By Dr. Ron Jahner ND,LAc, C.Ad
Consultant at Gordin Medical Clinic, Wheeling IL
Diplomate & Faculty Instructor at American College of Addictionology & Compulsive Disorders (Dipl.ACACD)
Pain, heat, swelling, fever, redness, does this sound like a “good” thing to you?
Most of us feel alarmed and concerned if we see these symptoms in ourselves or our loved ones. And yet, these are all signs and symptoms of a healthy immune system response to infection or trauma!
Inflammation is the key process our body uses in combating infection, reversing tissue damage and preparing the way for healing an repair. Inflammation is an absolutely vital life function of a health immune system.
However, if inflammation is such a “good” thing, why do we hear so much information about how bad it is and that we have to get rid of it as quickly as possible?
Well, it’s also true that inflammation is a key predisposing factor in almost all chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and long-term infections, chronic digestive tract disorders and auto-immune disorders.
Out of control inflammation is a killer!
So, what’s the truth about inflammation?
The key is understanding how inflammation serves you and what happens when it becomes a problem.
Let’s use the example of an urban renewal project. You have a bunch of old, run-down, damaged buildings and your job is to create a beautiful new complex on the site.
What has to happen first?
Well, of course, someone is going to have to tear down the old buildings to make way for the new.
This is really the beginning of a 4 step process. First, blow up or demolish the old buildings. Secondly, clear up the debris by loading it up and hauling it away. Thirdly, assemble quality building materials and a skilled crew, and, finally, assemble the new construction.
In general, inflammation is the key mechanism in your body’s immune system corresponding to the first step in the “tissue-renewal” process. Inflammation is the essential process that targets infectious agents and damaged tissue for “demolition”. It does this in many ways with a complex biological cascade of molecular and cellular signals and substances that ultimately destroy damaged cells, kill viral and bacterial pathogens all while it also increases circulation!
(This sets up step 2 & 3 of our “tissue-renewal” project, transport debris out of the affected area and allow vital nutrients and healing factors back in). The end result of all these complex processes is that the affected area is ultimately prepared for tissue regeneration and healing.
However, what would happen in our urban renewal project if all we ever did was just keep blowing things up? What if we never hauled out the debris or just erected high screens around the area so no one could see the mess?
What if we just cover the whole area with dirt and some sod and pretend theirs no damage underneath?
What if we just build really cheap structures on top of this mess that fall apart as fast as we build them? Is this going to work out well?
Of course not! And, essentially, this is what happens when inflammation is not handled properly in the body and gets out of control.
Unfortunately, current medical thinking is that inflammation is the problem, not part of the natural immune response solution, so let’s just “turn it off” with steroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs! This is sort of like stopping the demolition crews in the middle of the job and then still expecting quality buildings to show up as if by magic! It’s just not going to work.
When inflammation is arbitrarily blocked before it’s job is done, the underlying issues remain and continue unchecked to produce a bigger problem later on. Look at heart disease as an example. Arterial tissue becomes damaged due to improper diet, emotional distress, lack of sleep, lack of proper exercise, etc. Inflammation targets this damaged tissue to clean it up and prepare for healing.
Just “turning off” the inflammation doesn’t change the underlying condition anymore than giving an athlete a steroid injection in a damaged knee so they can keep playing fixes the underlying injury. In fact it opens it up to further harm.
When the damage continues in the circulatory system, the body sends cholesterol to the damaged area as a sort of “band-aid” to cover over the lesion and prevent further damage. Again, just shutting down cholesterol doesn’t help the underlying condition and may make it much worse!!
So, what is the solution?
In our urban renewal program, what would you do if the demolition team was not up to the amount of work needed to demolish the old structures?
What if the roads in and out of the work site were congested or there weren’t enough dump trucks to haul the debris? This is the kind of thinking that a holistic approach to healing uses to deal with inflammation!
So, instead of shutting down inflammation, how do we help it do it’s job so it can stop naturally? Here are the strategies I have used in some 30 years of work as a naturopathic health consultant:
1. HYDRATE!! – Fluids, fluids, fluids. Drink at least 1 liter of water per 50 pounds of body weight daily to enhance the circulatory function inflammation requires to do its job.
2. REST! – Inflammation is a healing-immune function. It requires the parasympathetic (resting) nervous system state to do it’s job. Most people never get the amount of quality sleep and rest the body requires to be healthy, especially when it is damaged or ill.
3. NO SUGAR! – Eliminate refined carbohydrates that create havoc in the body’s digestive tract and metabolic function. Quality proteins and vegetables, especially vegetable juices, to provide easily absorbable nutrition to support immune functions.
4. ENZYMES! – This is the first line of defense to help inflammation do its job. After you hydrate, rest and eliminate sugars, taking supplemental enzymes can have a miraculous effect on clearing inflammation and supporting healing.
However, it requires a particular form of enzymes called “proteolytics”. These are concentrated protein digesting enzymes without the hydrochloric acid or bile salts or fiber in many digestive enzyme products. And you take them on an empty stomach, even hourly, and not just with food as you would digestive enzyme products. A good example of a high-quality proteolytic enzyme product fortified with herbal anti-inflammatories is the TriBasix Ultrazyme.
5. B-12. – Vitamin B-12 has enormous potential to help with inflammation and stress. It can be take frequently in a crisis to help speed up healing and tissue repair.
6. BOSWELLIA – TURMERIC – GINGER. – These three herbal products have been used for generations to help reduce inflammation naturally while supporting the body’s healing processes. Taken as tea or in capsules they are often prescribed in Ayuvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine.
7. BIOFLAVONOIDS. – Flavonoids are key nutritional pigments (red, yellow, orange, blue) found in natural foods, often with Vitamin C ascorbate complexes, which have been used extensively for enhancing immune response and reducing inflammation naturally. Flavonoids are very high in anti-oxidant activity and help neutralize free radical damage in tissues.
8. FLEXIPRIN – Flexiprin is a nutritional product which combines key nutritional factors, including a non-narcotic pain killing nutrient from hops and unique bioflavonoids from Nopalea cactus that I use for myself and others suffering from chronic inflammation.
9. EFA’s – Essential Fatty Acids, oils that are necessary for health healing and regulating inflammation. These include Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils such as high- quality fish oil, virgin olive oil, Evening Primrose oil, sesame oil, etc.
10. ATTITUDE! This may be the most important factor of all because it often enhances and makes everything above work effectively. Neutralizing the body’s stress overload with breathing techniques and emotional releasing processes can dramatically reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Yes, inflammation can be a curse, or it can be a wonderful blessing. Which it is for you is often in your control. Nurture the immune system’s inflammatory mechanisms well and it will protect and heal you. Ignore it at your peril.
Dr. Ron Jahner N.D., L.Ac, C.Ad
April 28, 2014