Inflammation is the part of a process where your body protects you from infections and pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. It is part of the body’s natural healing process. Sometimes, the body’s defence mechanism (immune system) triggers inflammation, mistakenly perceiving its own cells or tissues as harmful. This is the case with autoimmune diseases.
Inflammation may contribute to a range of chronic diseases. There are two types of inflammation – acute and chronic. This process can happen when a physical factor triggers an immune reaction. Inflammation does not necessarily mean that there is an infection, but an infection can cause inflammation.
How do you know if you have inflammation in your body?
Common signs of inflammation include:
- Stiffness in joints
- Redness in the area of inflammation
- Loss of function
- Feeling unwell, having a fever
- Chronic inflammation can also lead to high blood pressure, headaches and weight gain
Medical testing may also identify inflammation in the body. There are biomarkers in blood tests that may be elevated (e.g. CRP levels) or the change in or damage to joints may be seen in certain scans such as an MRI. However, it’s not always conclusive in test results.
Acute inflammation can cause pain of varying types and severity. It may be constant or feel like throbbing, pulsating pain, stabbing or pinching.
Pain can result when the buildup of fluid leads to swelling, and the swollen tissues push against sensitive nerve endings. Other biochemical processes also occur during inflammation. They affect how nerves behave, and this can contribute to pain.
What are common treatments for inflammation?
Treating inflammation will depend on the cause and symptoms. Inflammation is the body’s response to irritation, infection, and injury. Short term inflammation protects the body, while chronic inflammation can lead to long term pain and damage, such as in arthritis. Sometimes minimal treatment is required. Other times it is important to seek urgent medical treatment, for example in the case of an allergy response or infection.
Treatment approaches for inflammatory diseases may include rest, medication, exercise or physical activity, managing stress, and will depend on your age, type of disease, other health conditions, medications you are taking, and how severe your symptoms are.
Commonly medically prescribed medications that help fight pain and chronic inflammation are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They do not remove the cause of inflammation but can help relieve pain, swelling, fever and other symptoms. Seeking medical advice is advised when taking these products and being aware of side effects, as they are not the right treatment for every person and extended use can cause complications. There are also other drugs available for diseases that involve long-term inflammation depending on the condition.
Some natural herbal supplements may help fight inflammation, keeping in mind that not all supplements work for every type of inflammation.
What are common natural remedies for inflammation?
In recent years there have been advances in helping relieve the symptoms of inflammation and autoimmune related conditions. The following are some of the herbal remedies that are commonly used:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Curcumin (the active ingredient in tumeric)
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e)
- Green tea
- Boswellia serrata resin (Frankincense)
If you would like to explore natural herbal medicines for inflammation then book in with our naturopath Anthony. Our traditional Chinese herbal medicine practitioner Sumin is also available for consultation. They can go through your relevant health history and prescribe a holistic treatment approach designed to meet your unique health circumstances. Online consultations are also available.
The quality and effectiveness of some commercially advertised natural remedies do vary and should not be taken with some prescribed medications. Even the way these remedies are derived and delivered in the body is an important part of treatment success. Our practitioners will only prescribe professional grade products that are backed by research and suitable for your needs.
What about the role of diet?
If your immune system doesn’t work as it should, there is evidence that what you eat and drink can play a role in inflammation.
Some foods contain ingredients that can trigger or worsen inflammation. Sugary or processed foods may do this. While fresh whole foods are less likely to have this effect.
Many plant-based foods are good sources of antioxidants. These help to remove free radicals from the body. Free radicals can lead to cell damage. This damage increases the risk of inflammation and can contribute to a range of diseases.
Certain foods found in the so-called ‘Mediterranean diet’ can help manage inflammation. These include fish, vegetables, and fats that are good for the heart. Foods that are rich in antioxidants are favoured over those that increase the production of free radicals. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in oily fish, may help reduce the levels of inflammatory proteins in the body. Fibre can also have this effect. So make sure you include leafy greens in your diet.
What should be avoided if following an anti-inflammatory eating plan?
- Processed foods
- Foods with added sugar or salt
- Unhealthy fats and oils
- Processed carbohydrates – which are present in white bread, white pasta and many baked goods (refined sugar and carbs impact the body’s ability to maintain normal blood sugar levels)
- Processed snack foods such as chips and crackers
- Excess alcohol
Some people may also find it beneficial to limit or manage their intake of gluten, nightshades (such as tomatoes, eggplants, capsicum and potatoes), dairy, carbohydrates and red meat.
Reducing pain and inflammation
In summary, it can help to reduce pain and inflammation by doing the following:
- Follow your treating professional’s advice
- Use hot or cold therapy for physical injuries to reduce swelling and discomfort
- Move your body through regular exercise but also rest to recover (pacing activities)
- Reduce your stress levels
- Treat and manage any pre existing conditions
- Take the supplements that are the best and safest for you
- Keep hydrated as this helps your body flush out toxins and other irritants from the body
Finally, accessing support, especially when you live with ongoing pain and inflammation and with what can be challenging health conditions, is an important part of focusing on your health and wellbeing. There are various online resources available on pain management, lifestyle adaptations, physical equipment that can help and treatment modalities. Your GP can help on the path to diagnosis, then maybe consider connecting with others who are going through similar experiences.
Whether you are needing treatment or management options for inflammation, natural pain relief, if you are experiencing general aches and pains related to exercise recovery, from tight muscles, or from slouching on the lounge for too long, we are here to help. We strive to keep our amazing clients the focus of the services we deliver.