Inflammation: The Root Cause of Pain

picture of hands with inflammation

How to Treat Inflammation Naturally

What are Signs of Inflammation?

When you sustain an injury you may notice that the area is swollen, painful, red and feels hot to the touch. These are all common signs of inflammation that you may experience on a superficial level. Chronic inflammation can also occur in our bodies and can present itself in other ways. When inflammation triggers sensory nerve endings, it can result in pain. Symptoms such as fatigue, rashes, digestion problems, allergies, asthma, and chest, abdominal and joint pain can also be signs of inflammation.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural immune system function. It’s a reaction to infection or injury that triggers a slew of chemical messages to your immune system to prompt healing and repair. It’s a word most of us associate with pain, discomfort and poor health — yet its ultimate purpose is actually to help us get better. Without inflammation, injuries wouldn’t heal and infections could become deadly.

When the body is injured, the swelling and pain of inflammation is a signal to your immune system to send white blood cells so the healing process may begin. Unfortunately, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can trigger numerous other health problems in your body including cancers, depression, asthma and heart disease. In fact, some say inflammation is the “new cholesterol” due to its direct link to heart disease.

In some cases, inflammation occurs when the immune system revolts against us and attacks our own bodies as in autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, IBD, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis among dozens of others. There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases.

Top Tips to Reduce Inflammation

Which Foods Cause Inflammation?

First, let’s take a quick look at inflammatory foods that you want to limit or avoid. You probably already know all the usual suspects.

  1. Sugar and artificial sweeteners – A 2018 study in children found that a 46% decrease in sugar intake, significantly reduced proinflammatory markers and increased the levels of anti-inflammatory markers.
  2. Fried foods – A 2016 study on deep-fried oil consumption, revealed that intake of deep-fried canola oil could impair metabolism of triglycerides, destroy the gut wall structure and unbalance healthy gut bacteria. All of which could contribute to inflammation.
  3. Grains – Wheat and other cereal grains contain anti-nutrients like gluten that may contribute to inflammation by increasing intestinal permeability and initiating a pro-inflammatory immune response.
  4. Dairy – Proteins in milk and dairy products can trigger an immune reaction that contributes to inflammation. Research on milk containing a protein known as A1 beta-casein significantly increases gastrointestinal transit time, production of dipeptidyl peptidase-4 and the inflammatory marker myeloperoxidase compared with milk containing A2 beta-casein. Cows here in Canada tend to produce more of the A1 beta-casein protein, therefore dairy products here tend to be more pro-inflammatory.
  5. Alcohol – A 2015 study showed that alcohol-induced changes to the gastrointestinal tract microbiome and metabolic function may contribute to the well-established link between alcohol-induced oxidative stress, intestinal hyperpermeability (leaky gut), and the subsequent development of alcoholic liver disease (ALD), as well as other diseases.

What are Anti-inflammatory Foods?

Wondering what those anti-inflammatory foods are? The good news is they are delicious and come with multiple health benefits.

Raw, Organic Fruits & Veggies

Organic foods are a great place to start when looking to adhere to a more anti-inflammatory diet. Grown in mineral-dense soil, organic foods tend have a higher vitamin and mineral content.

In order to keep those vitamin and mineral levels high, it’s also helpful to eat raw or lightly cooked fruits and veggies. Cooking can deplete minerals, which is why it’s important to take every opportunity you can to get eat fresh and raw so you get to enjoy the full nutritional benefits. For example, Vitamin K is found in dark leafy greens like kale and spinach and is excellent for reducing inflammation.

Add in lots of Alkaline Foods

In addition to fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes are also alkaline foods that can help balance your pH and reduce acidity. While being mindful of your body’s pH, you might be wonder about the impact of acidic foods, like tomatoes or citrus, and how they affect inflammation. Surprisingly these foods don’t create acidity in the body. Although they are acidic in nature, that acidity is quickly neutralized by buffers in the small intestine when they exit the stomach. Therefore, they may actually help to restore your pH balance. Even apple cider vinegar is alkaline-forming (however, other vinegars are not).

Fish & Plant Proteins

Believe it or not, most high protein animal foods, like meat, can actually be acid forming. In this case, plant proteins, such as nuts and beans, are great alternatives to reduce acidity and inflammation.

Need your meat? Then eat more fish. Fish oils, as well as other foods rich in healthy fats like omega 3, are proven to have a variety of health benefits, including significant anti-inflammatory effects.

Fish is also a great source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a wide range of inflammatory conditions.

Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Natural Anti-inflammatories

Those susceptible to chronic inflammation may also benefit from supplementing their diets with food sources that contain bioactive molecules. For example, curcumin is a compound found in turmeric root. It is a powerful antioxidant. Curcumin’s ability to reduce brain inflammation has been shown to be beneficial in both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression. Curcumin has been shown to not only prevent memory problems from worsening, but also to improve them.

Complement your curry with a little watercress salad on the side, including pears, dill weed, onion and chives – all sources of the antioxidant known as isorhamnetin.

Add a little red wine and some berries for dessert, which are rich in resveratrol, and you’ve got yourself an anti-inflammatory party. Resveratrol is an antioxidant produced by certain plants in response to injury or when under attack by bacteria or fungi. This is what makes dark-coloured grapes and berries such excellent health boosters for your body.

And of course, you can’t forget the dark chocolate! The flavonoids found in cacao are extremely potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which are great for your brain and your heart. New research also shows that consuming dark chocolate with a high concentration of cacao (minimum 70% with 30% organic cane sugar) has a positive effect on stress levels and inflammation, while also improving your memory, immunity and mood. You read that right – chocolate really is good for you (but make sure its good quality and that you are not over doing it).

How to Reduce Inflammation: Going Beyond Diet

While diet definitely plays a role, stress is also a major contributor to inflammation in the body. Stress can be triggered by lack of sleep, lifestyle changes, or any other number of factors. Getting a good night’s rest and making time to meditate or practice other stress-reducing activities, like yoga or Tai chi, are also very effective ways to promote good health and reduce inflammation. Psychotherapy can help you formulate a plan to reduce stress, improve your lifestyle and your relationships.

All it takes is a few conscious decisions about your diet and lifestyle and you are on your way to a healthier you.

Herbs for Inflammation

  1. Curcumin – Research has shown curcumin to be a molecule that is capable of interacting with numerous targets that are involved in inflammation. Clinical trials indicate that curcumin may have potential as a therapeutic agent in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, arthritis, and chronic anterior uveitis, as well as certain types of cancer.
  2. Boswellia -Boswellia is also known as Frankinsence. It is an important traditional medicine plant that possesses several pharmacological properties. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antitumour effects.
  3. Pedalium murex – This Ayurvedic herb, native to South India, Mexico and parts of Africa, is used as an anti-inflammatory, and helps treat many diseases including asthma, gastric ulcer, heart disease and urinary tract disorders.

Chiropractic and Inflammation

In a 2010 study on the effects of chiropractic on markers of inflammation in sufferers of chronic low back pain, 9 chiropractic lower back manipulations caused the mediators of inflammation to present a normalization response in individuals suffering from chronic low back pain.

Massage Therapy and Inflammation

In a 2018 review article, the most powerful techniques for reducing inflammation after exertion were massage and cold exposure. Massage therapy also proved to be the most effective method for reducing delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise and perceived fatigue.

Acupuncture and Inflammation

A 2018 study on rats showed that acupuncture reduced inflammation by down-regulating the levels of the inflammatory markers IL-1 β, IL-6 and IL-8, and in regulating cerebral SIRT1/NF-κB signaling. Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of acupuncture for reducing pain in inflammatory conditions like arthritis and back pain.

Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy and Inflammation

Fibroblasts are the main fascial cells that respond to different types of strain by secreting anti-inflammatory chemicals and growth factors, thus improving wound healing and muscle repair processes. Osteopathic manual practitioners, use myofascial release therapy and other osteopathic manipulative therapies to stimulate fibroblasts to reduce inflammation and improve wound healing, muscle repair and regeneration.

Are you dealing with chronic health issues triggered by inflammation? Do you still have more questions about how you can make greater changes towards a pain-free life? Do you want a customized approach to managing inflammation and preventing disease? Please feel free to contact us and we can find your best solutions together. Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Maria@ForcesofNature.ca

To your best health!

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic – Chiropractor, Naturopathic Doctors, Acupuncturist/TCM, Psychotherapist, Registered Dietitian, Massage Therapist/RMT, Craniosacral Therapist, Osteopath

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Chinese Medicine & Food

how to eat healthy according to chinese medicine

Eating Well According to Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, food is heavily relied upon as medicine. What and how you eat affects the function of your digestive organs which in turn influences the qi (energy) and function of all of the organs.

Here are the key rules for eating according to Chinese medicine principles:

  1. Timing – it is best to eat at the same time every day.  7-9 a.m. is considered to be the “stomach” time, while 9-11 a.m. is the “spleen” time.  Both organs are essential to digestion in Chinese medicine.  Eating a hearty breakfast between 7-9 a.m. works with the timing of the internal organs.
  2. Weather temperature – External cold temperatures dictate the consumption of warmer foods like soups and stews, external heat calls for colder foods like salads
  3. What you are doing while eating – You should be focused on eating, not watching TV, talking on the phone, surfing the internet, driving, walking etc.
  4. Quantity – You should eat to the point of 2/3 satiety, to allow some reserves in the digestive tract for the process of digestion.
  5. Cooked vs Raw – in Chinese medicine, consumption of too  many raw foods (lots of salads and raw fruit) is damaging to the spleen (considered one of the organs of digestion in Chinese medicine).  This is why salads aren’t on the menu much in Chinese restaurants.  It’s better to eat foods lightly cooked like steamed or stir-fried to avoid damaging digestion.