Why does inflammation occur?
Inflammation is a defensive reaction that is usually activated by the immune system in response to infection or trauma. To enable immune cells to get through tissue walls to the injury site more easily, the blood vessels become more permeable thus resulting redness, swelling and pain. In addition, heat occurs as a means to destroy pathogenic material.
The overall aim of inflammation is to remove the damaging agent and initiate the repair of body tissues. Inflammation is therefore a helpful and necessary part of the body’s defence system but, if it becomes prolonged or too intense, then it no longer useful and needs to be addressed.
Long term effects of inflammation
If inflammation occurs over a long period of time it becomes part of the disease process rather than the healing process. Pain becomes an on-going issue while the afflicted areas can begin to deteriorate as a result of tissue damage, swelling and the effects of heat.
If inflammation gets out of control, in the long term it may also lead to chronic issues such as osteoarthritis, autoimmune illness, and chronic infections.
An inflammatory diet
If you experience inflammation, be it a long or short term issue, there are a number of food and drinks that can make the problem worse including:
- Vegetable oils
- Meat (especially red meat)
- Refined carbohydrates (bread, rice)
- Highly processed foods
This may seem like a long list of things to avoid, but there are actually plenty of foods that have anti-inflammatory properties which you could choose instead. This includes:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Complex carbohydrates (beans, oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes)
- Wholegrains (wheat, spelt, bulgur, barley)
Although it is essential to look at what you eat when inflammation flares up, it is equally important to consider how you eat as, even if the food you are eating is good, eating it badly can make it more inflammatory.
So, as a starting point consider how much you put on your plate as eating a high calorie diet and not expending that energy is a risk factor for inflammation. Next, consider how you prepare your food as cooking vegetables too much can cause them to lose their nutritional goodness. How quickly you eat can also influence inflammation so chew thoroughly and eat slowly!
How can herbal remedies help?
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen don’t require a prescription and so are widely used to treat pain. Ibuprofen is not a long term solution, though, as it can have side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, kidney failure, raised blood pressure and more.1 A high dose taken over a long period of time can also increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes and so it is necessary to find an alternative solution.
Devil’s Claw is a traditional medicinal product used for the relief of rheumatic pain, muscular pain and backache. The herbal remedy is a topical treatment for inflammatory issues that inhibits inflammation at the very start of the process.
Devil’s Claw is thought to have a gentle braking action on all the inflammatory pathways, without completely blocking any of them. This means it helps but has no nasty side effects, plus it can be used for as long as it is needed.
We use Arnica Montana from our own certified organic cultivation to protect wild stocks. We also use fresh flower heads so that the end product maintains all the plant’s beneficial properties that can be lost through the drying process.
Other natural remedies for inflammation and pain
As well herbal remedies, a number of other home and natural remedies can be used to address inflammation.
For arthritis and other similar conditions, studies show that omega 3 fatty acids – which are found in fish oils fish, nuts, seeds – may help reduce pain and inflammation. Another option is to take a supplement - the Arthritis Foundation recommends taking fish oil capsules with at least 30% omega-3 in order to get the most benefit.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and so it too may help with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.2 It is safe in small quantities and can be used in cooking to flavour food. Therefore, as long as you don’t mind the taste, there is little downside to using turmeric.
You can explore our recipe hub for ideas on how to incorporate turmeric into your meals.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicinal technique that may help reduce the pain associated with back and neck pain, arthritis, headaches and fibromyalgia. There are minimal risks when compared to painkillers like Ibuprofen making it another good alternative
Regular exercise is a good way to ward off chronic pain, or at least help you cope better with the problem. Tai chi and yoga are good examples of exercises that won’t put the body under too much strain. Swimming is also very beneficial, though, as it is a good way to stay active and flexible without putting too much stress on the joints.
Lack of sleep can make us more sensitive to pain so make sure you are going to bed a reason able hour and you have a good wind down routine for the evenings to help you sleep better. You may also benefit from a gentle sleep remedy such as Dormeasan if you need further help.
Heat and ice
Heat and ice can bring short term relief from painful injuries. If the issue persists, however, it is better you speak to a physiotherapist or doctor rather than trying to manage the problem alone.