functional remedies for pain + inflammation

While inflammation is such a broad term used for anything from a scrape on the knee to rheumatoid arthritis, it’s fortunate we have such a comprehensive term at our disposal considering inflammation can be treated in a comprehensive way.

The oh so common treatment for inflammation includes NSAIDs [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug], which work by blocking the body’s processes that produce inflammation. However, they are also known for producing various side effects when used long term such as chronic weight gain, stomach pain [due to H. pylori], fatigue and sensitivity to light all of which make you eventually feel worse than you did before.

As we navigate our modern day lives inundated with triggers for various forms of inflammation it is more important than ever to both find an alternative to symptoms suppressors and be consistent in our proactive anti-inflammatory routines.

Turning to functional + herbal medicine can be a great natural alternative to these over-the-counter medications. Using a more holistic approach to medicine not only reduces localized or acute pain and inflammation but also targets the root cause of many inflammatory conditions. Before we jump into my favorite remedies let’s look at what inflammation is first.

WHAT IS INFLAMMATION

Inflammation is a reaction by your immune system to help your body heal from injury or to remove the presence of pathogenic species in the body. In other words, inflammation is incredibly useful for triggering the process of healing.

Inflammation starts when your body releases cytokines that act as emergency signals, bringing nutrients, hormones and immune cells to the site of the injury. To help facilitate this process, your blood vessels dilate allowing the “repair” cells to access the injured area. This often results in visible redness. From there, the immune system cells do their job until the inflammatory issue / injury / or immune assault problem is resolved. This is what is know as acute inflammation. When left unattended however, acute inflammation becomes chronic leaving us with lingering pain, sickness or comprehensive “puffiness” that just won’t quit.

WHAT TRIGGERS INFLAMMATION? [a validation of what you already know]

  • Food – sugar, damaged fats and processed / packaged food: All 3 are the top sources of dietary inflammation. Not surprising but I can’t help but pop this in here as just one more nudge to fight the good fight in eliminating packaged foods from your household.
  • Insufficient omega-3 intake: Omega 3 fats form the precursors to our top anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. Conversely, omega-6 fats form the precursors for inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response. High omega-6 status [especially when combined with poor omega-3 status] means excessive production of inflammatory eicosanoids and a lopsided inflammatory response to normal stimuli.
  • Lack of sleep: Poor sleep is linked to elevated inflammatory markers. Poor sleep is a chronic problem in developed nations.
  • Poor recovery: While it is important to be active, there is such a thing as doing too much, with too little rest and recovery. Overtraining is a form of chronic inflammation.
  • Chronic stress: Without stress release outlets woven into our day, our body goes into a state of chronic stress as it reads the unrelenting stress as trauma.
  • Lack of nature time: We spend too much time contained in cubicles, cars, trains, and cities, away from trees, leaves, and soft earth. Time with our feet planted in the soil or beneath the foliage of trees out on a nature walk is one of the top antidotes to internal inflammation.
  • Poor gut health: The gut houses the bulk of the human immune system. When your GI system is on high alert, so is your inflammatory regulation.

TOP 5 REMEDIES

  • For sleep + stress relief: essential oils are full of superpowers which can help with pain, digestion, stress and respiratory troubles. It is important to dilute essential oils when applying topically, since they are highly concentrated. I love to mix and match essential oils in the diffuser during the workweek or for help falling asleep at night.
    • Frankincense [Boswellia] has superhero benefits, it is a potent anti-inflammatory, and helps relieve both chronic and acute pain as well as reduce stress hormones in the body. Consider adding it to your bathes, the bottom of your feet or even diffusing in your bedroom at night.
  • For musculoskeletal injuries
    • Comfrey root is a native to Europe, North America, and Asia. The root and leaves have been used in alternative medicine for hundreds of years. Comfrey root helps with rashes, wound healing, and has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation, including joint inflammation. Comfrey is typically used in a cream or ointment form and applied topically [typically not recommended for internal consumption]. Here is one of my favorite comfrey root salves made by one of my best friends.
  • Global inflammatory relief via food
    • Start by adding color to your plate. Aim for 5-6 colors per day noting that color offers phytochemicals necessary to fight inflammation. Resveratrol [red], astaxanthan [purple], and bromelain [yellow] are just a few of the “warriors” fighting inflammation on your behalf when you consume them regularly.
    • Amino acid-rich foods such as bone broth and collagen peptides are beneficial in fighting pain and inflammation. These easily-digestible foods allow your body to absorb essential vitamins and minerals which can help cool down inflammation and provide relief to joint pain.
    • Fight for a healthy balance between omega-6 and healthy omega-3 fatty acids by supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil. Omega 3 fatty acids are the “fire fighters” that just won’t quit taming inflammation across the board.

While it may feel like there are 100 things you could potentially do to fight inflammation the good news is just that… there ARE 100 things you can do to fight inflammation. Click HERE to see a whole repertoire of other blogs speaking to inflammation. So be brave, go fight the good fight and note that consistency trumps all. So be consistent with whatever you choose and just like that you’ll notice the chronic signs of inflammation SLOWLY but oh so surely DO dissipate.

To your pain free + joyful vibrance,

Ellie

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