Inflammation – Is it Good or Bad?
Believe it or not, inflammation may be a good thing! We have all experienced acute inflammation at some point in our lives, whether it be a sprained ankle, splinter, or a cut… As a result, we see the affected area turn red, puffy and hot as our immune system rushes to assess the injury. Our immune system will then fight any pathogen that may have entered our body. A normal, healthy inflammatory response usually flares up and reduces a short time later, as the healing process resolves the inflammation and the injury heals. Pain and inflammation should not be chronic. But what if it doesn’t go away?
Unfortunately, unresolved inflammation may cause a snowball effect. Imagine if you kept injuring yourself in the same location over and again. This would result in ongoing inflammation. However, it is important to understand that not all inflammation is visible. For example, if you have inflammation in your gut, you cannot actually “see” the problem. You may only be experiencing some niggling gut issues. However, if it keeps niggling and growing, the inflammation may be having a snowball effect inside. When it is unresolved, whether you can see it or not, it becomes more problematic the longer it interferes with the normal function of your body. This type of inflammation has been linked to many types of chronic disease such as arthritis and type 2 diabetes.
How is pain and inflammation affecting your life?
Chronic pain and inflammation may ruin lives. Simple things that many of us take for granted, such as brushing your hair or getting out of bed in the mornings, may become painful activities. These symptoms may affect your relationship with your family, as pain may also affect you emotionally. It may simply cause reduced mood and/or withdrawal from socialising. Or physically, it may affect your ability to play sport with your children, or even being able to pick up an infant child. These symptoms may become a thing of the past….
Inflammation and pain may not just be due to an injury. Unfortunately, we all get older, and there is significant evidence that implicates chronic, low-grade inflammation as one of the most consistent features of both aging, and various age-related diseases/disorders. As you can see in the below diagram, there are many similarities between Aging-Inflammation and Gut Dysbiosis.
This image reinforces the importance of looking after our gut health. The impact that inflammation in the gut (and/or dysbiosis) is having on our general health is substantial. When you consider that a significant portion of the immune system is dedicated to maintaining a host relationship with the gut microbiome, it may be unsurprising that gut microbiota are heavily involved in local inflammatory responses to acute injury and/or infection. These microbiota may assist in regulating immune responses including tolerance, and may play a protective role in acute inflammatory responses to injury. However, as we age and we see gradual declines in function across virtually every bodily organ, the bacterial organisms in the gut do not age per se. Hence, look after the gut and it may just help reduce inflammation further down the road!
How may you stop pain and inflammation?
Nobody wants to be in pain. For optimal health, it is important to stop abnormal inflammation in its tracks. Of course, pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories are often the “go-to” to help relieve persistent pain. However, some medications may be accompanied by ongoing side effects when used long term. This may include a negative effect on your gut. There are many different herbal and vitamin/mineral supplements, whether it be for an acute case of inflammation, or for ongoing support. With a comprehensive and individual treatment program using natural ingredients, we may be able to help resolve and/or reduce chronic pain and inflammation, which assists in restoring your quality of life.
In addition to herbal and/or supplement support, it is important to learn which diet and lifestyle behaviours may be adding to inflammation in your body. Some of these factors may include:
- Being overweight, or an unhealthy weight;
- Eating a diet that contains refined/processed carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, white rice, cereals, etc;
- Consuming “trans” fats (e.g. fried or fast foods, packaged baked goods, vegetable fats used in some margarines);
- Not getting enough sleep;
- Regularly consuming alcohol, coffee, excess sugar and/or salt;
- Experiencing ongoing digestive issues that is disrupting the balance of ‘good’ bacteria, such as stomach pain, bloating, diarrhoea, etc; and/or
- Experiencing ongoing psychological stress. This may include an unhappy employment situation, social isolation, or caring for a loved one with a serious condition.
If you are able to modify any or all of these factors, it may be an important step to reducing inflammation that may be contributing to your pain or illness. Speak to one of our dedicated Naturopaths for support in making these changes.
Addressing inflammation now, including gut health, may not only improve your quality of life, it may reduce your risk of chronic disease in the future.Disclaimer: The advice on this website is of a general nature only and Nurtura Health expressly disclaims all liability arising out of the improper use of the information provided. Nurtura Health actively discourages any self-diagnosis or self-medication. Please consult your health practitioner regarding these important health issues. All rights reserved.