If I told you that inflammation is good for your health chances are you would think I had lost my mind, especially if you happen to be one of the millions who suffer with the pain of arthritis. Although inflammation is linked to a host of diseases related to aging, it can be your best friend and an essential part of your well-being. Let me explain what I mean.
Inflammation is your first indicator that something in your body is going wrong. It can signal the presence of bacteria, toxins and viral infection and help you repair and heal the cells of your body. You would surely die without a healthy, powerful inflammatory process. When inflammation occurs, the body’s white blood cells and chemicals are released to protect us from infection and foreign substances.
There are times, however when inflammation becomes more of an enemy than a friend. This happens in some diseases when the body’s immune system triggers an inflammatory response when there is no need to do so. In other words, there are no foreign substances to fight so the inflammatory chemicals actually cause damage to the body’s own tissue. When this occurs it is known as an autoimmune disease.
How a Good Defense Turns Bad
When inflammation becomes chronic, uncontrolled or systemic it goes from being your defender to a ruthless destroyer. As tissue is continuously hit with infection, stress, and irritation it is left with chronic inflammation.
In a perfect scenario the inflammation should subside when the pathogens are removed. For instance, when a virus dies, or an injury heals, the blood vessels and lymphatic system carry the excess fluid and damaged cells away from the inflamed site. It is only when the body is out of balance that the system overreacts, or turns against you that inflammation continues causing tissue destruction.
Some of the obvious characteristics of inflammation are redness, swollen joints that are warm to the touch, joint pain, stiffness, and loss of joint function. There may be only a few of these symptoms that are present along with the possibility of fever, chills, and fatigue.
Although inflammation is generally associated with arthritis or joint pain, uncontrolled inflammation can affect internal organs as well. Since organs do not contain pain sensitive nerves, the symptoms can be very different depending on which organs are affected.
• Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) may cause shortness of breath or leg swelling.
• Inflammation of the small tubes that transport air to the lungs may cause an asthma attack.
• Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis) may cause high blood pressure or kidney failure.
• Inflammation of the large intestine (colitis) may cause cramps and diarrhea.
Don’t Just Treat Inflammation – Prevent It!
The best way to maintain healthy joints, relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, and improve muscle and bone strength is through exercise. Specific programs can be individualized to meet your needs and include low-impact aerobic activity, range of motion for flexibility, and strength training for muscle tone.
When dealing with severe or serious inflammatory situations circulation is critical for healing to take place. Since the body is trying to fix itself you can help it along by improving circulation to the affected area by using hot-cold hydrotherapy. You may also apply a cream derived from hot chili peppers to the skin over your painful joints. Improvement may be felt after applying the cream for 3-7 days.
There are many natural ways to enrich your diet with nutrients that are easily accessible:
• Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially antioxidants like vitamin E. These are found in fruits and vegetables.
• Get selenium from Brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, garlic, whole grains, sunflower seeds, and Brazil nuts.
• Get omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fish (like salmon, mackerel, and herring), flaxseed, rapeseed (canola) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
• Taking supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin are important because they form the building blocks of cartilage, the substance that lines joints.
Let’s not forget that rest is just as important as exercise to help you recover from flare-ups. Avoid holding one position too long or placing stress on your affected joints.
You can see how inflammation can be good for you and a key to staying healthy. Taking control of inflammation and balancing your body’s inflammatory response will help reduce the threat of it turning against you. Learn to read your body’s signs of inflammation and see your doctor for diagnosis and proper treatment. Get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, improve circulation, and eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
Take control of inflammation before it controls you!