Fighting Inflammation

Sep 17, 2021

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Inflammation is a natural function of our bodies to response to trauma. There are two general types of inflammation: acute and chronic. In acute inflammation if we are injured or are exposed to an illness the body turns red and swells. This is a signal our body is trying to fight off a viral or bacterial infection; or protect a laceration or scrape.

Acute inflammation can often be treated by treating the infection or treating the injury with anti-inflammatory medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or topical diclofenac work to reduce the swelling, pain and redness associated with an injury. Cold therapy like ice packs will also reduce the symptoms.

Chronic inflammation is long lasting inflammation, usually when our body is subjected to unhealthy lifestyle or unhealthy environmental factors, on a consistent basis. In chronic inflammation several issues can arise including joint pain, arthritis, digestive issues. It can even precipitate other chronic illnesses, tumor growth and cancer. If you think you might suffer from a type of chronic inflammation there are some things you can do to improve your quality of life, aside from taking medications. You also must be cautious when using medications to treat chronic inflammation because long term persistent use of medications like naproxen and ibuprofen are not good for the stomach, heart, or vascular system.

The first thing you need to do is watch what you are putting into your body. Specifically, you need to either quit drinking; or only consume alcohol on a very infrequent basis. While a glass of wine can be good for you, regular and heavy alcohol consumption is directly related to digestive issues and inflammation in the stomach. Your organ function will drastically improve by quitting drinking because there will be less inflammatory buildup. Cigarettes contain a high number of chemicals and metabolites which are known to cause inflammation and inflammatory responses. Your lungs with thank you for not ingesting these chemicals. Vape products might seem better, but still contain many of the same chemicals.

Keeping hydrated by drinking enough water is also important. Dehydration is often associated with an inflammatory response and most professional athletes with affirm their recovery slows if they are not properly hydrated at game-time and post-game. They will also likely be pain and swelling. Males need up to three liters of fluid per day and females require approximately two liters. Limiting salt in your diet also applies here.

Chronic inflammation in the body also causes muscle to break down. However, exercising your muscles can reverse the breakdown process and even reverse the inflammation. Working out and exercise also reduces the body's stress hormones being released. Adding weight to exercise is the key. Too much cardiovascular exercise may increase inflammation. Even if you aren't into weightlifting, push-ups, lunges, and bodyweight squats will provide the resistance your muscles need to undo inflammation. Yoga is also a great exercise, not only for the resistance training, but also for the mind. If you see professional athletes trading yoga for the gym, there is obvious benefit.

Continuing with healthy living and positive mindfulness meditation may have some role in helping clear your mind and the inflammation. Various apps (Calm or Headspace) are available online to teach and guide you through meditation. Although this is a new concept, it may impact brain circuits and chemicals to produce less inflammatory response.

Diet can either contribute to inflammation or help combat it. More evidence is emerging colorants, bad oils such as margarine and preservatives added to food, all contribute to a negative inflammatory response. Try avoiding foods that have more than 5 ingredients, ingredients you cannot pronounce or processed foods in general. Champion quarterback Tom Brady invests a lot of time, effort, and money into his anti-inflammatory diet and while this might sound extreme, he does not seem to age while playing a very physically demanding sport.

Olive oil, oily fish, leafy greens, and ripe cherry tomatoes are all food which will help combat inflammation. Long chain fatty acids such as omega-3 is found in these foods. Natural sources are best. Additional foods to add to your grocery list include wild salmon, mackerel, kale, spinach, and nuts. Although its more expensive, selecting organic foods may also have some benefit.

If your diet needs a boost of Omega-3, you can also benefit from a good quality fish oil supplement. Tumeric with curcumin has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation, while glucosamine can be worth a try to help the joints, although it is not an anti-inflammatory. If you have questions about trying to reduce inflammation or pain with supplements feel free to speak to your clinic pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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