A Comprehensive Guide to Inflammation Treatment & Causes
Inflammation is a natural process in the human body that occurs when the organism tries to protect itself from potential harm. It’s not dangerous per se, but it can convert to a critical issue if it becomes chronic.
If not treated properly, chronic inflammation can cause a wide variety of diseases. Luckily, there are many ways of reducing its adverse effects. Since one of the most common causes of inflammation include obesity and stress, it’s essential to make some significant changes in your diet and lifestyle. That way, you’ll improve your overall health and prevent potentially harmful diseases that may cause a plethora of complications
Many studies have proven that treatments like acupuncture and herbal therapies can significantly ease chronic inflammation symptoms. These methods are quite safe and efficient, and apart from addressing the signs of a particular condition, they promote the person’s optimal health and well-being.
The following article will provide more information about inflammation, its causes, signs, and the most efficient treatments that include acupuncture, herbs, and other significant changes in lifestyle and nutrition.
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What is Inflammation?
The global definition of inflammation says that it represents your body’s way of dealing with an infection, illness, or injury. The process involves the increased production of white blood cells, immune cells, as well as the substances called cytokines, responsible for fighting infections.
A foreign body (thorn), an irritant, or a pathogen (bacteria, virus, or other organisms) may be the attackers that cause infection, and therefore the inflammation. In some cases, the body mistakenly perceives its own cells or tissues as dangerous, which leads to many autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.
If the inflammation lasts longer than six weeks, it’s more likely to convert to a chronic condition, which may cause many health issues.
Types of Inflammation: Acute and Chronic
There are two main types of this condition – acute and chronic.
Acute Inflammation (Short-Term)
Injuries or illnesses can result in acute inflammation. It’s not harmful, and it may even be “silent,” which means that the signs may not be present at all. Still, your condition will probably be followed by these symptoms:
- Pain: Pain may occur only when a person touches the affected area, or it may be present all the time.
- Redness: You may notice redness due to the increase in the blood supply to the capillaries in the area.
- Loss of function: It may be difficult for you to move a joint, breathe, sense smell, and more.
- Edema: Swelling is a common sign of inflammation, and it occurs as the fluid builds up.
- Heat: Increased blood flow may make the affected area warm to the touch.
These are the most common signs of inflammation, and they may last a few days. During that period, people may also feel tired, unwell, and even have a fever.
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Chronic Inflammation (Long-Term)
If you notice that the signs of inflammation don’t cease even after a few weeks, it may be the warning that your condition has become chronic. Chronic inflammation is often associated with other diseases, such as:
- Arthritis or similar joint injuries
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
Chronic inflammation may last for months, or even years, depending on the disease it’s linked with. People who suffer from such a condition often feel pain, fatigue, and other inflammation-related symptoms.
There is also a so-called subacute inflammation, which lasts from two to six weeks.
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is usually caused by a physical factor that triggers an immune reaction. It doesn’t imply the presence of the infection, but infections are those that often cause it.
Causes of Acute Inflammation
The following factors can cause acute inflammation:
- An infection
- An injury
- Exposure to substance: bee sting or dust.
The body automatically detects damage or pathogens, triggering a number of reactions, such as:
- Swelling, which is caused by the accumulation of plasma proteins.
- Increased number of white blood cells (leukocyte), which comes as a result of the release of neutrophils.
- Enlargement of small blood vessels, which enables leukocytes and plasma proteins to reach the affected area more easily.
The signs of acute inflammation may last shorter or longer, depending on what caused it. Some of the factors that impact the onset of this condition are:
- A sore throat resulting from a cold or flu
- Acute bronchitis or appendicitis
- An ingrown toenail
- Wounds or physical traumas.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is often caused by a disease or any health issue a person may have. For example:
- Sensitivity: A person can feel the signs of inflammation when their body senses something that shouldn’t be there. Allergies are the best example of the hypersensitivity to an external trigger.
- Exposure: A long-term exposure to an irritant (industrial chemicals, for example), can result in chronic inflammation.
- Autoimmune diseases: The cases of psoriasis or diabetes are the most common examples of the situations where the immune system mistakenly attacks normal and health issue.
- Autoinflammatory disease: Genetic factors can also affect how the immune system works, leading to chronic inflammation.
- Consistent acute inflammation: When a person doesn’t fully recover from acute inflammation, or when it lasts longer than it should, it can lead to severe consequences and a chronic stage of this condition.
Some long-term diseases are also associated with inflammation, and they include:
- Active hepatitis
- Chronic peptic ulcer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis.
Doctors also claim that bad lifestyle habits such as smoking, stress, sleep problems, obesity, and the intake of unhealthy fats and added sugar can also impact the onset of chronic inflammation, which is why it’s essential to make some vital changes in order to prevent further problems.
How to Get Rid of Inflammation: The Best Inflammation Treatment Options
Adequate treatment for inflammation will be based on two factors: what caused it and how severe it is. Some cases don’t even require treatment, while more difficult situations should not be ignored. Without proper treatment, some infections can enter the blood (sepsis) and cause many life-threatening symptoms.
Let’s have a look at the most efficient treatments for inflammation:
Acupuncture for Inflammation
Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine, and it has been used for treating a variety of conditions for years. It is quite beneficial for addressing the pain caused by different diseases, especially the inflammatory ones, such as asthma, rhinitis, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, vasculitis, and more.
Acupuncture involves the use of acupuncture needles, which the practitioner places on acupoints – specific areas on the body. The stimulation of such points encourages the flow of energy and blood, which brings significant improvements not only to a person’s actual condition but also to their overall health.
Acupuncture treatments have a beneficial effect on many diseases, and the study about anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture, has proven that this therapy can help to ease symptoms of the following conditions and enhance the person’s overall health:
According to the study, acupuncture has proven its efficiency in treating the symptoms of rhinitis and sinusitis in both children and adults. It successfully decreased the signs of seasonal allergic rhinitis during a 4-week period, in which the therapies were given three times a week.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Alternative medicine is widely used to treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, especially nowadays, when it’s considered one of the best complementary treatments for such disorders. It’s often used with moxibustion to provide better results, and the collected data indicates that acupuncture could be attributed to the recovery in patients that suffer from active inflammatory bowel disease.
Read more about the therapeutic effects of moxibustion here.
Acupuncture, as a complementary treatment, can be very efficient in addressing the symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Combined with moxibustion, it can reduce the signs of symptomatic pain and provide significant relief to patients with such problems.
Lateral epicondylitis of the elbow (tennis elbow) is another inflammatory condition whose signs can be treated with acupuncture. According to the study, acupuncture treatments for epicondylitis lasted for three weeks, during which the patients received ten therapies. Five specific acupoints were stimulated in both classic and superficial way, which has brought positive short-term effects of pain reduction.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg. It typically results from an injury, a surgery, a stroke, or a heart attack, which is considered a result of an inflammatory reaction. Long-term acupuncture treatments can reduce the pain symptoms of CRPS, swelling, temperature, and redness.
Inflammation of the vascular system can impact the onset of the diseases mentioned above, and acupuncture can prevent that. Thanks to its significant impact on blood circulation, acupuncture can reduce the pain caused by migraines and headaches and prevent chronic inflammation.
Is Acupuncture Good for Inflammation?
Acupuncture is a safe and efficient therapy that successfully treats inflammatory conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and more. It reduces the inflammation by affecting the body’s cytokines, reducing the pro-inflammatory ones, and increasing the anti-inflammatory proteins.
You’re encouraged to try acupuncture to reduce inflammation and get rid of the pain caused by the inflammation process. Namely, it impacts the release of the body’s natural painkillers (endorphins), which reduce pain levels and allow the body to heal naturally.
The Best Herbs for Inflammation
Herbs are also an efficient way of reducing the symptoms of chronic inflammation. Consider the following anti-inflammatory herbs for the best results:
- Turmeric (Curcumin): Turmeric is widely used in Chinese medicine because it’s excellent for reducing inflammation and treating digestive disorders, wounds, and infections.
- Green tea: Green tea is a useful anti-inflammatory herb that can treat arthritis and reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. It may even help conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Chinese skullcap: The root of skullcap is used for treating inflammatory diseases since such an herb is considered one of the best anti-inflammatory and antithrombic agents. It’s also a very potent antioxidant.
- Chinese goldthread: This herb consists of several compounds that enhance health, but the most important one is a salt known as berberine. It is an alkaloid that has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties vital for treating a variety of medical conditions.
- Weeping forsythia: The water extract from this herb is a remedy that treats various inflammatory diseases, and it’s commonly used in Chinese medicine.
Chinese herbs have a strong therapeutic effect, and they are excellent for relieving the symptoms of inflammatory diseases. However, you shouldn’t take them before consulting Chinese herbalist, who will create an individual treatment for you after the necessary examinations.
How to Reduce Inflammation with the Adequate Diet?
An unhealthy diet is often one of the inflammation causes. If inflammatory foods are prevalent in your diet, you may eventually face severe health issues that may result in obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and more.
The best way to protect your organism from potential harm is to avoid foods that cause inflammation:
- Sugary beverages: Processed sugar is present in most industrial products, which is extremely bad for health. Therefore, avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juices.
- Refined carbs: Refined carbs are commonly found in white bread, white pasta, baked goods, etc.
- Sweets: Excessive consumption of cookies, candies, cakes, ice cream, and other products with added sugar may cause inflammation and obesity.
- Processed meat: Since you never know what’s inside hot dogs, sausages, bolognas, and other meat products mostly used for preparing fast food, it’s better to avoid them whenever you can.
- Processed snack foods: Crackers, chips, pretzels, and other snacks aren’t recommended if you want to stick to a healthy diet.
- Processed oils: Oils made from processed seed (soybean or corn) are not the best option since they’re full of unhealthy fats.
- Trans fats: Trans fats are found in the refrigerated dough, stick margarine, fried foods, coffee creamers, and junk food in general. Therefore, remove them from your list.
- Alcohol: Alcohol abuse can lead to a variety of conditions, including chronic inflammations.
Supplements for Inflammation
Although it’s always better to take valuable nutrients from whole food, supplements are also recommended when you cannot do that. Additional supplements you may include in your diet are:
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Fish oil
Like we said for herbs, you should avoid taking the supplements without prior consultation with your practitioner. Even if they agree to it, your task is to buy them from a reputable manufacturer and follow the prescribed dosage.
How to Prevent Inflammation?
It’s possible to prevent inflammation from damaging your health and bringing a lot of problems that might not be easy to solve. Since this condition usually comes as a result of bad lifestyle habits, you are the determining factor that can prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases that can harm your health and cause lifetime complications.
The symptoms of inflammation may go unnoticed for an extended period of time. As the condition progresses, it begins to damage your organs, joints, and arteries, leading to a variety of chronic diseases that require consistent care. To reduce the risk of chronic issues, make sure you do the following:
1. Eat a Lot of Healthy and Anti-Inflammatory Foods
A healthy diet is crucial for boosting the immune system and protect it from harmful external triggers. Therefore, it’s essential to enrich your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, and food with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, tofu, walnuts, soybeans, flax seeds, and more).
2. Avoid Foods That Cause Inflammation
Excessive consumption of trans fats, refined sugars, processed foods, and other unhealthy food can cause complications. If these aliments are prevalent in your diet, you should consider replacing them with nutrients that will bring balance to your organism.
3. Control Blood Sugar Levels
Blood sugar levels play a significant role in your organism. If uncontrolled, blood sugar may cause many complications that often lead to severe consequences that result in diabetes, insulin resistance, or kidney failure. A key to keeping your blood sugar levels under control is a healthy diet, physical activity, and stress management.
Regular exercise can prevent inflammation and other disorders, which is why you should include physical activity in your lifestyle. Do aerobic, or weight, or resistance training four to five times a week to get the best results.
5. Lose Weight
Obesity is usually the main reason for chronic inflammation development, which is why losing weight may be of huge importance.
6. Reduce Stress
Chronic stress is harmful to the entire organism, and you should manage it as much as you can. You can use yoga, meditation, or any other activity that helps you reduce stress and enhance the flow of positive thoughts.