Home Remedies for Inflammation

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Inflammation acts as the body's defense mechanism in a complex cascade of interactions in response to trauma, infection, toxic, or autoimmune injury. White blood cells, or leukocytes, rush to the affected tissue site to create an inflammatory response.

This process is necessary to begin recovery and lead to healing. Sometimes this inflammatory response lasts longer than is intended, leading to persistent tissue damage by leukocytes and chronic inflammation.

If you are struggling with inflammation, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to treat it naturally. Here is what you need to know about inflammation including the types and causes as well as some options for treating it at home.

Types of Inflammation

There are two different types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is your body's response to sudden damage, such as a cut to the finger or a sprained ankle.

Chronic inflammation is when your body continues producing inflammatory cells when there is no immediate or direct danger. Many diseases derive from chronic inflammation. In fact, chronic inflammatory diseases are the most significant cause of death worldwide.

In 2014, almost 60% of Americans had at least one disease associated with chronic inflammation and 12% of adults had five or more chronic conditions. Some of these chronic diseases include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, allergies, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Causes and Symptoms of Inflammation

There are several factors that contribute to chronic inflammation. The most common causes are autoimmune disorders, exposure to toxins in the environment, and untreated acute inflammation such as from an infection or injury. Many lifestyle factors also contribute to inflammation including diet, smoking, stress level, exercise, and excess alcohol intake.

If you are experiencing acute inflammation, you may notice pain or tenderness, swelling, and heat coming from the affected area. While acute inflammation is generally pretty obvious, chronic inflammation symptoms may be harder to spot.

Chronic inflammation symptoms include body pain, chronic fatigue or insomnia, depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal upset such as constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux, and weight changes.

How Inflammation Is Treated

There are many conventional drugs that can help combat inflammation. These drugs are usually taken under the supervision of a physician for a specific chronic disease.

For example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin, act to inhibit the enzyme that promotes inflammation and can alleviate joint pain in arthritis. Additionally, metformin is used to treat type 2 diabetes and research shows reductions of circulating inflammatory markers in patients who take metformin.

Debbie Goodman, MD

Every person should have their situation evaluated by their individual physician. Everyone's needs are different.

— Debbie Goodman, MD

While conventional medication is effective, there are several home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help decrease inflammation as a first-line therapy or in addition to prescription medication.

"Every person should have their situation evaluated by their individual physician," says Debbie Goodman, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. "Everyone's needs are different and I wouldn't necessarily recommend only those solutions for everyone, but they can work for some people in conjunction with medication."

Home Remedies for Inflammation

When it comes to treating inflammation at home, there are a number of things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms. But make sure you consult with a healthcare provider first. They can let you know what is right for your particular situation.

"As long as you are taking medications that are evidenced-based, I don't think there are any problems with supplemental strategies if they do not cause any interactions with the medications you are already taking," Dan Lapidus, MD says.

Here are five low-cost and potential long-term strategies to help reduce inflammation and prevent chronic disease you might want to consider.

Increase Intake of Antioxidants

Inflammation is often exacerbated by free radical production from biological and environmental sources. In healthy tissue, there is a balance between free radicals and antioxidants, which are the body's defense mechanism against these free radicals. However, in tissue that is damaged, these free radicals cause more inflammation and eventually lead to a number of chronic diseases.

By increasing your intake of foods high in antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, you can create a better balance between free radicals and antioxidants, resulting in an anti-inflammatory effect. Research also shows the addition of fruits, vegetables, tea, and wine may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. There also are many beneficial effects of a diet high in nuts, fish, poultry, olive oil, and little red meat.

Increase Intake of Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices

Many herbs and spices are known to have an anti-inflammatory effect. You likely already consume many of them through the food you eat such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, and rosemary.

A particularly powerful spice with anti-inflammatory properties is turmeric. Several studies show that turmeric blocks the activation of the molecule that promotes inflammation in the body. Turmeric can be added liberally to recipes or taken in a supplement form. Be sure to look for a supplement that contains black pepper for best absorption.

Increase Intake of Healthy Fats

Healthy fats, such as those in fish, olives, nuts, flaxseed, and avocados are anti-inflammatory and are a good alternative to saturated fats. Omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are associated with lowering the level of tumor necrosis factor (TNF), an inflammatory compound.

Numerous studies demonstrate a relationship between increased intake of healthy fats and a neuroprotective effect. Eating a diet rich in healthy fats decreases the risk for Alzheimer's disease and is shown to have a positive influence on cognition.

Engage in Regular Physical Activity

Not only is participating in regular, moderate physical activity great for your overall health, but it can also help to reduce inflammation in a number of ways. One study showed reductions in TNF after just 20 minutes of regular, moderate exercise.

The keyword is moderate physical activity because doing exercise, especially at high intensities, once in a while can lead to muscle and tissue injury. Additionally, doing only high-intensity exercise, such as running, can lead to chronic inflammation. It is best to do a combination of low, moderate, and high-intensity exercise for the most anti-inflammatory effects.

Adopt a Mindfulness Practice

Stress plays a significant role in the development of many chronic diseases as well as mental health conditions. There is increasing evidence demonstrating a link between stress and inflammation.

Research shows increased levels of inflammatory markers in those with depression. Practicing stress management techniques can greatly increase your body's ability to mitigate inflammation. You may wish to try breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or speaking to a therapist.

"It's important to practice mindfulness regularly as this can lead to a more fulfilling, happier, healthier, and less stressed life," says psychiatrist Alex Wittenberg, MD. "Mindfulness affords the opportunity to know ourselves better and be more compassionate with ourselves".

When to Call a Healthcare Professional

If you experience an injury, it is important to talk with a healthcare provider right away. You should also reach out to a medical professional if you experience any of the following:

  • Ongoing pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Other worrisome symptoms

A healthcare professional can determine the cause of your inflammation and help you find ways to feel better.

A Word From Verywell

While natural home remedies for inflammation are frequently effective, they may not always be the answer or the only measure that should be used. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any home remedy.

Likewise, if you have concerns about your chronic inflammation symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare provider. You also may want to reach out when your symptoms are not improving or worsening.

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