An anti-inflammatory diet can help relieve pain that is caused by inflammation, but the fever, redness, and swelling is a process that has helped keep mankind healthy for millions of years.
Inflammation is truly one of the miracles of life. This marvelous chain of events has allowed our bodies to heal and protect us for thousands of years.
Unfortunately, inflammation can also cause pain. In many situations this is beneficial as a protective mechanism that helps to prevent further injury. Such as when you strain a muscle or sprain a ligament, pain will cause you to protect the area and give it time to heal.
However, chronic inflammation will often cause pain without any significant benefit. For example the inflammation and pain of arthritis will not heal a painful joint. An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce inflammation and relieve much of the pain.
Painful conditions with a large inflammatory component include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Myofascial Pain, Osteoarthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, and Psorias, among many others. Chronic inflammation may also contribute to other problems such as Heart Disease, Cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.
Inflammation is the body's healthy normal healing response to injury or infection. Three major processes occur following an injury and cause acute inflammation. Arterioles dilate, capillary walls become more permeable, and the body's repair mechanisms moved into the area.
When tissue damage occurs the small arteries that supply blood to that area will enlarge. This increases blood flow to the site of the injury and causes the heat and red coloration that is a sign of inflammation.
Capillaries Become More Permeable
The walls of the smallest blood vessels become more porous. This allows plasma fluid, white blood cells, and platelets to move into the injured area. This increased fluid within the tissues causes the swelling that is associated with the inflammation.
Blood Proteins and Other Substances Move Into the Injured Area to Begin Healing
The bodies repair mechanisms include white blood cells to fight infections and remove foreign debris, platelets to help stop bleeding, and various inflammatory chemicals such as histamine, prostaglandins, and cytokines.
It is these inflammatory chemicals that sensitize nerves causing increased pain which may be helpful to prevent further injury. However, when chronic inflammation causes these substances to circulate through the body they can cause increased pain and other problems in different areas.
White blood cells such as the neutrophils and macrophages move into the injured area to clean up debris and blocked infection by digesting foreign microorganisms. Unfortunately, high levels of white blood cells are associated with many serious disease such as atherosclerosis, Grave's Hyperthyroidism, Hay Fever, Periodontitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Addison's Disease.
Platelets can be helpful to stop it excessive bleeding, but when too many platelets circulate through the body they can cause stroke, myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, or blood clots in healthy blood vessels.
Histamines contribute to vasodilation and capillary permeability. High levels of histamine release can contribute to immune system disorders and allergies.
Prostaglandins are a group of compounds that act like hormones helping to control the inflammatory response. They have been shown to make nerves more sensitive to pain. Many over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs relieve pain by blocking the formation of prostaglandins.
Cytokines are another group of hormone like molecules that help regulate white blood cells, antibodies, and other parts of the immune response. Cytokines are very small and circulate throughout the body. They have been linked to many serious diseases including pancreatitis, Alzheimer's disease, major depression, and certain cancers. Excessive secretion of cytokines is called a cytokine storm and can cause severe adverse effects including a systemic inflammatory response syndrome and multi organ failure.
An anti-inflammatory diet can help to limit or eliminate chronic inflammation. These include limiting your intake of pro inflammatory foods, taking over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, and using steroid medications
These Foods can Contribute to Chronic Inflammation and Increased Pain
Transfats that contain partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils may injure the lining of blood vessels and cause chronic inflammation as your body attempts to repair itself.
Strictly Limit Carbohydrates
Too much sugar and other carbs can lead to the formation of cytokines which will trigger a chain of events that causes chronic inflammation in different areas. Excessive carbohydrate intake also causes insulin spikes that will cause your body to store abdominal fat. Abdominal fat has also been shown to cause chronic inflammation.
An anti-inflammatory diet will avoid foods with a high glycemic index. Foods like white bread, pasta, and other whole grains are absorbed quickly and cause high levels of insulin and other inflammatory chemicals that circulate in the bloodstream.
Saturated fats can trigger an immune response leading to chronic inflammation. They also have arachidonic acid which is a necessary building block in the formation of inflammation.
Other Foods that You Need to Avoid
Many other specific foods have been shown to cause or contribute to chronic inflammation. These include MSG, gluten, fried foods, colas, and microwave popcorn.
These may not be considered part of an anti-inflammatory diet, but these medications can be very useful for stopping chronic inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are sold over the counter. Medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and diclofenac prevent inflammation by blocking the formation of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins play a major role in causing inflammation and pain.
Tylenol or acetaminophen can help to relieve pain but it does not have any anti-inflammatory effects.
Corticosteroids are a class of steroid hormones that are synthesized naturally by your adrenal gland. They are available in compounds that can be inhaled, swallowed, or injected. Steroid medications are available by prescription and have a strong anti-inflammatory effect. Overuse of these medications is associated with a number of severe side effects such as osteoporosis, hypertension, and hyperglycemia.
Several different herbs, spices and foods have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and they are easy to incorporate into an anti-inflammatory diet. Devil's claw, willow bark, ginger, and grape seed extract have all been used for centuries to relieve pain because of their anti-inflammatory effects.
Turmeric is the major spice used to make curry and it gives ball park mustard it's bright yellow color. It has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect that has been used in both Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries.
Omega-3 oils or fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammation and anxiety in otherwise healthy young people.
Green Tea, tart cherries, and the practice of Tai-Chi can reduce inflammation and relieve the joint pain of arthritis.
Cannabis or medical marijuana contains cannabinnoid compounds that research has shown to have a anti-inflammatory properties.
Ice which is often used by athletic trainers can relieve inflammation when applied directly to the painful area. Be careful though, wrap the ice in cloth or use other techniques to prevent direct contact with this can which can cause frostbite.
Inflammation is a powerful force that our bodies have evolved to protect us and help us heal from an injury or infection. Unfortunately in certain situations the inflammation can become chronic and the associated pain will persist. This can occur after an injury has healed or in chronic conditions where the injury is not likely to heal and only causes persistent pain.
Starting an anti-inflammatory diet and avoiding foods that give your body the building blocks of inflammation can help relieve pain and avoid many of the diseases associated with chronic inflammation.
An anti-inflammatory diet will give your body healthy foods and taking appropriate medications can prevent inflammation to relieve pain and avoid the diseases associated with chronic inflammation.
We can't all have perfect bodies and we can't all live pain free or avoid the conditions and diseases associated with getting older. But by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet and making small changes in what we do, and how we live, we can live an active life that is healthier and with less pain.
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