You might have come across therapists talking about ‘inflammation’, but what does it really mean? In simpler terms it is: Heat, Pain, Redness, and Swelling
So whether it is the body’s response to a sprained ankle, appendicitis, or a strained back, your body is reacting in much the same way – it is just the area or tissues that differ.
Whenever an area is injured, assaulted by invading bacteria, or just does not like that additional driveway of snow you shoveled, the process is the same in every situation: additional blood arrives at the area (heat and redness); the region swells; and the build up of blood and activity irritates nearby nerves giving rise to pain.
So why do we have inflammation? It’s the body’s natural healing response to injury by sending cells responsible for immunity and healing to the area. Therefore long term it is a healing aid.
Short term – it hurts!
Pain and inflammation can keep you up at night, make it uncomfortable to do the things you love to do and you may find yourself popping anti-inflammatories to quell the pain and get back to doing whatever you love to do.
In the short term anti-inflammatories are great, but here’s the catch; most over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and painkillers have some nasty side effects.
Below you will find a list some GREAT natural alternatives that are both effective and will support your whole body in addition to alleviating your pain and inflammation.
1) Hydrotherapy = ICE!
I want to highlight some benefits of ice because I get the feeling that some of my patients think I have a touch of sadomasochistic behaviour every time I suggest it. Ice is an abrupt stimulus, but it has both a superficial numbing effect, but it also causes the superficial blood vessels at first to constrict. This process calms the red, painful swelling reaction central to inflammation thereby reducing the swelling, the redness and the heat central to the inflammatory process (Valle et al. 2008).
2) Gentle movement
Keeping moving is also important. Most of us are aware when we are in pain. That initial movement after we have rested a while can be agonizing. But why? Well, in the time we have spent resting, the inflammation has had time to take hold. When we are able to move – the gentle pumping of muscle allows fluids to drain and reduce that inflammation, the movements prevent further inflammation With those first few steps, things start to move a little easier as we loosen up. That is why it is important to keep moving.
Magnesium is fantastic for muscles aches, cramps, and spasms. It is a natural muscle relaxant. It is also useful for headaches, and for promoting a good night’s sleep. It too has an anti inflammatory effect (Mazur et al. 2009). To get magnesium into your body you can take an epsom salt bath (which contains magnesium) but most often we recommend a tablet, liquid, or powder supplement.
Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory (Jurenka, 2009). It can help achy joints, old injuries, new injuries, arthritis and more. Over 30 years of research has demonstrated its effectiveness in treating a huge range of pro-inflammatory diseases (Sahdeo Prasad, 2014).
Omega-3 fish oil is similar to curcumin in that it is a wonderful all-purpose anti-inflammatory (Jimenez-Gomez et al. (2009). It can help you control old joint pain, or reduce the duration and intensity of the pain associated with a new injury.
Arnica is a perfect fit for any accident or injury that results in physical trauma consisting of bruising, tissue damage, broken blood vessels, and swelling. The legendary efficacy of homeopathic Arnica has made it the choice of many professional athletes and sports teams.
4) Reducing stress
More and more research is learning how stress has many affects on our body and healing. Researchers have actually manipulated stressful situations and seen a marked increase in inflammatory markers in the body (Segerstrom & Miller 2004).
A wave of studies are linking how meditation, mindfulness, and an individuals reaction to stress can dictate your bodies balance of stress hormones (Matousek et al. 2010), inflammatory markers (Dod et al. 2010) and even genetic stress markers (Kaliman et al. 2014). More studies are able to link, that how we feel and deal with stress (hopefully healthily) has a direct impact on the physiological components of the inflammatory process.
5) Inflammatory and noninflammatory foods
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. Choose the right foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.
Foods that inflame: Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta, fried foods, red and processed meats (Nettledon et al 2006).
Foods that combat inflammation: Fruit and vegetables (especially the green leafy varieties), healthy fats such as from olive oil, fish and nuts (Jimenez-Gomez et al. 2009)
Choosing a diet that helps your body create an environment that dampens an exaggerated inflammatory response, is both a healthy choice, and one that includes foods that naturally are better for your health (Ruiz-Núñez et al. 2013).
Dod, H et al. (2010). Effect of Intensive Lifestyle Changes on Endothelial Function and on Inflammatory Markers of Atherosclerosis. The American Journal of Cardiology; 105 (3); 362-367.
Jimenez-Gomez, J. et al. (2009). Olive oil and walnut breakfasts reduce the postprandial inflammatory response in mononuclear cells compared with a butter breakfast in healthy men. Atherosclerosis, 204 (2); 70–76.
Jurenka, J. (2009). Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Alternative Medicine Review; 69; 14 (2); 141- 153.
Kaliman, P. et al. (2014). Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. Psychoneuroimmunology; 40: 96-107.
Marur, A et al. (2007). Magnesium and the inflammatory response: Potential physiopathological implications. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics; 458 (1); 48-56.
Matousek, R, Dobkin, P & Pruessner. (2010). Cortisol as a marker for improvement in mindfullness- based stress reduction. Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practise; 16 (1); 13-19.
Nettledon, J. Et al. (2006). Dietary patterns are associated with biochemical markers of inflammation and endothelial activation in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)1–3. American journal of clinical nutrition; 83;1369-1379.
Ruiz-Núñez, B. Et al. (2013). Lifestyle and nutritional imbalances associated with Western diseases: causes and consequences of chronic systemic low-grade inflammation in an evolutionary context. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 24 (7); 1183–1201
Sahdeo Prasad, A. K. (2014). Recent Developments in Delivery, Bioavailability, Absorption and Metabolism of Curcumin: the Golden Pigment from Golden Spice. Cancer Research and Treatment. 2 -18
Segerstrom, S & Miiler G. (2004). Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychol Bull; 130(4): 601–630.
Valle, J. Halson, S. & Dawson, B. (2008). Effect of hydrotherapy on recovery Fatigue. International Journal of sports medicine. 29; 539-544.