your body.
They interfere with your body’s own immune response. They stress and tax your organs especially your liver, heart and kidneys. Over the long term these drugs interfere with intestinal permeability leading to leaky gut syndrome which leaves the gut very inflamed and allows for irritating substances to enter the bloodstream which can put the body into an autoimmune response, which perpetuates the problem. People die every year from taking these medicines. 1/3 of deaths related to NSAIDs come from low-dose daily use of aspirin causing gastrointestinal complications.
Instead of covering up your issues with these drugs start addressing the issues in your body. If you feel the need to take a ibuprofen then you might ask yourself why are you so inflamed. Are you eating things that are irritating, did you over exercise or have no exercise in your life, are you drinking alcohol or smoking, what is your stress level, do you have hidden chronic infections or an autoimmune disease, are you being exposed to pesticides, chemicals, molds or allergens?
Everyday we make choices that can increase our inflammatory response in the body or decrease the inflammatory response. Every choice we make adds up to the overall health and longevity of your body.
I see so many clients and students that have been labeled with “arthritis” and they take it as a death sentence. Common things I hear; “well thats what I have and there is nothing I can do about it, Im stuck with it”, “must be my genetics”, “well I am over 60” “they said I have bone on bone, so I can’t do this or that”.
We know now that osteoarthritis is not something that happens with years of wear and tear, instead it starts 20 + years prior as inflammation and your body’s ability to deal with the irritating substances and environment around us. The build up of this damage over the years is what causes arthritis. Arthritis is preventable and you can take steps right now to reduce the inflammation in your body and reduce the effects of arthritis in future years.