Inflammation:  Friend or Foe?

Inflammation: Friend or Foe?

Learning to manage inflammation effectively is vital to long term health and quality of life.

When last did cut yourself with a knife, a razor, or a piece of paper!? 

I can remember one of my late father’s favorite stories was about how he got a whitlow on one of his fingers during WWII and was out of action until it healed. He felt like a wimp, in the hospital tent camp surrounded by men with serious wounds. That said, the reality was that he could not operate his weapon with his finger out of action. Plus, back then, infection was no joke.

However minor these injuries are, they can be annoyingly painful. As I type this, I have a thumb wrapped in a Band-Aid, having nicked it yesterday. I never realized just how much you use your thumb! 

What do these stories have to do with inflammation? Well, the heat, the swelling, the pain – are all the body’s natural ways of healing. Alerting you to treat the affected area with care, protect yourself from infection, and treat what’s wrong. The body’s defenses have rushed in to immediately start the healing process. That’s what causes the swelling and sometimes, the heat.

Inflammation is a natural response of the body's immune system to protect us from harm. It's a complex process that involves the release of chemicals and white blood cells to fight off infections, injuries, and other threats. However, inflammation can also become chronic and lead to a host of health problems. In this article, we'll explore why inflammation is not a bad thing, but the mistreatment of it is.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a process that occurs when the body's immune system responds to an injury or infection. It's a natural defense mechanism that helps to protect the body from harm. When inflammation occurs, white blood cells and other chemicals are released into the affected area to fight off infection or injury.

Inflammation as Friend

Inflammation is not always a bad thing. In fact, it's an essential part of the body's immune response. It helps to:

  • Fight off infections: Inflammation helps to kill off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that can cause infections.
  • Heal injuries: Inflammation helps to repair damaged tissues and heal injuries.
  • Protect against cancer: Inflammation can help to prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Inflammation as Foe – When it Becomes Chronic

While acute inflammation is a normal response to injury or infection, chronic inflammation can be harmful. Chronic inflammation occurs when the immune system continues to release chemicals and white blood cells even when there is no threat present. 

This can lead to a host of health problems, including:

  • Heart disease: Chronic inflammation can damage the lining of blood vessels, leading to the buildup of plaque and an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Diabetes: Chronic inflammation can interfere with insulin production and lead to insulin resistance, which is a major risk factor for diabetes.
  • Autoimmune disorders: Chronic inflammation can cause the immune system to attack healthy tissues, leading to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Cancer: Chronic inflammation can increase the risk of cancer by promoting the growth and spread of cancer cells

How NOW to Manage Inflammation

The mistreatment of inflammation is what leads to chronic inflammation and the associated health problems. 

There are several factors that can contribute to the mistreatment of inflammation, including:

  • Poor diet: A diet that is high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can contribute to chronic inflammation. This can be challenging, as often our response to being in pain is to eat comfort food – which then aggravates the pain. Even though that piece of cake will satisfy your feel-good hormones for a minute, the residual effect of the sugar is probably not worth it.
  • Lack of exercise: Regular exercise can help to reduce inflammation by improving circulation and reducing stress. Again, just as eating the wrong things is counter-productive, so is not exercising. Years ago I learned the phrase, “motion is lotion,” from a physical therapist. It’s true! 
  • Chronic stress: Chronic stress can lead to inflammation by causing the release of stress hormones that trigger inflammation. If your life situation and/or environments are adding stress, learn to manage or reduce it, or even change the situation if you can. Your health will thank you.
  • Environmental toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins such as pollution and pesticides can contribute to chronic inflammation. You have less control over this but keep in mind that if you do all the right things to manage inflammation, you can minimize the impact of these toxins.

The Right Way to Manage Inflammation 

  • Avoid inflammatory foods: Research has confirmed the negative impact of sugar and unhealthy fats on inflammation and even insulin resistance in the body. (This is a powerful podcast on the topic) Next time you crave that chocolate bar, consider substituting a healthy protein instead.
  • Move more: Exercise is very helpful to supporting the body’s natural healing process. Depending on the type of inflammation and joint stiffness, degeneration, or any other physical symptoms – consider doing some gentle aerobic (increases breathing and heart rate) exercise. This could be just taking the dog for a walk, or swimming, playing golf, yoga, Pilates, etc. Movement is critical to keep the body’s natural healing process on track.
  • Reduce stress: Engage in activities that help your body process negativity and external stress triggers. This can include more rest, some meditation, prayer, regular breaks from technology, etc.
  • Engage: Find positive connections regularly, whether from family or close friends. We are created to live in community and loneliness or disconnection can contribute to the onset of chronic inflammation.
  • Supplementation: Helping the body with natural ingredients is essential. Research is continually in flux on the topic of supplements, yet many people have experienced the benefit of taking the right supplements alongside a healthy diet.

Haraka has been formulated to specifically treat the symptoms and discomfort caused by chronic inflammation in the joints. 

In some cases, medication may be necessary to treat inflammation.  Make sure you read the blog about NSAID’s as treatments for arthritis.

It's important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment. The danger of any medication is over-use (taking too much), mis-use (not taking it correctly), and addiction or long-term application. (taking it for longer than recommended.)

In summary - Inflammation is not a bad thing. It's a natural response of the body's immune system that helps to protect us from harm. However, chronic inflammation can lead to a host of health problems. The mistreatment of inflammation is what leads to chronic inflammation. 

By making lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, and reducing exposure to environmental toxins, we can reduce our risk of chronic inflammation and the associated health problems.

Back to blog