Inflammation is irritating, painful, and itchy—and it happens to all of us. Many people reach for the medicine cabinet or go to the drug store when inflammation strikes, but there are plenty of natural ways to battle it. Several natural compounds found in foods, spices, and herbs can defeat the symptoms and occurrence of inflammation as well as or better than NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). NSAIDs can be over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or prescription medications like celecoxib (more commonly known by the brand name Celebrex). These can very effectively battle inflammation, but they can also have very serious side effects such as intestinal bleeding.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a complicated biological response that occurs in our bodies in response to a number of things. Generally, inflammation can occur anywhere in your body as your immune system responds to some type of foreign invader or irritant. This could include bacteria or viruses, some type of trauma like being struck with something, or irritating substance like getting bleach in an open wound. Common examples of inflammation include a cold or the flu, an allergic reaction, a headache, swelling from a fall, or getting burned.
Problems arise when the immune system starts this process with nothing to fight off and when people have chronic inflammation. This can lead to more serious health problems. Unfortunately, in some people, inflammation can also occur in the absence of the unwelcome invaders. These people have autoimmune disorders, and their immune systems respond even when there is nothing to defend against. Inflammation can be a side effect of many diseases and illnesses including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowels, allergies, asthma, bursitis, vasculitis, atherosclerosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease, to name just a few.
Generally, however, the inflammatory process is a necessary one. Without inflammation, wounds would never heal. It is part of the immune response that fights infection and heals cells and tissues. For those experiencing normal inflammation, it can be uncomfortable. The symptoms are redness, swelling, heat, pain, and loss of function. Treating the symptoms of inflammation is important in finding relief.
Many people use over-the-counter NSAIDs with great success. Others find relief with prescription medications. The fact is, however, that these medications can be very dangerous. NSAIDs can produce nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, edema, ulcers, and even liver or kidney failure. With natural remedies, there is no need to put yourself or your loved ones in the position of dealing with these serious side effects.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: We have all heard the good news about healthy fats. Unsaturated fats, especially those classified as omega-3 fats promote good health. They reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and bring relief from many conditions. The reason for this wealth of goodness has to do with inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in many foods, are building blocks for compounds in the body that reverse inflammation. You can find these fats in fish (especially cold-water fatty fish like salmon and mackerel), flax seeds, and certain nuts like walnuts.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is another compound that reverses the cycle of inflammation in the body. You can take a vitamin E supplement or you can consume it in your foods. Nuts, wheat germ, sunflower oil, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, pumpkin, and sweet potato are just a few that contain this vital nutrient.
- Green tea: Polyphenols and flavonoids are potent antioxidant compounds that are found in green tea. Antioxidants play a very important role in the body by protecting cells and repairing damage. These particular antioxidants also work to inhibit inflammation. You can get them through a supplement or by drinking green tea.
- Turmeric: The spice widely used in India happens to be very good for you as well. Researchers found that a compound in turmeric, called curcumin, can stop inflammation and even prevent some cancers. Indians have known it for years, but science has now proven it. Add turmeric to your meals to experience the benefits.
- Ginger: This is another great spice to add to your dishes, plus it has anti-inflammatory properties. As with turmeric, people have known of the health benefits of ginger for thousands of years. It has been used in myriad ways to relieve symptoms and to promote overall good health. Certain compounds in ginger have now been proven to reduce inflammation in the body.
- Potato juice: Science hasn’t tackled this one yet, but many sufferers of arthritis swear by the benefits of raw potato juice. To get the juice, soak thin slices of raw potato overnight in water. Drink the resulting juice first thing in the morning.
- Massage: Massage can be very helpful in the reduction of pain due to inflammation. You can use various oils to massage arthritic joints, for instance.
- Silymarin: This is an antioxidant compound found in extract of milk thistle. It has been shown in scientific studies to reduce the growth of certain cancers and to reduce inflammation.
- Rosemary: This fragrant and delicious herb has also been proven to reduce inflammation. Use it liberally in your foods, both fresh and dried.
Dealing with the pain and discomfort of inflammation can be tough, especially for those with chronic conditions. There is no single miracle cure, but consuming more foods and compounds that reduce inflammation can make a real difference without creating dangerous side effects.