ABC’s of Inflammation

By Jennifer Redding, Acupuncturist

What do Alzheimer’s, Asthma, Celiac, Crohn’s Disease, Eczema, Rheumatoid Arthritis, B owel disturbances, and Chronic Fatigue have in common?  They’re all diseases, true, but the best answer is that they are all caused by or associated with inflammation. Inflammation is controlled by hormones called prostaglandins, some of them promote inflammation, and others help to reduce inflammation.  These hormones are active everyday; your lifestyle, your diet, your environment, and your emotions, are all contributing factors.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), inflammation is commonly associated with heat and dampness.  This heat is obvious when there’s an infection or when you can feel the heat radiating from your arthritic joints. There are other cases when this heat may not be so obvious, or almost even invisible.  Symptoms can range from a chronic thirst for cold drinks, excessive sweating, irritability and constipation.  With damp inflammation your body feels heavy, maybe your legs feel like a million pounds, your bowel movements are ‘sticky’ and general swelling (at a specific joint or in many different areas of the body) which can feel cold. This heat and dampness can come from many factors, such as, diet- too many deep fried/greasy, spicy, heavy/rich, sweet or tropical foods.  It also comes from stagnation, in TCM this simply means that when things don’t move well, they can build up and cause internal heat or dampness.  A simple example is; have you ever seen someone get hot with anger?  That’s considered an emotional stagnation.  Acupuncture-  Acupuncture can help relieve the stagnations that we’ve built up over our life time.  It helps to open the channels and allow the blood/Qi/stagnation to flow.  Acupuncture is a comprehensive system of medicine that can be used to treat both systemic (body-wide) inflammation including allergic reactions like asthma, edema, sinusitis, and colitis, to more local joint based inflammation such as tendonitis.

In TCM, we examine how the flow of Qi, blood, and water can become blocked. Normally, these substances flow along the meridians, blood vessels and through the internal organs. Their role is to nourish the limbs, joints and internal organs to ensure proper functions. When their flow is interrupted, health problems occur.  Areas are then considered ‘stagnant’ Be Good!!  So what do we do?  The ultimate question!  Our biggest contributing factor to inflammation in the body is our food.  Excessive amounts of fats are strongly linked to inflammation; fats include partially hydrogenated oils, and polyunsaturated oils (corn, peanut, safflower).  There are also, trans-fats, such as margarine or shortening, and saturated fats, as found in animal products (except fish) promote inflammation. There are lot of Anti-inflammatory foods out there we just need to eat them a bit more regularly.  Foods such as, fish (or fish oils), olive oil, nuts, flax seeds (or oil) and small amounts of soy food and all fruits and vegetables!  They are best known for their high antioxidant content, which also leads to a decrease in inflammation.   Be sure to limit the infamous nightshades that increase inflammation – such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes. (Limit to 2 times a week.).  Lastly, adding ginger or turmeric to your meals daily can substantially help.   Consistency!  Maintain an appropriate weight.  Fat tissue is an accumulation of dampness, which   over time will turn to heat. Get regular exercise. Smoker?  Quit now!  Today! No more processed foods on your shopping list.  If an item has a long list of ingredients and you can’t pronounce it, put it back!  Stick to the outside aisles of the supermarket, easiest safest way to shop. Reduce stress.  Go to Yoga classes, meditation, breathing, exercise of any kind as long as you enjoy it, just do it. Get medical care for any infection that isn’t healing.  There’s a direct link between chronic infections and systemic inflammation. Food sensitises can be a major factor to your inflammation symptoms.  Clear out foods such as grains that contain gluten, dairy foods, and the nightshade plants, like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.  If you suffer from digestive problems, you may want to experiment with eliminating those foods.  They may be doing more harm than good. Love your body and know that the better you are to it the better it will be to you.