Inflammation is your body's response to what it perceives to be an outside invader or irritant. When caused by infections, the inflammation can sometimes be rather obvious as occurs with pneumonia. Other times, it can be very subtle. Keep in mind the following key points regarding inflammation and pain:
- Treat the underlying infections or irritants when able.
- Often the inflammation causes more harm than good. It is often worthwhile to simply decrease the inflammation using natural remedies, diet and nutrients.
- Sometimes the inflammation is obvious because it causes redness, heat, and swelling. At other times, it can be quite subtle and needs to be looked for.
There are many different autoimmune and inflammatory illnesses. Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE) is a common autoimmune disease that often results in significant fatigue and pain. What most rheumatologists don't realize is that the secondary fibromyalgia caused by lupus and many other rheumatologic diseases (including rheumatoid arthritis) may be a source of many, if not most, of the symptoms and much of the disability in these patients. Flaring fibromyalgia may also be misinterpreted as a flaring of lupus, or other inflammatory disease activity. Fortunately, fibromyalgia can now be effectively treated.
When one treats the associated fibromyalgia, patients often find that their lupus is actually a minimal problem. In addition, several studies have shown that taking DHEA, 200 mg a day, significantly improves the outcome of lupus and allows the patient to get by with a lower dose of prednisone. The main side effects of a too high DHEA level are darkening of facial hair and acne. If either of these occurs, lower the dose. It is unnecessary to follow blood levels of DHEA at this dose, because this is a very high dose and you can assume the blood level will be high. Lower doses, however, are not as effective as 200 mg a day. As many, if not most, inflammatory and/or autoimmune illnesses can cause a secondary fibromyalgia, and fibromyalgia is now treatable, it is important to keep this possibility in mind. If you have widespread pain, fatigue, and insomnia, look for and treat the associated fibromyalgia!
Inflammation (in General)
Inflammation is a common cause of pain and many other medical problems that we experience in Western society. For example, anything that ends in the letters
"itis" means that the problem is inflammatory. This includes things like arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, spondylitis, appendicitis, etc. Inflammation is obviously a major cause of pain.
Our body's armies of inflammation are often on high-alert when they don’t have to be. Much of this occurs because of the high amounts of animal fats relative to fish and vegetable oils in our diets. Land animal fats tend to contain arachadonic acid (in the "omega 6 fatty acids" family), which stimulate inflammation. Fish oils and some vegetable oils, such as flaxseed, contain what are called “omega 3 fatty acids.” These decrease inflammation. Over the last few hundred years, we have markedly decreased anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids and increased pro-inflammatory omega 6 fats in our diet. This often results in our bodies being on "inflammatory overdrive" unnecessarily. This excess inflammation has been associated not just with an increased tendency to pain, but at times with increases in heart attacks and other diseases as well. You can sometimes see this tendency to over-inflammation in yourself when you get a paper cut. Sometimes the paper cut heals so quickly that you barely notice it's there. At other times, the same type of cut will be red and inflamed and will continue to hurt beyond the initial few seconds of the cut.