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Inflammation describes the hot, red, swollen, and often painful condition which results from a localized immune response from the body. Inflammation can have any number of causes, but the most common are injury or infection. As the body redirects resources to a certain spot (say, an injured joint), those resources accumulate until the healing process is completed, but their very presence can, itself, exacerbate discomfort. It’s often preferable to decrease inflammation in a controlled way, to better aid the body’s natural healing processes.
That can be done easily with medications, but there are usually much less invasive approaches that don’t come with the same side effects. For many patients, these are perfectly valid means of managing pain, reducing inflammation, and helping to maintain the body’s systems. Here, then, are five ways of treating inflammation naturally.
The precise mechanism by which acupuncture treats inflammation isn’t fully understood, but the practical results have been observed time after time in experimental trials. Moreover, they have been attested in Eastern medicine for millennia.
What has been observed, shedding some light on the matter, is an increase in the release of neuropeptides from nerve endings in the vicinity of the puncture site, which act as a vasodilator and which inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines. These opened pathways allow excess fluid to drain away, and the stimulation to the nerve endings increases the flow and release of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
To clarify, cytokines are proteins that are secreted by the immune system and which influence cellular interaction. Different proteins do different jobs, and in this case acupuncture reduces the ones that cause inflammation, and increases the ones that dispel it.
A therapeutic massage can rub out inflammation naturally, and noninvasively. It improves blood flow in stiff tissues, especially muscle tissue, helping to purge the area of excess fluid buildup. By widening those pathways, massage can prevent further uncomfortable swelling, and the regular manipulation of the soft tissues can significantly promote healing.
This approach is especially effective for treating inflammation resulting from muscular damage, either from overwork or injury. One study found that therapeutic massage drastically decreased the production of inflammatory cytokines, which also resulted in pain relief.
In some cases, massage can exacerbate inflammation, but these side-effects result from the massage therapy having been either misapplied or applied too frequently without allowing the appropriate time for any tissues to heal.
There are any number of dietary changes which can reduce inflammation. Certain foods, like fenugreek, turmeric, and leafy green vegetables can all reduce inflammation throughout the body. On the other hand, plenty of foods are extremely prone to causing it. These inflammatory foods are especially common in the Western diet. These include sugar, dairy products, bread, fish, meat, and pre-packaged ready made processed and frozen food cause high levels of inflammation. Reduce inflammation by staying away from pre-packaged fast foods (i.e., granola bars, deli meats, frozen meals) along with all dairy products (i.e, cheese, milk, yogurt, cream cheese), meat, poultry, fish, along with refined flours and sugar (i.e., store-bought condiments, soft drinks, candy). A little goes a long way in creating long-standing inflammation which is difficult to turn off with repeated consumption.
Stick with having whole foods rich in fiber and nutrients such as all vegetables, beans, mushrooms, and ancient whole grains (i.e., quinoa, millet, amaranth). They quickly reduce inflammation and boost health.
Chronic stress leads to an increase in cortisol. Cortisol increases immune response. In the short term, a spike in cortisol during a particular threat is protective for the body. During chronic exposure to high stress and high cortisol, the increased immune response comes with an increase in immune cells in the bloodstream. Those immune cells are the same ones that cause inflammation in the first place. The systemic pressure on the immune system removes some of the usual safeguards (i.e., anti-inflammatory cytokines) that would ordinarily keep the immune system in check.
Reducing stress, through mindfulness, good sleep hygiene and other lifestyle habits (i.e., yoga, whole foods diet) promotes a feeling of wellness. That correlates with a reduction of the systemic pressure, and allows the immune system to relax.
Exercise has a similar effect. Through light or moderate exercise, blood flow is increased and there’s an instant effect on most kinds of inflammation. Exercise can reduce pain, and help speed up healing from an injury. Even something as simple as a walk, or dividing your time more evenly between standing and sitting, can have a strong impact on most types of inflammation.
The fundamental tenet of integrative medicine is that no single part of the body should be treated as independent from the rest. Exercise engages every body system simultaneously, in the same way that stress has a pervasive impact on everything from digestion to muscle tension. Chronic inflammation should be treated as a symptom of an imbalanced body, rather than a targeted response to a specific cause.
If you’re suffering from chronic inflammation, there’s no better time to reach out to Advanced Health for a consultation. Depending on the nature of your symptoms, any one of the natural treatments listed above, or some combination of several, can make a difference, and seriously improve your quality of life.
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