Have you ever encountered an injury that resulted in a red bruise being formed in that area followed by swelling? This might not be something to be worried about as it is an indicator of the body’s inflammation response or defence mechanism being activated.
A human body is a complex structure consisting of different systems that continue to work day and night. However, at times it is vulnerable to get attacked by foreign invaders in the form of bacteria and viruses that can hinder the proper functioning of the body. Fortunately, for situations like that, there is a self-defensive mechanism!
What is Inflammation?
When the body detects the presence of foreign invaders that are likely to cause harm, the white blood cells start secreting antibodies to reduce the harmful effect. This production of antibodies is part of the body’s immune response which is essential for a healthy living.
Inflammation plays an integral role in the healing process where the first stage is irritation followed by pus discharging and granulation. Finally, the affected tissue is replaced by a new tissue.
However, often inflammation may persist for longer than necessary even when there is no threat by foreign invaders detected. That is when inflammation itself becomes dangerous. According to various medical studies, inflammation continuing for long periods of time stimulates the production of tumour. Cancer cells may start to replicate at the site of the infection which can be contagious for a person. Other illnesses like Diabetes, heart disease and even chronic depression in some cases may arise from persistent inflammation in the body.
Acute and Chronic Inflammation
Medical Scientists broadly define two major types of inflammation: Acute and Chronic.
Acute Inflammation: This type of inflammation is unlikely to be considered as a major cause of concern. It is known to last temporarily and may not persistently provide any harm to the body. Actually, this type is the one which is characterized essentially for the healing process by combating the bacterial and virus cells and repairing the damaged tissue. This cycle of wound healing may last for minutes and a few hours in rare occasion then allowing the body to return back to its balanced state.
Chronic Inflammation: The type of inflammation that causes serious concern for the medical scientists for its long duration, persistence and its ability to be contagious at times. Although the cellular response may be same as that of acute, the body is unable to combat this type of inflammation even after the concerned invading bacteria/virus has been combatted. As chronic inflammation disturbs the natural mechanism of immune system, it stimulates white blood cells to produce antibodies that start to attack the healthy organs and tissues.
Although the symptoms of chronic inflammation may depend upon the certain illness that may be caused by it, there are few common symptoms, which include:
- Stomach pain combined with cramps and diarrhoea
- Life altering fatigue
Treating Chronic Inflammation- The Synthetic Way
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are known as the anti-inflammatory medications containing a distinct chemical group. Aspirin, Ibuprofen are some of the anti-inflammatory synthetic drugs. They act by countering the effect of cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme thereby reducing the inflamed area.
On the other hand, Corticosteroids or Cortisol may aid in reducing a lot of symptoms associated with inflammation.
The biggest drawback of NSAID is the side effect that comes along with their dosage. Although low dose is unlikely to cause any complications, higher dosage can trigger a wide range of problems including headaches, dizziness, stomach ulcers and high blood pressure. Therefore these synthetic drugs should never be ingested until prescribed by the doctor.
The Natural Way?
On the flip side of the synthetic way of treating inflammation, the natural alternatives paint a very fortunate picture. Medical Scientists all over the world are recommending a wide range of natural remedies to treat chronic inflammation due to the significant number of side effects linked with synthetic drugs.
Some of the best recommended natural remedies are listed below
Use of Omega-3-fatty acids
Eicosatetraenoic acid or commonly referred as EPA consists of Omega-3-fatty acid that is known to be present in high amounts in fish oil and supplements containing algae.
Nutritionists highly recommend taking fish oil, directly eating fish over natural herbal sources of omega-3-fatty acids as other sources produce alpha-linolenic acid that does not have any anti-inflammatory property.
Study conducted by GISSI-prevention found out that people who had Omega-3-fatty acids in their diet containing EPA had lowered their chances of heart attack by 20%. Patients suffering from coronary heart disease are recommended dietary intakes containing EPA in significant amounts.
Avoiding high sugar level content and refined carbohydrates
Studies have shown that food containing an excess amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates increase the blood sugar and insulin level which results in inflammation. Moreover, these food products are likely to contribute towards obesity. Fats may line up the walls of blood vessels causing inflammation.
Though some of the natural vegetables and eggs may contain refined carbohydrates, it is necessary that they are taken in adequate amount.
Include Vitamin D in your diet
Vitamin D deficiency has known to cause inflammatory diseases along with other medical conditions like Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Sunlight is one major contributor towards Vitamin D and should be preferred for being convenient and cheap to most people. Those living in cold regions with a minimal amount of sunshine can include eggs, fish and almonds in their diet to make up for the Vitamin D deficiency. However, caution still needs to be taken to not take this food in plentiful amounts as they can raise the cholesterol level in the body.
A variety of herbs may help in dealing with inflammation and related problems.
Hyssop: Although, to be taken only after consultation with an expert, this herbal plant mixed with liquorice is recommended for treating lung related inflammation.
Ginger: The most common and widely available herbal supplement, ginger for centuries have known to treat a number of inflammatory-related condition as well as arthritis pain
Turmeric: Known to contain the substance curcumin, turmeric can help in reducing the effects of inflammation. A large number of studies is being conducted to investigate the possible usage of turmeric for treating Alzheimer’s disease.
Drinking Filtered Water
Though drinking water itself is unlikely to cause any harmful effect, it is recommended to drink filtered or mineral water rather than tap water. Tap water is often not passed through the process of reverse osmosis and may contain chemical substances that can intensify inflammation in the body.
Exercising is never out of the equation!
Finally, a daily routine of exercise or yoga can prevent a person from a large number of health-related problems. Gaining weight can be particularly detrimental and cause inflammation if the fat starts depositing in the blood vessels alleviating blood supply.
inflammation plays a vital role in combating foreign invading microbes and is an essential part of the healing process. However, often times, inflammation may persist for a time longer than necessary. In that scenario, a wide range of chronic illnesses may result that can be particularly harmful if not dealt with properly. Although there is a widespread availability of synthetic anti-inflammatory supplements, they are still not without their side effects. In that case, it is important to look for natural alternatives!