Healthy Routes Column: Chronic inflammation and how to cool it

by Gladys Kublik
Neighbors Vitamin Shop / Morinville Health Foods

The pursuits of summer have great rewards: Vitamin D absorbed in abundance, exercise in the fresh air, the produce of the garden, and the satisfaction of seeing a lot of jobs done. The downside is a frequently occurring complaint after all these activities. From the pain of a sunburn or a sting from an insect to the sore aching muscles and joints after physical exercise inflammation is the immediate result of many of these activities.

The body uses the complex system of inflammation as first its first response to injuries and irritations.
Inflammation is a protective immunovascular response that involves immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The purpose of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out dead cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair.

The classical signs of acute inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation is a generic response, and therefore it is considered as a mechanism of innate immunity, as compared to adaptive immunity, which is specific for each pathogen.

Inflammation is tightly regulated by the body. Too little inflammation could lead to progressive tissue destruction by the harmful stimulus (eg. bacteria) and compromise the survival of the organism. In contrast, chronic inflammation may lead to a host of diseases, such as hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer (e.g., gallbladder carcinoma). It is, therefore, important to help the body cool and control chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is commonly seen and felt in the joints and connected tissues. When the pain and stiffness of over exertion refuses to subside in a few days, it is wise to take healing herbs and supplements which help the body repair injured tissues and disperse the swelling and heat which over the long term can cause damage to joints and tissue.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system attacks the synovium — the lining of the membranes that surround your joints. The resulting inflammation thickens the synovium, which can eventually destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together weaken and stretch. Gradually, the joint loses its shape and alignment. Doctors don’t know what starts this process, although a genetic component appears likely. While your genes don’t cause rheumatoid arthritis, they can make you more susceptible to environmental factors — such as infection with certain viruses and bacteria — that may trigger the disease. Uncontrolled inflammation, however, is a key factor in joint degeneration.

Chronic inflammation is also a factor in Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that permits nearly frictionless joint motion. In osteoarthritis, the slick surface of the cartilage becomes rough. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, you may be left with bone rubbing on bone.

Common over the counter pain medications often taken for painful joints have an adverse effect on the digestive system and do nothing to help the body heal and resolve the issue of chronic inflammation. There are many herbs and supplements that have been scientifically proven to reduce inflammation and thereby reduce pain.

Significant studies have shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric has very effective anti-inflammatory properties. The turmeric extract worked as well as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee in a study published in the August 2009 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Fish oil can also ease the inflammation and pain caused by many chronic conditions. The dose used in the most convincing research is 2 to 4 grams of DHA + EPA daily. Although beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are available from other sources, experts say that fish oil has the best evidence.

A lack of vitamin B6 can increase inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, leading to more joint damage. In a vicious cycle, inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis can deplete the body’s vitamin B6 stores. Taking vitamin B6 supplements daily can correct the deficiency.

Stop in at Neighbors Vitamin Shop and let our knowledgeable staff show you our effective natural supplements for pain and inflammation.

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