How Do I Decrease My Tendency to Excess Inflammation?
Medically, we do this by using steroids such as prednisone or the Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs—e.g. medications in the Motrin® family). Unfortunately, both of these can be fairly toxic. In the long run, using diet and nutrition is a much safer and more effective way to get your inflammatory system into balance.
A recent study, for example, showed that taking a multivitamin can reduce inflammation with vitamin C and B6 seeming to play the largest role. The Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder(by Enzymatic Therapy) replaces 35 tablets of supplements with one good tasting drink, and makes nutritional support easy. Many other natural therapies (see below) are also helpful in decreasing inflammation.
For acute injury, remember the old standbys. These have the initials R.I.C.E., which stand for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. These are the standard treatments recommended by coaches, trainers, and other professionals to treat muscle or joint injuries such as sprains or strains. When combined with Traumeel® (one of several wonderful products for traumatic injuries that contains arnica), acute injuries heal much more quickly. Adding another supplement called MSM can help when tissue healing is necessary (e.g. sprains or broken bones). The vitamin powder can also give overall support for healing as well.
Inflammation is part of our natural healing process. Whenever there is injury, our body puts out "cytokines" in those areas to bring in white blood cells to knock out any infections and bring in other cells to begin the healing process. Because of this, healthy inflammation is a very beneficial tool that our body uses to heal. The cells come in, eliminate any infections, fix the problem, and then dissipate. When healthy, it is almost always localized and short-term.
Inflammation can become unhealthy, however. In these situations it is often generalized throughout the body. In addition to causing pain and disability, it can also cause premature aging. As noted above, anytime you see the letters "-itis" at the end of the word, it tells you that unhealthy inflammation is present. Excess inflammation is very common. For example, over 40 million Americans have arthritis. The inflammation can then damage the joints, causing deformity. Allergic rhinitis, which causes swelling of the nasal passages, is also common, affecting approximately 40 million Americans. Gastritis and colitis, which cause abdominal pain, are two other examples. Dermatitis, including psoriasis and eczema, are inflammatory illnesses of the skin. Even Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease have been associated with increased inflammation. Asthma, with its associated bronchitis, is also an inflammatory condition—and one that has doubled in frequency during our lifetime. In treating these allergies and asthma, we sometimes mistakenly focus on the trigger. But the trigger is not the main problem because most people don’t have problems when they come in contact with that trigger. It is more important to look at the cause of the overall reactivity in each individual.
We are now beginning to understand why we are so much more prone to inflammation these days than we were in the past. As noted above, clues for understanding this can be found by looking at how the modern diet has changed over the last several thousand years.
Research shows that prehistoric hunter gatherers were much less likely to have degenerative diseases; their main problems were infection and trauma. They had a high-protein, high complex carbohydrate, and high-fiber diet. Most importantly, their diet was high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in inflammation stimulating omega 6 fatty acids (e.g. fats from meat, saturated and trans fats, shortening, margarines, and grains). Their diet was also high in antioxidants, nutrients that put out the "inflammatory fires." Foods were also unprocessed and low in refined sugar.