What is Inflammation in the Body?
Inflammation is the body’s basic response to injury. Conditions that have “itis” and “osis” at the end of their names are all some form of inflammation. Inflammation is a process in which white blood cells and chemicals protect the body from infection, and repair injury. The immune system, sensing inflammation or irritation, creates a protein chain called CIC (Circulating Immune Complex) which is tagged specifically to that irritation.
With inflammation, white blood cells are released to protect the body from injury. These white blood cells have chemicals within them that, when leaked, induce swelling. If the injury occurs near the surface of the skin, the damaged area will throb and become red and warm. Blood flow also increases during inflammation. Inflammation can also affect internal organs, displaying a variety of symptoms depending upon the organ involved. The most common symptom of inflammation is pain.
More and more research is also finding a significant link between inflammation and a host of seemingly unrelated diseases that have begun to be epidemic in Western cultures, such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, and other aging diseases.
Common Symptoms of Inflammation
You may have inflammation if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Swollen area that is warm to the touch
- Tender muscle points
- Stuffy nose and head
- Breathing problems (asthma)
- Fluid retention
- Blood clots
The following tests and procedures may help you find out what is causing inflammation:
- Online Self-assessments – Self-assessments, such as the Candidiasis Self-assessment and the Magnesium Assessment, can help you determine some of the root cause(s) of your chronic conditions. Learn more about Self-assessments.
- C-reactive protein test – Also known as a CRP Test, this test measures the concentration of the C-reactive protein in the blood which can determine if inflammation is present. Many believe the CRP test is a good indicator of future cardiovascular events related to inflammation as well as the measurement of overall heart health.
Causes of Inflammation
There are many causes of inflammation ranging from blunt trauma and injuries to long-term, chronic health conditions. Inflammation can also be provoked by sore joints, muscles, and broken bones that have either not healed at all, or have healed incorrectly. Inflammation is one of the many conditions that can result from a compromised immune system.
Possibly, one of the greatest reasons for inflammation is an imbalance of essential fatty acids. It is very important to maintain a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. An inappropriate balance of these essential fatty acids contributes to the development of disease while a proper balance helps maintain and even improve health.
A healthy diet should consist of roughly one to four times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. The typical American diet tends to contain 11 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids and many researchers believe this imbalance is a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States.
Lifestyle Changes to Ease Inflammation
The quality of your health depends upon many pieces that not only include the health of your bodily systems, but also include a healthy diet, exercise, and spirituality.
Diet. Treatment of inflammation may center on developing general healthy dietary guidelines, in addition to making some key adjustments in your relationship with food.
Dietary recommendations for inflammation include:
- Eat foods that are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as ground flax seed, fish oil, wild-caught salmon, minimal-mercury albacore tuna, and sprouted walnuts.
- Add saturated fats to your diet that have antimicrobial properties such as organic virgin coconut oil. Read more about good fats and bad fats in the Healthy Diet article.
- Choose complex carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index such as brown rice, raw apples, and winter squash.
- Eat more monounsaturated fats found in raw almonds, cashews, and avocados.
- Choose organic cage-free eggs.
- Eat hormone- and antibiotic-free beef and poultry.
- Eat dark green, leafy vegetables.
- Eat nutrient-dense, unprocessed raw foods, such as nuts and seeds.
- When consuming alcohol, use moderation and preferably choose wine, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Drink purified water throughout the day.
Foods to AVOID include:
- All simple or refined carbohydrates (sugar, white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, etc.) – Read more about good carbs and bad carbs.
- All foods containing refined sugar or synthetic sugar-substitutes such as aspartame, Splenda®, etc. Choose a natural sweetener like Xylosweet instead.
- Grains and starches, especially processed types
- Vegetable oils (soybean, corn, safflower, and sunflower), which contain pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
- Excessive caffeine intake – While moderate amounts of caffeine may be beneficial, excessive consumption can disrupt the body’s systems, causing insomnia and digestive irregularity (constipation or diarrhea).
- Carbonated soft drinks that are acidic and alter the pH level of the blood
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) found in many processed foods, deep-fried food, fast food, and junk food – Read more about good fats and bad fats.
- Bottom crawlers such as oysters, clams, and lobster that may contain toxic levels of mercury
- Deep-sea fish such as tuna, mackerel, and swordfish that may contain toxic levels of mercury. Choose minimal-mercury albacore tuna instead.
- Farm-raised fish that contain PCBs and not enough omega-3 essential fatty acids, due to their land-based diets. Choose wild-caught salmon instead.
- Yeast and wheat products (breads, crackers, pasta, etc.) that contain gluten
- Sodium nitrite found in processed foods such as hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) found in many foods as a flavor enhancer
Exercise. Exercise is extremely beneficial to anyone with an inflammation-related illness. A recent discovery has shown that exercise lowers the level of CRP (an inflammation marker) in the blood. Aerobic exercise — anything that increases the heart rate — is also strongly linked to improvement in immune function and reduction of inflammation. Walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and active sports are all excellent options for exercise. Strength training is also an important part of exercise.
Other tips for sufferers of inflammation:
- Heavy metal toxicity can produce vague symptoms that sometimes are mistaken for other chronic conditions. Discuss heavy metal toxicity with your healthcare professional before receiving any diagnosis or treatment for a serious chronic condition. Read more about heavy metal toxicity.
- If you have “silver” dental fillings, get an evaluation from a mercury-free dentist who specializes in the safe removal of mercury amalgam fillings. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can cause wide-spread damage throughout the body, impairing the immune system and causing chronic inflammation. Find a mercury-free dentist in your area now!
Medical Treatments for Inflammation
There are many conventional medicines that doctors prescribe for treating pain and inflammation. These medicines can cause the depletion of certain nutrients.
The three most common categories of pain and inflammation medications are:
1. Analgesics – They reduce pain, but do not reduce inflammation.
- Acetaminophen – Brand name Tylenol®. Nutrients Depleted: Glutathione, which plays a critical part in the detoxification and anti-oxidation processes of the enzyme system. Follow the product label’s instructions carefully. Taking higher doses than what is recommended on the label may lead to possible liver damage.
2. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – These are the most widely used and prescribed medications since they reduce pain as well as inflammation.
- Prescription COX-2 Inhibitors – Generally, NSAIDs inhibit two naturally occurring enzymatic reactions: Cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2), which triggers pain and inflammation; and Cyclo-oxygenase-1 (COX-1), which prevents blood platelets from clumping together and forming clots, and also helps maintain the stomach lining. Because COX-2 inhibitors selectively block the COX-2 enzyme and not the COX-1 enzyme, these drugs are uniquely different from traditional NSAIDs and may cause less severe gastrointestinal problems. However, the incidence of cardiovascular disease increases significantly when using these drugs.10They include:
- Over-the-counter NSAIDs– These are the most commonly used NSAIDs. They inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. Inhibition of the COX-1 enzyme results in damage to the stomach lining and causes ulcers and bleeding. Nutrients depleted: Folic acid, which harms DNA metabolism, thus causing abnormal cellular development, especially in cells that have a higher rate of turnover. These include red blood cells, leukocytes, epitheral cells of the stomach, intestines, vagina, and uterine cervix. These drugs include:
- Ibuprofen – Brand names Advil®, Motrin®, and Nupren®
- Naproxen – Brand names Aleve®, Anaprox®, Naprelan®, and Naprosyn®
- Aspirin – Aspirin reduces inflammation, suppresses fever, and acts as an anticoagulant. Nutrients depleted: Folic acid, iron, potassium, sodium, and vitamin C. More importantly, studies have shown that use of aspirin, especially over the long term, comes with an increased risk of bleeding in the stomach and other medical complications.
WARNING: Before taking any NSAID, consult your pharmacist for specific instructions on their proper use and risks. In April of 2005, the FDA issued warnings and made changes to protect the public against the risks of taking prescription and over-the-counter NSAIDs. In particular, NSAIDs can carry an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal bleeding.
3. Corticosteroids – These are synthetic forms of naturally occurring hormones produced by the adrenal glands that provide powerful and immediate short-term relief of inflammation. Some brand names are Cortisone®, Hydrocortone®, and Prednisone®. They can be given as injections into the joints to treat flare-ups, administered through use of inhalers (as in the case of asthma), administered orally (in pill form), or topically (in cream form).
Natural Treatments for Inflammation
As part of the comprehensive program of nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle modification, you may want to consider some of the products listed below to help support the health of your immune system.
- Vitamin C w/SRT – Powerful antioxidant & anti-inflammatory which can help increase artery and blood vessel flexibility and prevent inflammation in the cardiovascular system.
- Essential Omega-3 Fish Oil – A pure fish oil blend with powerful, heart-healthy EPA and DHA fatty acids that improve cognitive and behavioral performance, and can relieve mood-swings for better emotional well-being.
- Complete Daily Mineral Vitamins – Replenish vitamin and mineral deficiencies, maintain total body health, protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, increase energy production, support a healthy digestive system, support a healthy hormonal system, promote a healthy nervous system, boost immune system function, maintain mental and emotional well-being, encourage calmness and lessen stress, increase mental alertness, maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Additional Products that May Offer Further Benefits
- Samento® from NutraMedix®– Helps your body fortify and strengthen itself and develop a greater immunity.
- Essential Blend Systemic Enzymes – Helps reduce pain and swelling and keeps your blood flowing smoothly so you feel better.