Inflammation is a term that you hear being used quite often these days. What exactly is inflammation? I hear this a lot in my line of work. Inflammation is a process that is indeed important to the human body. When the body senses an injury, the immune system sends white blood cells to the injured area to surround and protect it. These white blood cells are important in the healing process. This process works the same way if you have a cut, burn, pneumonia or a tooth infection. There are 2 types of inflammation. One is acute, which happens during a traumatic event like a cut to your skin or if you fall and bang your elbow. It leads to redness, heat and swelling around the injured area.
Chronic inflammation involves a similar process, however, the inflammation lasts longer and the immune system sends too many white blood cells and other inflammatory cells to the problem area and it begins attacking nearby healthy tissue and organs.
One form of chronic inflammation is when you are slightly overweight. I know this is a topic that can be sensitive for many, but I am just reporting what the evidence states and how your body works. Being slightly overweight will cause you to naturally have more visceral fat around your organs and the abdomen area. The body sees this as a problem area and will send white cells to this visceral fat and you end up in a state of inflammation. This leads to a state of ongoing inflammation in your body. The longer you stay inflamed the more that these inflammatory cells may float around into your blood stream causing the entire body to be in a state of inflammation. This is why maintaining an ideal weight for your body type is important.
How do you check your inflammation levels? There is a blood test that tests a liver chemical called C-reactive protein. This will determine the level of inflammation that you are in. You may want to speak to your doctor about this.
There are many dietary changes that one should make to treat inflammation. One may want to change their lifestyle and become more active. Exercising can lead to an increased production of endorphin’s and decreased cortisol levels, which may fight the inflammation. Also, if you maintain an ideal body weight, it will cause you to have less visceral fat and this will reduce the inflammation in your body. We also know that there are natural foods that can assist with inflammation, ones that I personally have used.
The one that a lot of people do not know about is Tart Cherry Juice. This is something I have used in the past during workouts to help prevent muscle damage, soreness and inflammation. A great deal of elite athletes have used this as well. The New York Rangers (NHL) have been on the leading edge of using natural sources to combat inflammation and muscle pain. They have used Tart Cherry Juice by drinking it regularly before and after workouts and games. A clinical study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in June 2006, found a significant decrease in symptoms of post exercise muscle damage in college males following the consumption of a Tart Cherry Drink. Strength loss, pain and recovery time were all reduced versus a placebo. I recommend Tart Cherry Juice to some of my clients.
Government and university research have revealed that consumption of 45 tart cherries a day can lower inflammatory markers in the blood stream. This is a lot of cherries to eat so consuming the juice is ideal.
Many people do suffer from difficulty sleeping. Something that I discovered, while taking Tart Cherry Juice is that cherries do contain Melatonin, This hormone is naturally produced by the Pineal gland and helps regulate the body’s internal clock. There is research that demonstrates that tart cherry juice is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women. Maybe drinking this juice before bed could help you to fall asleep. Also, you may try to consume a handful of cherries at night, which could assist with your sleep quality. Its worth trying.
A few other substances to help combat inflammation are Curcumin and lemon water. Curcumin, which is the main ingredient in Tumeric has been known to be a great natural anti-inflammatory. Curcumin on its own is something that the body has a challenging time absorbing so using black peppers can assist with maximum absorption.
The one thing that works well without having to spend a lot of money is drinking lemon water. I usually start my day off with a cup of warm lemon water. Starting off your day with lemon water or even drinking it throughout the day will maintain your body in a state of alkaline and this will assist with reducing inflammation in your body.
There is one condition that I see and treat often in private practice. It is a condition called Tennis Elbow. A lot of health care professionals call it Lateral Epicondylitis, however, this is not correct. Evidence reveals that tennis elbow is not truly an inflammatory condition. Surgeries and autopsies do not reveal inflammation in the muscles involved but yet it still continues to be called Lateral Epicondylitis by the medical community. The correct term that is used for this condition is Lateral Epicondylalgia. This simply means muscle pain in the group of muscles that control the forearm. Since the evidence does not support inflammation with this condition, then why are anti-inflammatories still commonly used? It clearly doesn’t make sense especially if it is not an inflammatory condition. Instead, its best to try some sort of therapy that works on rehabilitating the muscles, whether its through manual therapy, acupuncture, cupping or stretching exercises. You may want to speak to a physiotherapist about this.
Inflammation can be controlled and treated through natural means as discussed above. Modifying ones diet by eliminating sugar and maintaining an ideal body weight are very helpful in treating inflammation. Foods, such as Tart Cherry Juice, Curcumin, lemon water are just a few of the other items that can help. Remember, its a combination of changes that help the most. Reducing inflammation does not work overnight. It is a process that takes time and you have to modify your lifestyle if you want to take control. Until next time stay happy, keep having fun and be kind to yourself.
1) Playing with the Fire of Inflammation Harvard Health Publications- Harvard Medical School- August 2016.
2) New York Rangers Using Tart Cherries to Combat Muscle Soreness in Training Regimen. BJOM, Jan 2007.
3) Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B. McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart Cherry Juice on Melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec(51)8:909-16.
4) Waugh Esther, Lateral Epicondylalgia or Epicondylitis: Whats in a Name? JOPST, 2005(35)4: 200-202.