Jan 30, 2014
Inflammation can be caused many different factors. Scientifically speaking inflammation is a cascade of chemical reactions that happen within the body when there is damage done to cells, when there is an irritant present or when the body senses a foreign invader.
What Are The Symptoms Of Acute Inflammation?
The inflammation reaction is necessary and protective for the body in the short-term. Acute inflammation can leave you with the following cluster of symptoms: pain, redness, immobility, swelling and heat. This is due to the fact that large amounts of both red and white blood cells, lipoproteins, fluid and other body tissues are rushing to the site of injury in an attempt to repair damage and clear away foreign particles.
So What Is The Problem With Inflammation?
The problem with inflammation comes when it is prolonged or becomes chronic. It is meant to be a “first response” reaction that dies down allowing other healing processes to take over. When inflammation lasts longer than the initial healing phase, we start to see issues like lowered immunity, degenerative diseases and possibly even diseases like cancer.
Inflammation is not something that you want to take lightly as it can cause serious long-term damage if it’s not taken care of. Chronic inflammation can be localized, as well as systemic. Some examples of localized inflammation are arthritis in a specific joint, cirrhosis of the liver and inflammatory bowel disease. Systematic inflammation can be seen in autoimmune diseases like chrones disease, celiac disease and in some cardiovascular diseases. Fortunately there are so many awesome natural ways to reduce inflammation in your body.
The amount of herbs that help reduce inflammation are almost innumerable. This is not an exhaustive list but here are a few of our favourite herbs that combat inflammation:
1. Turmeric: Turmeric is a bright orange root that contains a compound called curcumin. Curcumin works to protect the liver from cellular damage by acting as an antioxidant and protecting cells from free radical damage. It also lowers histamine levels in the body which helps to reduce inflammation.
2. Ginger: Ginger contains four active ingredients which lend to its powerful anti-inflammatory and pain killing powers. Gingerols, paradols, shogaols and zingerone all work together to reduce pain-inducing prostaglandins in the body.
3. Cayenne: This one may seem counter intuitive, but the heat of cayenne pepper actually reduces the heat of inflammation in the body when it is ingested. Cayenne and other hot peppers contain a compound called capsaisin, which will block the COX-2 enzyme which contributes to the inflammation processes associated with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
4. Basil: Basil is an awesome herb to help fight inflammation. Eugenol is the compound in basil which gives it its distinctive taste and smell, as well as its inflammation reducing properties.
5. White Willow Bark: White willow bark is a very special bark that contains a compound called salicin which is similar to the compound called acetylsalicylic acid – which is commonly known as Aspirin. The pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of white willow bark are actually longer lasting than those of Aspirin. White willow also has the same blood thinning effects that you will find when taking Aspirin. White willow will also work to inhibit the pro-inflammatory pathways in your body.
6. Oregano: Oregano contains polyphenols and bioflavanoids, which are both compounds that help to fight free radical production and damage within the body. The fewer free radicals you have acting on your cells, the less inflammation you will have overall.
7. Garlic: Garlic contains several sulphur compounds which lend it its inflammation reducing properties. These compounds are also known to help fight off cancer, reduce your risk of heart attack and have anti-microbial properties.
Foods are a wonderful place to start when you are looking to reduce inflammation in your body. What you eat on a daily basis will have a profound effect on your body’s ability to fight inflammation and prevent inflammation from happening. Through eating you literally change the chemistry of your body. Here are some of our top anti-inflammatory foods:
8. Omega 3 Fatty Acid Rich Foods: These are your number one go to foods for beating inflammation. Omega 3 rich foods stop the inflammatory process in its tracks by blocking the prostaglandin pathways that produce inflammation and supporting the prostaglandin pathways that reduce inflammation. These essential fats are a life saver for those who deal with inflammation. Adding more omega 3 rich foods to your diet in the form of hemp seeds, chia seeds, avocados, olives and walnuts will help you to benefit from these super nutrient dense foods.
9. Leafy Green Vegetables: Leafy green veggies are filled with a compound known as chlorophyll, which has an incredible alkalizing effect on the body. This alkalizing action can help to dramatically reduce inflammation in the body when consumed on a regular basis. Some excellent greens to try are bok choy, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, romaine, spinach, swiss chard and kale. Be sure to cycle your greens for best results. If you have sensitive digestion, choose the softer greens like lettuces more often.
10. Dark Green Veggies: Veggies that have a green pigment will have alkalizing and therefore anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Cucumber, broccoli, celery and zucchini are all wonderful additions to any diet if you are looking for a way to help calm an inflamed body. These veggies should be eaten raw, in juice or smoothie form, or lightly steamed in order to capitalize on their inflammation busting effects.
11. Seaweeds: Seaweeds are some of the most nutrient dense plant foods on the planet. Rich in alkaline minerals sea veggies not only help to alkalize the body and reduce inflammation, they also work to pull toxins out of the body, balance hormones and protect you from radiation.
12. Berries: Berries are some of the most antioxidant rich foods on the planet. These little nutritional powerhouses work overtime to protect your body from free radical damage, which can help to reduce inflammation and pain. Blackberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries and pomegranates will all help to fight inflammation in your system.
13. Coconut/Coconut oil: The medium chain triglycerides found in coconut and coconut oil are what gives this super food its anti-inflammatory powers. Caprilic and lauric acid (both medium chain triglycerides) are anti-microbial and help reduce inflammation. This is especially good news if you suffer from acne. Acne is an infection of the pores, which means that there is a need for both the anti-microbial and inflammation reducing components of coconut. Coconut oil can be used both internally and topically to help reduce inflammation, depending on where it is manifesting in your body.
14. Asian Mushrooms: Mushrooms are powerhouse foods that help to beat inflammation by boosting the immune system. This immune boost helps to slow down cell damage and thus reduces the need for inflammatory activity. Shiitake, maitake, oyster, lobster and Portobello mushrooms are all great choices. Medicinal mushrooms like reishi will have other health enhancing effects on top of their anti-inflammatory power.
15. Pineapple: Pineapple can save you from inflammation due to a compound in its core called bromelain. This is an enzyme that works to reduce inflammation in the body as well as helping the body to digest food more efficiently.
16. Apples: Apple skins contain a compound known as quercetin, which is a natural antihistamine. This compound will work in your body to fight off environmental allergies, helping reduce any inflammation that may be caused as a result.
17. Spirulina: Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is super rich in chlorophyll, minerals and easy to digest amino acids. All of this comes together to make spirulina an inflammation reducing super star. You can also load up on greens by using a superfood blend by HealthForce Nutritionals called Vitamineral Greens. It’s a combination of Spirulina, Chlorella and other superfood green powders. Click here to check it out.
18. Papaya: Similar to pineapple, papaya contains an enzyme called papin that helps reduce inflammation in the body, especially in the digestive tract. Papaya is an excellent food to eat on a regular basis to help improve digestion.
There are several lifestyle habits you can form that will help you to fight excessive inflammation. Here are a few ideas:
19. Adequate Physical Activity: Regular physical activity will help reduce inflammation and pain pathways in the body and will also protect your heart, muscles and brain. Adequate movement on a regular basis can actually boost the immune system, which will help prevent disease, which can lead to cellular damage and inflammation. 20-30 minutes of light to moderate physical activity most days of the week is really all you need.
20. Adequate Sleep: Getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night is crucial if you want to avoid long-term inflammation. Not getting enough sleep can result in chronic inflammation. Inflammatory cytokines are produced at a much higher rate in those who suffer from insomnia than in those that do not. Your body does the bulk of its healing work while you are asleep.
21. Adequate Hydration: Your body needs water to thrive as well as to survive. It is common to live in a constant state of mild dehydration, and this can lead to a multitude of issues, inflammation being one of them. Aim for at least 1-2 litres of fresh water every day, lemon water is extra alkalizing for the body. If you are active, nursing, pregnant you will need more. Drinking a litre of water or water with lemon juice first thing in the morning is one of the very best things you can do for your body overall, especially where inflammation is concerned.
22. Peace Of Mind: Stress in all its forms has a very powerful inflammatory effect on the body. Stress will activate your adrenal glands, which will excrete your stress hormones which are cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones work wonders for you in cases where you need to fight or flee, but if you are in a state of constant stress, where your body is continually producing these hormones you will be causing lots of tissue damage and inflammation. When you are constantly producing stress hormones, cortisol specifically, your cells will start to lose their sensitivity which means that they will become less responsive to its action and this can lead to a runaway inflammatory process. You can also pick up a bottle of 1 Hour Break, a handy herbal spray that you can carry around in your bag with you. 1 Hour Break is a natural alternative to anti-anxiety and stress medications. They’ve combined Kava Kava, St. Johns Wort and a few other herbs known to reduce anxiety and stress. Use your special Young and Raw discount if you want to try a bottle for 60% off – use the discount code RAW60 when you click here to try it.
23. Deep Breathing: Breathing deeply is one of the fastest and easiest ways to help reduce inflammation in the body. When you breath deeply (also known as belly breathing) you activate your vagus nerve which stimulates the release of acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter works to turn off inflammatory processes in the body.
24. Stretching: Stretching is a wonderful way to help reduce inflammation. While you are stretching you can breathe deeply which will affect the positive chemical reactions stated in number 23. You will also be gently mobilizing stored toxins in your tissues, helping to release them into the bloodstream where they can be safely excreted from your body.
The Inflammation No-No’s
There are a few things we suggest you avoid doing if you are looking to help reduce inflammation in your body. Here are our top 5 tips for things to avoid if you want to reduce inflammation in your body.
25. Too Many Omega 6 Fatty Acids vs. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: You need both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in your diet for optimal health. The trick is to get the proper ratios of these fatty acids. Over consuming Omega 6 fatty acids will activate the over-expression of the COX-2 enzyme, which will stimulate inflammatory prostaglandin’s. This is an inflammatory process. Where as Omega 3 fatty acids stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. These two fatty acids will compete for the same rate limiting enzymes, (meaning that only so many fatty acids can react with an enzyme to create an effect) which means if you have too many omega 6 fatty acids floating around in your bloodstream, you will be blocking the anti-inflammatory action of the Omega 3 fatty acids while simultaneously causing inflammation with the Omega 6 Fatty Acids. The Standard American Diet is spilling over with Omega 6 fatty acids. The ideal ratio of Omega 3:Omega 6 fatty acids in the body (and thus in the diet) is a 1:1 ratio, with even a 4:1, 5:1 ratio being healthy. Most people are consuming somewhere in the range of a 1:30 ratio, which can cause big problems. Foods that are rich in omega 6 fatty acids are processed vegetable oils like canola, corn, soy and peanut oil, poultry, eggs, and cereals. Now, remember this is not about eliminating Omega 6 fatty acids in your diet, but about balancing them with Omega 3 fatty acids.
26. Refined Carbohydrates: Refined carbohydrates like those found in processed flours, fast foods, cakes, cookies, pastries and breads will spike insulin levels in your body. When insulin levels are spiked, eicosanoids, which are hormones that live in your cells will act as pro-inflammatory compounds. These hormones can function as either a pro or anti-inflammatory compound and spiked insulin levels from refined carbohydrates cause them to be more pro-inflammatory than anti-inflammatory.
27. Processed Fats: Processed fats are hard on the body on many levels, especially so where inflammation is involved. Processed oils are denatured oils, meaning that they have been broken down and oxidized. This means they can become a source of free radicals in your body, causing free radical damage to your cells, which can lead to inflammation. Eating whole food fats in the form of nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut and even ghee which has a high smoke point is much better for your health and well-being than consuming processed plant and animal fats on a regular basis.
28. Gluten: Gluten is one of those substances that many people are unknowingly sensitive too. Recent studies have shown that many people’s bodies react to gluten as though it is a foreign invader, which activates the inflammatory response. This kind of reaction in the digestive tract can actually inhibit your ability to properly absorb nutrients. It may be an interesting experiment if you are someone who deals with inflammation to cut gluten out of your diet for a few weeks to see if it makes you feel better.
29. Conventional Dairy Products: Conventional dairy products can wreak havoc on the body. Conventional dairy is highly acidic for the body due to the hormones, antibiotics and other toxins that cows are fed and injected with. The milk itself is then heat-treated and loaded with other substances that cause it to become very acidic in the body. The acid-forming nature of milk, along with the other toxins present can cause significant inflammation in the body. Also there can be an allergic reaction similar to that which was described when eating gluten for anyone who has a full-blown sensitivity to lactose, which is estimated to be about 30% of the population. 75% of the population have a lowered lactose enzyme activity which may also result in the allergic reaction.
30. Over Exercising: This is the last point I want to make, as it is an important one. Just as not getting enough physical activity is hard on the body, too much can also be really hard on you. Keep in mind that physical activity creates free radical damage and breaks down your body tissues. Both of these things are going to cause some low levels of inflammation in the body as it tries to heal. When you give your body time to rest and recover between periods of physical activity then the overall effect is going to be one of reduced inflammation. If you do not give yourself adequate time to rest, repair and replenish, this type of inflammation can build up causing an inflamed state in the body overall. There is a such thing as over exercising, and it’s important to honour your bodies need to rest and repair.
Ali is a Holistic Nutritionist. She came to the natural health field when she was 14, as a way of healing chronic stomach aches, skin issues, weight problems and hormonal imbalances. Years of doctors visits, specialist appointments and conventional medicine had never yielded results, so she tried looking for a natural solution. Going vegan in 2007, and 100% raw shortly after that, she was able to heal her body, and was inspired to share what had helped her so much with others.
Ali completed her first diploma in Holistic Nutrition in 2008, Graduating from the Alive Academy. She completed her Hatha Yoga Teacher Training with YogaWorks in 2010, and is currently upgrading her studies at the Institute Of Holistic Nutrition, where she will soon graduate with her Ortho-Molecular Practitioner Designation. She believes that the body is fully capable of healing itself, so long as it is given all the tools to do so.