functional remedies for pain + inflammation

Because inflammation is such a broad term used for anything from a scrape on the knee to rheumatoid arthritis, it can sound daunting and inescapable. And yes! To some extent, inflammation is a dangerous necessity.

Here’s what you need to know: inflammation is step 1 in the body’s healing process designed to resolve an acute injury or stressor. But if the injury or stressor is not resolved, the inflammatory response becomes chronic resulting in prolonged illness, pain and in some cases an auto-immune response.

The oh-so-common treatment for inflammation includes NSAIDs [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs], which work by blocking the body’s processes that produce inflammation. However, more and more research is concluding the chronic use of NSAIDs is infringing on our body’s capacity to heal, therefore making inflammation worse.

NSAIDs 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 even closer at what inflammation is.

Inflammation is an incredibly useful mechanism spurred on by the immune system in response to an acute injury or by the presence of pathogenic species in the body. Inflammation can take the form of swelling, redness, heat, pain or even loss of function and is a sign that your body is working hard to heal itself.

So how does it work? 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 the trigger does not resolve, however, acute inflammation becomes chronic leaving us with lingering pain, sickness or comprehensive “puffiness” that just won’t quit.

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.

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.

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.

Insufficient recovery time: 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.

1. Diversify your microbiome. Because inflammation begins in the gut, the first step to mitigation is to amplify your fibers via the “plant vehicle” of colors. Every species of bacteria eats a different type of fiber. So the goal is to consume 5-6 different fiber rich plants noting that color in the plant 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. The color paired with fiber will begin to diversify your microbiome which is at the helm of your immune response and the healing compounds your microbiome produces [postbiotics] target inflammation from the inside out.

2. Fight for a healthy balance between omega-6 and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. By eliminating your omega 6 oils first. It’s tempting to pound the fish oil, algea oil and walnuts but it’s more impactful to search your cupboards for sneaky sources of harmful omega 6. Eliminating omega 6 will decrease inflammation far faster than over-supplementing omega 3 will. The main sources of omega 6 include 3 Cs and 3 Ss:
safflower oil
sunflower oil
soybean oil
canola oil
corn oil
cottonseed oil
once all the omega 6 refined oils have been stripped from your cupboards, you can then weave in fish, fish oil, algea oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts into your daily fare.

3. Regulate blood sugar. When blood sugar is dys-regulated the inflammatory process is amplified. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire. There are compensatory reactions [often un-felt] that amplify the chronicity of the inflammation, preventing resolution. A simple way to regulate blood sugar is to make sure plants and proteins are consumed before any carbohydrate. This awareness and intentional pattern of consuming food will put the emphasis on what to eat instead of what to avoid making the habit shift feel effortless. One protein-rich food to emphasize [as it contains nutrients key for resolving inflammation] is bone broth.

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 I’ve written speaking to inflammation from more targeted angles.

The punchline? Be brave.

Go fight the good fight with consistent information your body understands.

To your pain free + joyful vibrance,

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