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Managing and Healing Inflammation

The word inflammation comes from the Latin “inflammo”, meaning “I set alight, I ignite”.

Inflammation is the body’s attempt at self-protection; the aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants and pathogens and begin the healing process.

When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological response to try to remove it, the signs and symptoms of inflammation, specifically acute inflammation, show that the body is trying to heal itself.

The traditional names for signs of inflammation come from Latin:

  • Dolor (pain)
  • Calor (heat)
  • Rubor (redness)
  • Tumor (swelling)
  • Functio laesa (loss of function)

Inflammation may also be associated with general flu-like symptoms including:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue/Loss of energy
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle stiffness

Acute Inflammation is a short-term process and usually appears within a few minutes or hours and ceasing upon the removal of the injurious stimulus.  It is characterized by five cardinal signs:

The acronym that may be used for this is “PRISH”:  Pain, Redness, Immobility (loss of function), Swelling and Heat.

Examples: Acute bronchitis, infected ingrown toenail, sore throat from a cold or flu, exercise (especially intense training), acute sinusitis, a blow.

Chronic inflammation means long-term. It can last for several months and even years. It can result from:

  • Failure to eliminate whatever was causing an acute inflammation
  • An autoimmune response to a self antigen – the immune system attacks healthy tissue, mistaking it (them) for harmful pathogens
  • A chronic irritant of low intensity that persists.

Examples of disease and conditions with chronic inflammation include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic peptic ulcer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic periodontitis
  • Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Chronic active hepatitis

Chronic inflammation can eventually cause several diseases and conditions, including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, periodontitis and hay fever.  Inflammation needs to be well regulated.

Although scientists know that inflammation plays a key role in heart disease and several other illnesses, what drives inflammation in the first place is still a mystery.

It should be remembered that inflammation is part of the healing process. Sometimes reducing inflammation is necessary, but not always.


1. Applying Ice – do not place the ice in direct contact with skin, wrap it in a cloth or a purpose-made bag.

2. Fish oil (Omega-3) – scientists from Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science reported on a study in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity that the daily consumption of fish oil, omega-3 reduced both inflammation and anxiety in a group of young healthy people.

3. Green tea – researchers form the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center found that regular green tea drinking enhances bone health and reduces inflammation in postmenopausal women. They added that Tai-Chi appears to have the same beneficial effect.

4. Tart cherries – sport scientists found that tart cherries have powerful anti-inflammatory properties which may help millions of Americans who suffer from joint pain and arthritis.

5. Ginger – also known as ginger root is used as a medicine or a spice. It has been used for hundreds of years to treat dyspepsia, constipation, colic, other gastrointestinal problems, as well as rheumatoid arthritis pain.

6. Turmeric – also a plant from the ginger family, current research is looking into the possible beneficial effects of turmeric in treating arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and some other anti-inflammatory conditions. Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, is under investigation for the treatment of several illnesses and disorders, including inflammation.

7. Proteolytic enzymes – naturally reduce inflammation.  Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme found in the core of pineapples.

8. Electrolytes like potassium and sodium –  Sodium helps bring water and nutrients into your body’s cells. Potassium aids in flushing waste and other toxins out of your body’s cells. Low levels of potassium can cause joint pain and swelling.  The average American consumes 1/10th the amount of potassium necessary.  Cultured whey and coconut water are foods that have a good balance of electrolytes to speed the healing process.

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