At 55 years old (as I write this), I’ve been dealing with chronic inflammation for over half my life. Debilitating pain and swelling started in my mid 20s and went undiagnosed for years, until eventually being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis as well as Hashimotos Thyroiditis. At times, by being very proactive about my health with intentional nutrition, exercise and effective medication, I have been in remission. But after menopause, the familiar pain and swelling started again, which sent me back to the drawing board, and being more determined than ever to rid myself of this chronic inflammation. While bloodwork still indicates things are fine, ultrasound to several joints revealed otherwise.
Health is a fine balance, and learning what ignites the fire of inflammation and what can douse it out can mean the difference in living a vibrant life or a life constantly trying to chase away pain and/or disease. Medication can surely help, but it doesn’t heal. So I suggest if you’re experiencing these or any autoimmune issues, you don’t just rely on a medication prescribed by your doctor, and for you start being proactive about your holistic health.
Inflammation is your body’s protective response to injury or damage. It helps your natural healing and repair processes. While this is process is critical for repairing injuries, major health issues can arise when your body is chronically inflamed. Many modern stressors, such as pollution, food sensitivities and carrying extra weight, can lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation not only can lead to a variety of diseases, to include cancer, Alzheimers and more, but it also accelerates the aging process and this is commonly called “inflammaging”.
Not only do we need to avoid the triggers and purge toxins, we need to also include nutrients that help our bodies combat inflammation. Our bodies are miraculous and we have been given a beautiful planet full of what we need for optimal health, but our society over the years has turned to pharmaceuticals and food has become more of an indulgence and source of entertainment than a fuel source for our body’s health.
Nutrients known to reduce C-reactive protein (CRP;a measurement of inflammation)
|Prevented exercise-induced rises in CRP in athletes49
|Lowered CRP more than control in patients with toxin-induced skinirritation50 Lowered CRP by a huge 6.4 mg/L in a meta-analysis of 6 studies of patients with elevated CRP51
|Reversed elevated CRP levels in rats with experimental arthritis52
|Reduced hs-CRP in diabetic adults47
|Green Tea Polyphenols
|Lowered CRP in a rat model of systemic inflammation53
|Reduced CRP by 1.1 mg/L in postmenopausal women when combined with exercise54
|Lowered CRP in end-stage renal disease patients on dialysis55
|Higher serum magnesium correlated with lower CRP in overweight middle-aged women56
|Lowered hs-CRP in diabetes patients57
|Omega-3 fatty acids
|Low omega-3 in blood correlated with higher CRP in patients with peripheral artery disease58 Lowered hs-CRP and depression scores in depressed shift workers59 Lowered CRP and CRP/albumin ratio (beneficial) in colorectal cancer patients60
|Lowered CRP when given with vitamin C61
|Red yeast rice
|Lowered hs-CRP by nearly 24% in people with moderately highcholesterol46
|Reduced plasma CRP 24% in active or passive smokers48 Lowered hs-CRP in hemodialysis patients62
|Higher vitamin D levels correlated with lower CRP in humans with rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition63 Reduced serum CRP in pregnant women by 1.4 mg/L while controls rose by 1.5 mg/L (400 IU daily dose)64
|Lowered CRP in humans and animals65
|Lowered hs-CRP from more than 10 to 7.7 mg/L in diabetics with kidney disease66 Lowered hs-CRP in young obese women67
|Mixture of resveratrol, pterostilbene, quercetin, delta-tocotrienol,and nicotinic acid reduced CRP 29% in healthy seniors68
There are many different herbs that can help you reduce or prevent inflammation in your body.
1. Turmeric (Curcumin)
The anti-inflammatory agent in turmeric is its yellow pigment called curcumin. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines have long used turmeric and curcumin to reduce inflammation as well as treat digestive disorders, wounds and infections.
Studies have shown that curcumin also acts as an antioxidant and may combat cancer. Fresh or powdered turmeric is excellent in curries, soups or other dishes. Fresh turmeric can be added to fresh vegetable juices. Supplements of curcumin are also available.
2. Green Tea
The preventative effects of green tea against cardiovascular disease and cancer are well established. More recent studies have shown that green tea can be an effective anti-inflammatory, particularly in the treatment of arthritis. It can also reduce inflammation of the digestive tract potentially helping conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
It’s recommended to drink 3 to 4 cups of tea daily. Green tea extract can also be found in pill form. And for those who don’t want the caffeine, decaffeinated green teas are available.
3. White Willow Bark
White willow tree bark has been used as a treatment for pain and inflammation since ancient Egyptian and Roman times. Many studies have shown that white willow bark has a similar effects as aspirin, but with fewer side effects than aspirin.
The usual dose of white willow bark is 240 mg per day for ongoing conditions. There are also herbal blends that contain white willow bark which can be used for an acute event, such as a headache.
4. Maritime Pine Bark (Pycnogenol)
Bark from the maritime pine tree (Pinus maritima) can be processed into pycnogenol. This extract has been used for more than 2,000 years to help heal wounds, scurvy and ulcers as well as reducing vascular inflammation. It is one of the strongest antioxidants known today.
Studies have shown that pycnogenol is 50 to 100 times more potent than vitamin E in neutralizing free radicals in the body. It has also been found to reduce blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. A typical dosage is 100-200 mg daily.
5. Chili Peppers (Capsaicin)
The countless varieties of hot peppers we have today began as one small shrub (Capsicum annum), native to tropical regions of the Americas. The chemical capsaicin is what makes a pepper hot. And it’s capsaicin that’s been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effectin your body.
Any type of chili pepper, such as cayenne or jalapeno, contains capsaicin. You can use chili peppers fresh or powdered in a wide variety of dishes, including desserts. Supplements containing capsaicin are often mixed with other herbs to create natural anti-inflammatory blends.
6. Frankincense (Boswellia serrata)
Boswellia is a tree variety native to India, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula. Frankincense is a resin extracted from the trees. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic and pain-controlling properties. Boswellia resin is currently used to treat degenerative and inflammatory joint disorders
One study showed that a combination of Boswellia and curcumin was more effective for treating osteoarthritis than a commonly used synthetic drug. It’s recommended to take 300-500 mg of Boswellia extract two or three times a day for ongoing inflammatory conditions.
7. Black Pepper
This unassuming spice actually packs an anti-inflammatory punch. The distinctive flavor of black pepper comes from the chemical piperine. Even at low doses, piperine has been shown to reduce inflammation. It can inhibit the spread of cancer and has been shown to suppress the feeling of pain and arthritis symptoms.
This is an antioxidant found in many plants. The highest amounts have been found in Japanese knot weed (Polygonum cuspidatum) and in the skins of red wine grapes. Resveratrol has been shown to be a strong anti-inflammatory. It also protects against DNA damage and mutations. You can find resveratrol as a common supplement in natural food stores. A typical dosage is from 50 to 500 mg per day.
9. Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
This herb is derived from a woody vine native to Peru. The bark of cat’s claw has traditionally been used to treat arthritis, bursitis and intestinal disorders. Studies have shown that it can reduce inflammatory responses in the body and it has a protective effect against gastrointestinal inflammation.
You can make a tea from cat’s claw from either a prepared tea or use 1000 mg of the bark to 8 ounces of water. It is also available as a dry extract in a capsule. It’s recommended to take 20 to 60 mg daily.
In one study, participants were given small amounts of various common herbs and spices for a period of 7 days. Rosemary showed one of the strongest protective affects against inflammation and oxidation.
The other top spices were turmeric, cloves and ginger. The researchers noted that the amounts given of each herb were no more than what someone would normally eat in a seasoned soup, sauce or other dish.
Clove oil can be applied directly to the gums to help with a toothache or for pain control during dental work. Cloves have been shown to reduce mouth and throat inflammation. Cloves can also be used to treat diarrhea, nausea, hernia, bad breath and as an expectorant.
The powdered or whole dried flower buds are delicious in many savory dishes as well as in desserts and hot drinks.
Research has shown that ginger has a better therapeutic effect than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to treat pain and inflammation. Ginger also inhibits the activation of several genes involved in an inflammatory response.
This popular spice is made from the bark of cinnamon trees native to China, India and Southeast Asia. In addition to being anti-inflammatory, cinnamon has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, anti-cancer and lipid-lowering properties. It has even been found to act against neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
In addition to the nutritional component, it is important to keep the body moving. Exercise will keep the blood flow to get the micronutrients to their targeted tissues remove toxins with the lymphatic system, and keep the joints stable with muscle support.
Last, but most definitely not least, meditation will help reduce pain as well as stress (which is known to increase inflammation) so that can stop the constant cycle. It’s not “woo woo”, it’s actually science.
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Thank you to EcoWatch and Chatelaine websites for information used to write this article.