Inflammation is the body’s attempt to heal itself after an injury; defend itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria; and repair damaged tissue. Though inflammation is a vital part of the body’s immune response, it can become a big problem when your body is chronically inflamed. It is often characterised by redness, swelling, warmth, and sometimes pain and immobility.
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic (sometimes called systemic) inflammation.
Acute inflammation arises after a cut or scrape in the skin, an infected ingrown nail, a sprained ankle, a sore throat, tonsillitis or appendicitis. It is short-term and the effects subside after a few days.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is long-term and occurs in “wear and tear” conditions, including osteoarthritis, and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease, IBS. Many modern stressors, such as pollution, food sensitivities, lack of exercise, poor dietary intake and excess weight can all lead to chronic inflammation.
Often, acute Inflammation is perceived as “good” because it is the body’s immediate response to an injury and chronic inflammation “the bad one.” But whether acute or chronic, inflammation makes us aware of issues that we might ordinarily not notice.
Researches carried out to understand the implications of chronic inflammation on the body’s health show that it affects the body in myriad ways. And it has been linked to an increased risk of diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, anger disorders and aggressive behaviour.
Interestingly, the foods you eat can have a major effect on inflammation in your body, either negative or positive.
Here are some foods that can cause inflammation:
Sugar and high-fructose diet: While the small amounts of fructose in fruits and vegetables are fine, getting large amounts from added sugars is a bad move. Added sugar in the diet can be harmful as it increases inflammation that can lead to disease.
In one study, when mice were fed high-sucrose diets, they developed breast cancer that spread to their lungs, in part due to the inflammatory response to sugar. Do you know that a high sugar diet can impair anti-inflammatory actions of some foods? This was shown in a study where the anti-inflammatory action of omega-3 fatty acids was impaired in mice that were fed a high-sugar diet.
Also, in a clinical trial where people were assigned to drink regular soda, diet soda, milk or water, only those in the regular soda group had increased levels of uric acid, which drives inflammation and insulin resistance. “Beware of that high sugar diet”!
Refined carbohydrates: Eating refined carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels that in turn promote inflammatory changes. This is because refined carbohydrates have had most of their fibers removed. And fiber is known to promote fullness, improve blood sugar control and feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Also, refined carbohydrates have a higher glycemic index (GI) than unprocessed carbohydrates. High-GI foods raise blood sugar more rapidly than low-GI foods do. Researchers report that the refined carbohydrates in our modern diet may encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria that can increase risk of obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. Our ancestors faired better with high-fiber, unprocessed carbohydrates in the form of grasses, roots and fruits, which are definitely healthier.
Excessive alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption can increase inflammation and potentially lead to a “leaky gut” (intestinal hyperperme ability). This is a condition that occurs when the tight junctions in the gut, which control what passes through the lining of the small intestine, don’t work properly. This could allow substances (like toxins, microbes, undigested food particles and more) enter into the blood stream. When this happens, it causes inflammation throughout your body leading to a variety of diseases. Hippocrates once said: “All disease begins in the Gut” and he was right. Beware of excessive alcohol and in fact, many other inflammatory foods not covered in this article.
The following herbs will help address your inflammation issues:
Equisetum – Common horsetail, bottle brush, misin-misingoro (Yoruba): this wonderful herb supplies silicon, which aids in absorption of calcium and repair of connective tissues. Taking a teacup of the infusion or decoction 1-2 X daily is particularly beneficial for bacterial arthritis, which causes painful inflammation of the joints and infection elsewhere in the body, such as in the gallbladder, kidneys and lungs.
To prepare horsetail infusion: ¼ liter of freshly boiled water is to be poured over 1-2 tsp of dried horsetail and steeped for 15 minutes. Sieve before consuming.
To make the decoction, bring to a boil a handful of the fresh horsetail and then simmer for a minimum of five minutes. Allow to cool, before consumption.
Rosemary: Among the kitchen spices, rosemary has one of the strongest protective effects against inflammation and oxidation. This spice will not only take your dishes from good to great but will also keep inflammation at bay!
Rosemary can also be used as tincture, wine or essential oil.
To prepare rosemary tincture, pour 100 ml of alcohol (ethanol) over about 20g of the leaves and let it stand for about 14 days. Strain afterwards. You can either consume 10 drops dissolved in a glass of water or apply externally for inflammation, poor circulation or arthritis.
To make rosemary wine-soak 2 or more tablespoons of rosemary leaves (depending on how strong you want the end result) in 1L of any white wine of your choice. Leave it to stand for seven days strain afterwards. Consume a ‘shot’ of it on an empty stomach to alleviate pains with inflamed joints, gout, rheumatism, muscle, sciatica and calm the heart.
Rosemary essential oil can also be used. Be sure to dilute it with some carrier oil like almond, sunflower or olive oil before applying unto the affected areas. Adding rosemary leaves into your bath/bath water is one more good way to relieve inflammation.
Turmeric: Curcumin, the anti inflammatory agent in turmeric has long been used to reduce inflammation. A lot of studies have shown that turmeric’s key to disease reversal may be its ability to keep inflammation at bay. Fresh or powdered turmeric can be used in meals, juices, soups and other dishes. Supplements of curcumin are also available.