Inflammation: what to do

In one of my previous blogposts, I explained what is inflammation, why it happens and which signals to look for with regards to acute and/or chronic inflammation.

In this post I will discuss what can be done to minimize and/or heal the body in an easy, natural way.  I am not saying that anti-inflammatory medication and ointments are not worth a try; I just want to add a bit more to your “medicine cupboard” and am sure you’ll be surprised to read about some things that you find in your kitchen that will help!

So, what can one do?  First of all, it is important to keep your body, mind and emotions in balance.  Getting rid of stress is extremely important, as is diet and lifestyle.  What you eat, what you drink, not smoking (or quitting), and exercising (whether going to a gym, for a walk, a jog, cycling, etc), and managing your thoughts.  There are two age old sayings to keep in mind:

“Your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your deeds and your deeds become your destiny”; and “It is not what happens, but how we respond (react) to what has happened that matters!” Not always easy, but worth a try!

Looking at diet and exercise:  try to avoid highly processed foods and carbohydrates as far as possible, as well as trans fats, fried foods, sugar and sugar substitutes.  For allergies and/or sensitivities, stay clear of gluten, wheat, dairy (especially margarine) and opt for free range and/or organic meats.  Add food to your diet that fights inflammation:  olive oil, herbs and spices (especially turmeric / bromelain, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, thyme and rosemary).  Fresh fruits and vegetables that contain high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids, for example blueberries, tomatoes, spinach and broccoli.  Eat half of a fresh papaya or pineapple daily.  Papaya contains papain and pineapple contains bromelain (both enzymes help to reduce swelling and inflammation).  Add fresh water fish to your diet, for example herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines (they supply essential fatty acids).  A supplement of Omega 3-oil is also good; as is extra virgin olive oil.

Try to use less and/or stay clear of chemicals like sprays, insect repellents, cigarette smoke, alcohol and recreational drugs; especially when you have chronic inflammation.  These days there are many organic, natural products on the market to choose from.  Limit and/or avoid if possible, saturated fats and too much salt in your diet, as well as processed- and ready-made foods (both often have hidden sugars, salts and other preservatives in).  Soft drinks and white flour (refined starches) should also be limited and/or avoided all together.

Why?  “Because they cause overactivity in the immune system, which can lead to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels,” says Scott Zashin, MD, clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas.

Exercise regularly – not too strenuous exercises (especially if you have chronic inflammation like arthritis) and not in excess.  Walking, cycling at a comfortable pace, swimming, Water Aerobics, Pilates and Yoga are all good to keep the body moving and to lubricate the joints.  Another great way to exercise and rid the body of toxins is called Rebounding.  You can either sit on a Pilates ball or use a mini trampoline.  When using the latter, make sure to keep your knees bent at all times and you can / not lift your feet up.  In a future article I will discuss Rebounding in more detail.

Have “an attitude of gratitude” and watch your thoughts!  Negative thoughts and feelings can contribute to stress and, in turn, inflammation.  Make time to relax:  meditate, do yoga, breathe deeply and slowly, sit outside in nature without the phone / laptop distracting you, just “be in the moment” and listen to the birds.  Make sure you get at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night.  The less sleep you get over a period of time, the more chance for your immune system to get depleted, thus you become ill and struggle to cope with life in general.

Quick and easy ways to add some inflammation-fighters to your diet:

  • Mix 5ml ground turmeric (non-radiated if possible) with ¼ cup of hot water, ¼ cup coconut milk and 5ml raw honey (the latter can be excluded if anyone is allergic).  Raw or ground ginger and/or cinnamon can also be added.
  • Mix ¼ – ½ teaspoon turmeric with ¼ – ½ teaspoon cinnamon and swallow it with some water. 
  • Sprinkle some turmeric and cinnamon over your porridge / muesli, or mix it into your tea / coffee.
  • Make a poultice of turmeric, ginger and/or cinnamon and place it under a running tap when taking a bath or shower.

Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger, Garlic, Cayenne Pepper and Honey – everyday items in most kitchens!   

Turmeric (also known as Quercetin), is a spice that is used in many dishes and has a ‘secret’ ingredient called curcumin that can heal many aches, pains and ailments.  The 3 chemicals (curcuminoids or curcumin) is what researchers have found boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. They also established that curcumin helps to ease the severity of autoimmune diseases; many of which are mediated by inflammatory responses. Try to use the turmeric root or turmeric powder that has not been radiated.

Cinnamon – research indicates that this spice takes the first place when it comes to its antioxidant-levels.  Research indicated that there are over 7 kinds of flavonoid compounds and together with the antioxidant-compounds, it fights oxidative stress in the body (which can lead to disease formation when uncontrolled; especially as we age).  It is very beneficial in pain management too and it is also a natural antibiotic, antibacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral agent.  Studies show that it lowers inflammation and swelling, muscle soreness, PMS pains, severity of allergic reactions and skin disorders, and age-related symptoms.  Cinnamon increases blood circulation and advances the bodily tissue’s ability to repair itself after it has been damaged.  Interestingly it includes the heart tissue (that needs regeneration to help fight heart attacks, heart disease and stroke). 

Ginger – a powerful anti-inflammatory and a natural painkiller.  Not only good for the digestive system and to relieve nausea; it also helps with sinus and tension headaches.  Research has found that ginger extract can be as effective as over-the-counter painkillers in treating osteoarthritis (commonly known as arthritis).  When using Ginger- and Orange oil together in a massage, for example, it can reduce knee pain and stiffness.

Garlic – another anti-inflammatory, natural antibiotic used in many cultures.  It can help to reduce swelling, inhibit and kill bacteria and viruses, is an immune booster and antioxidant.  It also stimulates the lymphatic system (the body’s “waste basket”) that is necessary to excrete waste and toxins from the body.

Cayenne pepper (capsaicin), is used to treat arthritis, pain, gastrointestinal disorders and certain types of cancer. Used as a cream or a taken as supplement, it also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Please note that people who are sensitive to spicy / hot foods should rather not use cayenne pepper and, if taking certain medications, consult your health practitioner first, as it can interfere with some medicines.

Honey – used for many years, contains anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal-properties, and is also high in antioxidants. It not only helps the body internally, but is also used topically to heal wounds and reduces infection.  And old recipe for a sore throat is to drink warm water with added honey and/or lemon.  Do remember if you or anybody else is allergic to honey, to use one of the above-mentioned spices instead or exclude honey from your drink.

Important are vitamin- and mineral-supplements.  A good multivitamin, vitamin B-complex, Calcium and Magnesium (combined and at night as the body absorbs calcium better), Omega 3’s, Vitamins C, D and E, Alfalfa, Silica and Selenium.

Probiotics is also vital for keeping the gut flora stabilized and balanced (especially during / after an operation, when taking antibiotics and other medication that can interfere with the gut flora, and when under stress). Probiotics can be found in yogurt, but you can also buy it in powder-form or as tablets, for example A. Vogel’s Alkaline Powder and Reuteri’s probiotic tablets for adults and children.  Interestingly to note is that Vogel’s powder has been scientifically proven to help reduce arthritis-symptoms if taken on a regular basis. 

Researchers agree that these spices, and other food sources, can help to keep us healthy, assist our gut flora and keep our immune systems strong, while fighting off free radicals and illnesses.

Take care, stay in balance and enjoy life!

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