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Health & Nutrition
Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD

Natural secrets to alleviate pain & inflammation

 

Millions of people worldwide suffer from chronic pain and inflammation, which can be caused by various factors such as disease, allergens, injuries, or even chronic stress.

Inflammation happens when your immune system tries to fight off pathogens or deal with injuries. Thus, acute inflammation is vital to your survival, but it can cause serious damage if it becomes chronic.

Chronic inflammation has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease, and even cancer.

While traditional medicine often relies on prescription drugs to deal with inflammation, many people are now turning to natural remedies in an effort to find relief.

In this article, you will learn more about the signs of chronic inflammation and discover the natural secrets of managing it before it becomes a chronic disease.

 

 

 

What are the different kinds of inflammation?

 

There are two main types of inflammation: acute and chronic [1]. Acute inflammation is the body’s way of responding to injury or infection. It is often characterized by redness, swelling, heat, and pain.

It is important to understand that acute inflammation is a 100% natural reaction of your immune system and its sole purpose is to ensure your survival. You can imagine it as a war in which your immune system wages against a potential threat.

Unfortunately, sometimes the threat cannot be eliminated, such as in persisting injuries or repeated exposure to hazards.

When the war waged by your immune system lasts too long, it leads to collateral damage due to the continuous release of inflammatory mediators and enzymes that damage the surrounding tissues.

This is how acute inflammation turns chronic. Chronic inflammation affects one or many parts of your body, leading to debilitating symptoms and many potential health problems.

 

 

 

What are the symptoms of acute and chronic inflammation?

 

 

The signs of acute inflammation may vary, depending on what kind of tissues are affected and the intensity of the underlying cause.

However, the most common symptoms include pain, fatigue, fever, digestive issues (such as diarrhea or constipation), joint and muscle pains, skin irritation and rashes, headaches or migraines, dizziness, etc.

Acute inflammation is generally considered a healthy response of the immune system as long as the inflammation is controlled. If acute inflammation becomes excessive, it may even lead to life-threatening conditions.

If it turns chronic instead, the symptoms are often similar to those in acute inflammation and depend on the main organ or tissues affected. The main difference is that the symptoms persist for months or longer and are less intense.

Chronic inflammation may also lead to additional complaints which decrease the quality of your life, such as chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, or turn into a debilitating disease.

 

 

What conditions are associated with chronic inflammation?

 

It’s important to differentiate whether a medical problem is a condition that leads to chronic inflammation or an inflammatory disease that is actually caused by it.

The most common conditions which contribute to the occurrence of chronic inflammation and inflammatory disease are:

  • recurring or persisting injury
  • inability to eliminate a pathogen or a foreign object
  • excess fatty tissue, metabolic stress, and dysregulation
  • compromised microbiome and intestinal barrier
  • repeated, long-term exposure to toxins (alcohol, tobacco smoke, etc.)
  • autoimmunity

All of these can lead to chronic inflammation, which in turn is associated with a wide array of diseases. 

Depending on the affected organs or tissues, the diseases can include metabolic syndrome, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and many others.

For instance, a repetitive injury to a joint can cause it to be chronically inflamed, leading to arthritis [2]. The symptoms may include joint pain, stiffness, tenderness, swelling, and weakness within the joint.

People with obesity often have excessive visceral fat, which can cause general chronic inflammation and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and even cancer [3].

Sometimes your immune system may become dysregulated and attack your own tissues and organs. This leads to autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

 

 

 

What does chronic inflammation do to the body?

 

Chronic inflammation can have different effects on the body, depending on whether it is local or systemic. 

Local chronic inflammation causes damage and disease, primarily related to the tissues it affects. The most common example of chronic local inflammation is osteoarthritis. 

On the other hand, chronic systemic inflammation may lead to various chronic diseases and negatively impact the immune system. Systemic inflammation speeds up pathogenic processes like atherosclerosis in your blood vessels and increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

For example, systemic inflammation can damage your blood vessels by causing the accumulation of immune cells on their walls. As immune cells, cholesterol, and other factors travel with the bloodstream, they accumulate and form atherosclerotic plaques in your blood vessels, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Excess fatty tissue produces high amounts of bioactive molecules called adipokines, which attract inflammatory cells. When an immune cell invades your adipose (fat) tissues, this causes the release of inflammatory mediators such as TNF-α [4].

Chronic inflammation is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly. The most common example of chronic systemic inflammation is the one caused by obesity. 

If left untreated, local and systemic chronic inflammation can cause irreparable damage to the body and lead to chronic illness, heart disease, or even death. Thus it is important to identify any signs of chronic inflammation to prevent further health risks. 

 

 

How can you prevent inflammation?

 

 

Healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise can help you prevent or lower the risk of chronic inflammation.

For example, exercising regularly can help you reduce your body fat percentage. Having excess body fat contributes to chronic systemic inflammation.

Exercise can also help reduce chronic local inflammation, such as the one caused by osteoarthritis. That’s likely because it helps promote joint mobility and improves strength in the muscles that support them.

In one study, overweight individuals with knee osteoarthritis experienced a significant reduction in pain after performing weight-bearing treadmill walking for 12 weeks [5]

Exercising regularly can also help you lose weight, reducing the stress of your body weight on your joints [6].

Losing 10% of your body weight or more can help improve joint pain, mobility, and quality of life in osteoarthritis patients.

 

 

What foods to avoid if you have inflammation?

 

 

If you are suffering from inflammation or want to prevent it from occurring in the first place, it is important to focus primarily on avoiding pro-inflammatory foods and replacing them with healthy options.

These include ultra-processed foods, hydrogenated fats, sugar-containing beverages, and alcohol.

Ultra-processed foods are all junk foods, including fried foods, ice cream, ham, sausages, chips, mass-produced bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits, sugar-flavored yogurts, instant soups, and many others.

Studies show that consuming ultra-processed foods correlates with significantly higher C-reactive protein (CRP} [7]. CRP is one of the main markers for accessing inflammation in clinical practice.

One common ingredient in ultra-processed foods and soft margarine is trans fats, also known as hydrogenated oils. These are industrially manufactured fats that have strong pro-inflammatory effects.

According to one trial, the participants with the highest consumption of trans fats had 73% higher CRP levels than those consuming the least amount [8]

Consuming trans fats elevates another inflammatory marker, TNF-α [9]. According to the research, TNF-α increased by 12% due to trans-fat consumption.

Sugar is another food ingredient that is often labeled as pro-inflammatory. However, studies show that only sugar-containing beverages and not sugar-containing solids increase CRP [10]. Interestingly even 100% juice was found to be pro=inflammatory due to the high sugar content. 

Furthermore, alcohol is also a pro-inflammatory beverage, and it can lead to a significant increase in levels of CRP, even in cases of moderate consumption [11].

 

 

 

How is chronic inflammation treated?

 

Both acute and chronic inflammation can be managed with anti-inflammatory medications, such as glucocorticoids (or simply “corticosteroids”) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Corticosteroids mimic the function of the natural glucocorticoid hormones produced in the body and exert anti-inflammatory effects on a cellular level [12]

They trigger anti-inflammatory genes in the cell’s nucleus and suppress the expression of pro-inflammatory ones.

But due to these effects, corticosteroids also suppress the immune system’s response and may make you more susceptible to certain infections. 

If you use them to manage chronic inflammation, the prolonged overstimulation of the glucocorticoid receptors in the body also leads to hormonal disruption and increased risk of chronic disease such as Cushing’s.

On the other hand, NSAIDs affect only some enzymes, which help produce inflammatory mediators [13]. This way, NSAIDs can reduce some of the symptoms of inflammation without suppressing the immune system.

They have few side effects and are generally well tolerated for acute inflammation. Popular NSADs are aspirin and ibuprofen. 

Unfortunately, long-term use is also associated with side effects such as the increased risk of gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and bleeding. Some types of NSAIDs also can cause allergic reactions, kidney problems, and even an increased risk of thrombosis.

 

 

Which herbs help reduce inflammation?

 

 

When it comes to chronic inflammation, certain natural remedies, such as anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, can also help alleviate the symptoms.

Moreover, their long-term use may be tolerated quite well and with few side effects.

Some of the most effective natural secrets to alleviate pain & inflammation include the following herbs:

  • Curcuma Longa (turmeric)
  • Zingiber officinale (ginger)
  • Boswellia Serrata (frankincense)
  • Stinging Nettle
  • Japanese Knotweed

Currently, turmeric is one of the most-well studied anti-inflammatory herbs. A huge amount of research reveals that turmeric and its main active ingredients are highly effective in reducing local chronic inflammation, such as in osteoarthritis.

According to one study, turmeric supplementation led to a whopping 58% reduction of inflammatory symptoms, including pain and stiffness, in adults with arthritis [14].

Another trial even reported effectiveness that was comparable to NSAIDs [15]. And on top of that, turmeric supplementation had a 12% lower risk of side effects.

Ginger is another promising herb that, apart from its anti-inflammatory properties, also has potent analgesic effects. 

In one trial, a herbal mixture containing ginger and applied topically was able to reduce the sensation of pain associated with arthritis [16]. Moreover, the effectiveness was comparable to topical aspirin.

Furthermore, another trial revealed that combining curcumin and ginger extract has even more potent anti-inflammatory properties [17]. Together they were effective at improving the overall healing processes in the body after traumas and injuries. 

You can find our best-selling Turmeric with Ginger supplement here, which has been standardized to 95% curcuminoids - the bioactive compound which provides turmeric with its potent anti-inflammatory benefits. 

Boswellia is another herb you can add to the mixture for anti-inflammatory effects. In one trial. 6g of Boswellia Serrata was able to significantly attenuate joint pain and symptoms in persons with osteoarthritis [18]. Boswellia can be found in our Glucosamine Chondroitin supplement, alongside seven other research-backed ingredients specifically formulated to support joint health and provide relief for occasional pain. 

Therefore, all these herbal extracts are most effective when combined rather than used separately. Moreover, remember that natural remedies should be used alongside your medical treatment if you need one; they are not meant to replace it! 

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any dietary supplement. 

 

 

Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD
As a qualified Nutritional Therapist (BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD), Zaheera Swing has a deep passion for restoring balance and harmony to the body through the modalities of nutritional science, herbalism, and holistic lifestyle practices. Using the functional medicine model coupled with wisdom from ancient paradigms, she aims to provide insight into the underlying root causes of poor health and the holistic tools we can harness to enhance the well-being of mind, body, and spirit.
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