By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac.
Systemic chronic inflammation is becoming more prevalent due to poor diet choices and lifestyle habits. Continuous exposure to environmental pollutants, toxic household and beauty products also overwhelm our bodies and contribute to inflammation.
Inflammation is a necessary, innate immune response against harmful stimuli such as infections, tissue injuries, or toxins. Stress, whether physical or mental, can also activate this response. As inflammation continues to disrupt our homeostasis, this is when it becomes detrimental to our health. Chronic inflammation causes a transient decline in tissue function which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases. One major cause in the rise of inflammation and chronic disease is due to the mismatch between a modern environment and evolutionary processes. Our environment is changing much faster than our bodies can adapt. Stone Age bodies and the realities of the modern world are fueling a paradox of greater longevity and chronic disease.
Acute or short term inflammation helps clear out debris, causing the destruction and clearing of cells that are considered to be a threat. It initiates repair to block further inflammation and restores homeostasis in a damaged area. Failure of an initial immune response leads to a failure of the body to respond to destroy and remove harmful cells. This leads to the release of toxins or foreign substances inside the cells which create “danger signals.” The immune system is then stimulated causing oxidative stress and the release of toxic byproducts known as free radicals. Over time, this eventually leads to chronic inflammatory diseases including autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, and neurological disease. Chronic health conditions account for 70% of all deaths in the U.S.! Also, as we age, an imbalance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory pathways begins to occur so it is vital that this innate immune response be switched on when needed and switched off when not needed.
There are numerous lifestyle changes, herbs, and other modalities that can help reduce chronic inflammation, but consistency and compliance are key to getting positive results. Chronic inflammation does not occur overnight, instead it is an ongoing process that took months or even years to develop. Supporting the immune system, enhancing our natural barriers, improving microcirculation, managing pain, aiding specific organs and tissues, and supporting HPA-axis are all beneficial towards recovery.
HPA-axis is is an abbreviation for a subsystem in your body called the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and is known to be our central stress response system. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands constitute the HPA-axis and make up our neuroendocrine system. There is a bi-directional communication and feedback between the HPA-axis and our immune system. The HPA axis controls the adaptation response to stress and regulates many physical processes, including digestion, the immune system, sexuality, mood, and energy storage and expenditure.
Below you will find herbs, foods, and other modalities that are beneficial towards healing chronic inflammation. Nature provides us with numerous options, but start where you are. Begin by adding one or two options to your daily regime. If you overwhelm yourself in the beginning, you put yourself at risk for failure. Add what you can and try to be consistent.
Leafy green vegetables
St. John’s Wort
Enhancing Natural Barriers:
Wearing a scarf and hat during the cooler months
Avoid allergen prone foods
Grape seed extract
Castor oil packs
Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Pomegranate juice (fresh, no added sugar)
Fish oils (DHA and EPA)
Tissue and Organ Support:
Magnolia bark extract
Maca root extract
Holy basil leaf extract
Eleuthero root extract
Licorice root extract
Vitamins B1, B2, and B5
White willow bark
Virgin olive oil
When battling chronic inflammation, the health of your gut should be your number one concern. What we eat is 100% in our control and an easy place to start when trying to heal from inflammation. It is important to stick with organic produce as much as possible. Check out your local farmers markets to get better deals. Small farms may not be able to afford USDA organic certification, but always be open to asking about farming practices. Pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics in our foods contribute to further inflammation. Eating mostly warm, cooked meals, small portion sizes, eating about every four hours, and practicing mindful eating can help reduce the stress that is placed on our digestive systems.
Find your local Chinese or Ayurvedic herbalist who has the expertise in herbal medicine and looks at the entire body as a whole--mind, body, and spirit. Rochambo and Stone Creek are great local Milwaukee spots offering excellent tea selections. Tippecanoe Herbs and Apothecary offers crafted herbal items from organic and locally wildcrafted plants, custom formulas, consultations, & classes in Milwaukee!
Begin your healing journey today!