I am often asked, can you treat inflammation holistically? My answer is “Yes!” By looking at the reason we are suffering from inflammation, we can develop a plan to treat the issue holistically.
Smoking and inflammation
It’s pretty common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health and contributes to the development and exacerbation of a slew of diseases. Researchers have recently developed a theory as to why smoking is so closely related to so many inflammatory conditions. Apparently nicotine is able to activate a specific kind of white blood cell called a neutrophil, and while normally neutrophils work to protect the body, they are also responsible for tissue damage due to excessive inflammation. So one way to decrease inflammation is to quit smoking.
Conventional treatments for inflammation
Non-sterodial anti-inflammatory drugs (NASIDs)
As you might know, the most common over-the-counter treatment for inflammation is a drug called ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). These can be amazing drugs for the occasional ache or pain, but they are not designed to be taken regularly and do not treat the underlying cause of inflammation. Symptoms of NSADIS include stomach ulcers, hypertension and rashes. Taken long-term or too often, they can be dangerous, linked to heart attacks, strokes and stomach bleeds.
Another common type of anti-inflammatory medication are corticosteroids. These drugs work by suppressing inflammation-causes genes. They often come in the form of cortisone injections, and can be very effective at decreasing inflammation. They also come with a lot of side-effects and the body can also start to build up a tolerance.
Immunosuppressive drugs are another common treatment for autoimmune diseases. These drugs suppress the immune system so that it won’t trigger the inflammatory response, but they leave you with a weakened immune system and at risk for other illnesses.
So, while these medications can be life-saving and are amazing tools, I think we can agree that it would be better to avoid them, if possibly — mostly because of the side effects.
The good news is there are all-natural substances that have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
How can you treat inflammation holistically?
So, there is a strong connection between certain foods, your immune system and inflammation. Here are some guidelines to start treating chronic inflammation by adjusting the foods you eat:
While it’s helpful to know what foods to avoid, it can quickly lead to negative feelings of restriction or resentment. There are some natural products known for their inflammation-busting abilities that can help you focus on the positive. If you are trying to reduce inflammation in your body, incorporating these ingredients into your day can be powerful:
Turmeric and curcumin
Turmeric is an Indian spice with a long history as a remedy for inflammation – especially in ayurvedic medicine. One of the major active constituents in this golden spice is curcumin and it is responsible for many of the health benefits attributed to turmeric. Curcumin was first isolated centuries ago and more recent research shows that curcumin is capable of interacting with many of the mechanisms that cause inflammation in the body.
Some studies have shown that supplementing with curcumin can help significantly improve inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. One study suggested that curcumin has “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses.
Turmeric packs a lot of punch and can be a powerful tool to fight inflammation. As an added bonus, turmeric has been shown to support memory and healthy ligaments. You can get curcumin in supplement form and can also be easily incorporated into your diet. Try adding it to your soups, salad dressings, or smoothies; you can even make an anti-inflammatory golden latte in the mornings!
Omega 3s and inflammation
Omega-3 fatty acids are also a great natural remedy for inflammation. Experiments in animals and humans have shown that omega-3s demonstrate potent anti-inflammatory properties and might be useful when it comes to chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease. Taking fish oil may lead to lowered disease activity and less need for anti-inflammatory medicines which, as we learned earlier, can have some undesirable side effects. If you are vegan and worried about getting your daily dose of Omega-3s, you can try supplementing with flaxseed oil.
Vitamin d and inflammation
While vitamin D is normally associated with the winter blues or your bone health, some studies have found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers and can play a part in cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It’s also suggested that having low vitamin D can aggravate inflammatory conditions so vitamin D therapy is now being considered an important part of treating these diseases. It’s good to get your vitamin D levels tested. More than two thirds of teens and adults in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient.
Green tea and inflammation
Green tea is great for you! It’s true that green tea has many significant health benefits, but one of the most notable is its ability to fight inflammation. Green tea is a possible alternative remedy to conventional anti-inflammatory drugs. Researchers explained that green tea contains a high concentration of polyphenolic compounds that can interfere with inflammatory pathways, which reduces inflammation and can help protect cartilage.
Chili pepper is another natural ingredient worth of mentioning for its anti-inflammatory properties. The most important active chemical in chili pepper is capsaicin. Capsaicin makes up about 12 percent of the pepper and is capable of intercepting inflammatory pathways and producing a numbing effect. To get a healthy dose of capsaicin, try adding hot peppers to your meals. They can add a lot of flavor and spice and have tons of other health benefits.
Can meditation reduce inflammation?
A recent study showed that mindfulness meditation reduce inflammatory biomarkers in high-stress adults. Brain scans revealed that this type of meditation can actually alter connective pathways in your brain related to executive function and stress resilience. Improving the way you and your brain copes with stress can help the inflammation in your body calm down as well.
Empower yourself against inflammation
Inflammation can be tricky. It plays a part in so many diseases and symptoms and because of its close ties to the immune system, it c an be difficult to understand exactly how it works. Let alone understand how to get back on track once it gets out of control. At times it seems like everything we do or eat contributes to chronic inflammation and that can be frustrating. Remember: the more you know, the more empowered you are to limit the amount of inflammation in your body.
An anti-inflammatory diet isn’t just for people with an autoimmune disorders, inflammatory condition or chronic inflammation. It can be a great dietary guideline to promote overall well-being and a healthy, thriving immune system that works only when it’s really needed.
If you would like to learn more or get some guidance on controlling inflammation and its effects on your body, let us know below.