Inflammation reflects the body’s biochemical/cellular response, which includes cells (WBCs, lymphocytes), chemicals (cytokines, irritants), and infectious agents (pathogens) in a complex symphony of protection, support, and eradication.
It occurs as part of the body’s natural response to an injury or infection. This biological response is a sign that the body is trying to heal itself from an injury, infection, or physical trauma.
Inflammation is manifested in the form of localized swelling, redness, pain, and a raised temperature of the affected region. The inflammatory response is vital for eliminating harmful substances and healing infections, wounds, and tissue damage.
Causes of Inflammation
Inflammation is a symptom of an underlying ailment, injury, or infection. Here are a few common causes that may lead to inflammation in the body.
Causes Behind Acute Inflammation
- Physical trauma
- Sprain, muscular strains, joint dislocations
- Cut, scratch, or burns
- Sore throat – infectious or noninfectious
- Acute appendicitis
- Infective meningitis
- Intensive exercise
- Acute bronchitis
- Infected ingrown toenail
Causes Behind Chronic Inflammation
- Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis
- Chronic peptic ulcer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Active hepatitis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus
Signs and Symptoms of Inflammation
Inflammation often presents a range of symptoms. The severity of these may vary from one case to another. Typical symptoms associated with this condition are:
- Swollen or tender joint
- Joint pain
- Loss of function
Additionally, inflammation may cause flu-like symptoms such as:
The doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask about the patients’ medical history. Visible symptoms of inflammation will be evaluated. Also, your doctor may prescribe:
- X-ray examination
- Blood tests to measure the inflammation marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in the body. Normal CRP level is less than 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L). A CRP level greater than 10 mg/L is a sign of acute infection or chronic disease, which likely will require a closer watch.
Inflammation can be treated by readily available over-the-counter prescription medications that include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin).
In case of inflammation due to an underlying medical condition such as asthma or arthritis, corticosteroids, such as cortisone and prednisone, may be prescribed.
Although medications can suppress inflammation, they are laden with side effects.
Natural Treatment Options for Inflammation
It is always advised to consult a doctor to evaluate your case better. Aside from medications, you can try home remedies upon your doctor’s approval to heal your inflammation. There are many natural home remedies that can help relieve pain and inflammation without leading to side effects.
1. Apply Hot and Cold Compress
Heat and cold treatment can help in reducing inflammation and pain. Applying heat compress to the affected area helps improve flexibility and reduces muscle tension, whereas cold therapy aids in numbing the pain and reducing inflammation.
Heat and cold therapies can be applied simultaneously as well as separately.
- Take two bowls. Fill up one with warm water and the other with cold water.
- Soak a cloth in warm water. Wring out the excess water.
- Now put the warm cloth on the inflamed area for 5 minutes.
- Take another cloth and soak it in the cold water. Wring out the excess water.
- Put the cold compress on the affected area for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Repeat the process a few times.
- Follow this remedy two or three times a day.
2. Drink Turmeric Milk
Turmeric is a traditional treatment to heal inflammation. The anti-inflammatory compound curcumin in turmeric can help reduce inflammation and pain.
In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers concluded that curcumin has an inhibitory effect on many molecules that cause inflammation after reviewing several studies on curcumin.
In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2009), researchers highlighted the effectiveness of turmeric as being similar to that of ibuprofen for reducing pain in arthritis patients.
A 2012 study published in Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease highlighted the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties of curcumin.
- To fight inflammation, boil 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in 1 glass of milk. Drink this turmeric milk twice daily.
- Alternatively, you can take curcumin supplements after consulting with your doctor.
3. Drink Ginger Tea
This pungent flavored herb is another useful way to treat inflammation. Ginger comes with anti-inflammatory properties, owing to the presence of a compound known as gingerol.
According to a study that can be found in the Journal of Medicinal Food, this spice affects specific inflammatory processes at the cellular level. It also helps block COX-2, a pain-causing chemical found in the body.
A study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that gingerol, shogaol, and other structurally related substances in ginger inhibit the biosynthesis of prostaglandins and leukotrienes through the suppression of 5-lipoxygenase or prostaglandin synthetase.
- Have 2 to 3 cups of ginger tea every day. To prepare ginger tea, grate a small piece of ginger root and boil it in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture in a cup and add a little honey. Consume this tea twice a day.
- Massage the affected area with ginger oil two or three times a day to help reduce pain, inflammation, and stiffness.
4. Use Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is a tried and tested home remedy for inflammation.
It contains natural compounds called capsaicinoids, which give cayenne pepper its anti-inflammatory properties. One of its capsaicinoids, capsaicin, helps by preventing the activation of the brain’s pain transmitters, thus reducing the feeling of pain.
In a study published in the British Journal of Anesthesia, researchers found that the topical application of capsaicin cream is useful in pain management.
The analgesic effects of capsaicin and its clinical applicability in treating pain were also highlighted in a study published in Molecules in 2016.
- Take capsaicin supplements daily after consulting your doctor to get rid of inflammation.
- Massage the affected area with a cream or lotion containing purified capsaicin between the percentages of 0.025% and 0.075%.
5. Eat Garlic Cloves
The anti-inflammatory property of garlic is effective in reducing inflammation in the body. Garlic is teeming with sulfur-containing compounds that help block the pathways that lead to inflammation.
A study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy found that thiacremonone, a novel sulfur compound isolated from garlic via inhibition of NF-κB, exerted anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic properties and thus could be a useful agent for the treatment of inflammatory and arthritic diseases.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food highlighted the abundance of anti-inflammatory compounds in garlic that have therapeutic potential.
- Eat 2 or 3 raw garlic cloves every day on an empty stomach to prevent and reduce inflammation. Also, use garlic in your cooking as often as possible.
- You may take garlic supplements after consulting your doctor.
6. Switch to Olive Oil
Olive oil contains scads of polyphenols that offer protection against inflammation. Olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthal, which shows effects similar to those of NSAIDs.
A study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design highlighted the inhibitory action of oleocanthal on the production of inflammatory enzymes COX-1 and COX-2.
In a 2018 study published in Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders – Drug Targets, researchers concluded that extra-virgin olive oil and its polyphenols can relieve symptoms associated with chronic immune-mediated inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and psoriasis by acting both at local and systemic levels and by modulating several molecular pathways.
However, more studies are required to achieve specific nutritional guidelines.
- Use extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and as a salad dressing.
- Use warm olive oil to massage the inflamed area to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
7. Drink a Cinnamon Concoction
Cinnamon is a spice rich in anti-inflammatory properties that can ease swelling. It also helps reduce the levels of cytokines (small secreted proteins) linked to pain.
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine stated that cinnamon has excellent anti-inflammatory property and thus can potentially be used as a source of natural health products.
A 2015 study published in Food & Function reported the use of cinnamon and its components in the treatment of age-related inflammatory conditions.
A study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2017 stated that cinnamon bark essential oil is a promising anti-inflammatory agent. However, further research is required to clarify its clinical efficacy.
- Add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder and 1 tablespoon of raw honey to 1 cup of warm water and mix. Drink the mixture on an empty stomach every morning.
- Sprinkle some cinnamon powder over your coffee, tea, or breakfast cereal.
8. Soak in Apple Cider Vinegar Bath
Apple cider vinegar is useful in relieving inflammation. It helps to remove the buildup of toxins in the joints and connective tissues, which is crucial to ease any kind of pain and inflammation.
It also helps build immunity and control infections that are major underlying causes behind the inflammatory response of the body.
A 2017 study published in Science Reports highlighted the anti-inflammatory effects of synthetic acetic acid vinegar.
- Mix equal amounts of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and lukewarm water in a tub. Soak the inflamed part of your body in this solution for 30 minutes. When done, dry the affected area thoroughly. Use this remedy twice daily for best results.
- Add 1 teaspoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar to 1 glass of warm water. You may also add a little honey. Drink this mixture two times a day.
9. Consume Tart Cherries
Regular consumption of tart cherry juice is another effective way to control inflammation.
Tart cherries contain plenty of flavonoids and anthocyanins that are anti-inflammatory and contribute to reversing oxidative damage by scavenging free radicals (associated with increased levels of pain and inflammation in the body).
It also helps in reducing inflammation by bringing a decline in the amount of C-reactive proteins produced in the body.
In a study, researchers from Oregon Health and Science University supported the regular drinking of tart cherry juice. People who drank tart cherry juice showed a reduction in inflammation levels in their bodies.
A study published in Medicine and Sports Science stated that tart cherries have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on prevention, treatment, and recovery of soft tissue injury and pain.
According to a 2016 study published in Antioxidants (Basel), tart cherries, like other dark-colored fruits, may be effective in reducing inflammatory and oxidative stress-mediated signals.
- Drink 1 to 2 cups of tart cherry juice once a day.
10. Eat Pineapple
Including pineapple in your diet can also help fight inflammation.
Pineapples contain bromelain, a powerful enzyme that works as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. It fights inflammation associated with tendonitis, sprains, strains, and minor muscle injuries.
A study published in Biotechnology Research International highlighted the anti-inflammatory activities of bromelain.
A 2016 study published in Biomedical Reports supported the anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, fibrinolytic, anticancer, and immunomodulatory activities of bromelain. It also stated it to be a wound-healing and circulatory-improving agent.
- Include pineapple in your diet as a salad or juice.
- You may also take bromelain supplements after consulting your doctor.
Inflammation and Pain
Inflammation and pain are closely associated with each other. This is because the inflamed region becomes swollen and pushes the nerve endings. These nerve endings transmit pain signals to the brain.
Additionally, the cellular substances released during the inflammatory process – tumor necrosis factor (TNF), substance P, and leukotrienes – modulate the perception and intensity of pain.
People may experience a constant, fleeting, pulsating, throbbing, or pinching pain in the inflamed region.
Types of Inflammation
Inflammation can be acute (less the 6 weeks in duration), subacute (6 weeks to 3 months in duration), and chronic (lasting >3-6 months).
Acute inflammation: This type of inflammation starts rapidly and lasts for a short duration, less than 6 weeks. Acute inflammation subsides once the cause behind it is cured.
Chronic or subacute inflammation: This persistent condition is a result of an underlying chronic disease and may last for several months or even years.
While inflammation is a biological defense response, the symptoms can take a toll on your health and impair your quality of life.
Prevention of Inflammation
To prevent inflammation in the body:
- Make sure your diet includes all the essential nutrients required for a robust immune system to keep away infections.
- Avoid processed foods such as fried foods, packaged meats, cookies, chips, and other snacks to keep inflammation at bay.
- Regulate your blood sugar levels.
- Exercise regularly to prevent inflammation.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Excess body weight relates to an increased incidence of inflammation.
- Manage stress through yoga, meditation, and guided imagery to avoid inflammation.
When to See a Doctor
Minor cases of inflammation can often be treated without the intervention of a doctor. However, in the case of persistent subacute/chronic inflammation, it is best to seek professional help. You must also consult your doctor if the inflammation occurs suddenly and without any visible cause.
- Limit your alcohol intake to fight inflammation.
- Add more nuts and seeds to your diet.
- Switch to green tea.
- Eat fatty fish such as mackerel, tuna, sardines, salmon, and herring, as they are rich in omega fatty acids. You may also opt for fish oil supplements after consulting your doctor.
- Include more green vegetables such as spinach and kale in your diet.
- Fruits such as cherries, pineapple, strawberries, apples, blueberries, and raspberries can also help reduce inflammation.
The Bottom Line
Inflammation occurs as the body’s response to counter an offending event. So, it is a symptom of an underlying condition that calls for a medical review. It is advised to visit the doctor before following any line of treatment to get an early evaluation of your health.
An inflamed region is marked by redness, swelling, pain, and localized rise in temperature. To tend to your inflammation, you can take doctor-approved medications to relieve the inflammation. Besides over-the-counter treatment, you can also try some home remedies to speed up recovery or to limit /eliminate the side effects of medications.
Incorporate in your diet some anti-inflammatory foods and follow an exercise regimen to steer clear of inflammation.
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