Inflammation in the Body & Autoimmune Disease
Chronic inflammation is a popular term these days: our bodies’ natural defense response to cell damage gone haywire, leading to chronic disease if left unaddressed. Since, as with most things in life, this kind of inflammation is happening at the cellular level, chronic inflammation is often invisible and difficult to detect until very unpleasant symptoms and diseases develop.
The inflammatory response is tied to the immune system. Consequently, the diseases that arise from chronic inflammation are often autoimmune in nature. Debilitating illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, IBS, and lupus can develop, lessening our quality of life and even shortening our lifespans. Currently 1 in 5 Americans are suffering from an autoimmune disease, and that number is poised to rise. Chances are that you either know someone or are someone living with an autoimmune disorder.
Currently 1 in 5 Americans are suffering from an autoimmune disease, and that number is poised to rise.
According to the AARDA, “The exact mechanisms causing [autoimmunity] are not completely understood; but bacteria, viruses, toxins, and some drugs may play a role in triggering an autoimmune process.” [1.] Despite how that sounds, this is an encouraging thought. I should also add that many alternative health practitioners, including this one, don’t see any great mystery in the causes behind chronic inflammation and, in turn, autoimmune disease. If there are environmental triggers that contribute to chronic inflammation in the body, then they can be found and potentially eliminated.
Reducing Chronic Inflammation
Reducing chronic inflammation in the body is nearly always a multi-pronged approach. Changes to diet, lifestyle, herbal protocols, detoxification, and exercise are often necessary. What's more, every person is unique and needs to be looked at individually in a whole person, holistic way. What works for your friend or relative may not work for you or bring you to full healing. This is why I encourage you to either make an appointment with me, or find another herbalist, naturopathic doctor, or other natural practitioner to work with in finding the solutions that work for you.
As a precursor to reaching out to a knowledgeable person for assistance, here are five things that you can do start driving down inflammation in the body and possibly feel a little relief.
1. Eliminate Inflammatory Foods
Unsurprisingly, eating a lot of foods known to cause inflammation will aggravate any auto-immune condition, making it impossible to achieve healing. If you're ready to get serious about healing, then saying goodbye to inflammatory foods is a must. This also includes any foods that you are reactive to (trigger foods), which varies from person to person. Some of the biggest offenders are:
Many times, just improving the quality of the food that you eat can bring some relief.
2. Eat Antioxidant and Nutrient Dense Foods
Exchange all of those unhealthy foods for nutrient rich alternatives. As I indicated in [my recent interview with Oloxir, foods that are rich in minerals and antioxidants are your big inflammation fighters. They help to nourish damaged cells and drive down inflammation. Some great examples of inflammation fighting foods are:
3. Find Ways to Reduce Stress
Stress is huge. Study after study has shown that high levels of stress can facilitate illness, aggravate it, reduce healthy immune response, and interfere with our ability to sleep and heal. You must not ignore it. The good news is that there are many ways that you can de-stress, and help yourself to handle today's busy life in a more balanced way.
Exercise is one of the most successful ways to shed stress, and it has the added benefit of keeping your body fit (or working to get it fit). So far as what kind of exercise to do, start where you're at with your own fitness level. If you've been sedentary up to now, start small, even if it's just walking in place for a half hour. Over time, and as you continue to exercise regularly, you can challenge yourself with steadily more strenuous workouts. Some other great stress reducers are:
Find what you love doing, and make it a part of your everyday life.
4. Keep a Clean Mouth
This one might sound crazy, but reducing sugar intake and keeping a clean mouth may have a direct effect on certain inflammatory conditions. Beyond the obvious issues that tooth decay, infection, and abscesses can bring, studies are increasingly finding interesting links between autoimmune disorders and gum disease, in particular with rheumatoid arthritis. [2.] Researchers have also been able to establish that this link isn't causal in nature (i.e. those with aching hands take poor care of their teeth, thereby causing gum disease issues). That can certainly happen, but it doesn't fully explain the strong connection that we are seeing. More research is needed to understand this connection, but in the meantime, you can take advantage of this knowledge by caring for your teeth and getting regular dental checkups.
Step one in healing your body is not to defeat yourself.
5. Value Yourself
Listen to me now. You are worth it. You are worth any lifestyle change that it takes to bring healing into your life. You are a wonderfully made human being with all of the willpower that you need to make positive change in your life. Step one in healing your body is not to defeat yourself. Don't talk yourself out of reaching for better health. Don't tell yourself that it's impossible, that it's too late for you, or that you don't have the budget for it. Don't convince yourself that natural healing doesn't work. It does, and it's never too late for you to try.
[1.] AARDA - Autoimmune Information: Questions and Answers
[2.] Bingham, Clifton O., III, and Malini Moni. "Periodontal Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis." Medscape. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013. Web. 01 July 2016. <http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/809134>.
Editor's Note: The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat illness. Always do your research before using an herbal remedy to ensure that there are no allergy risks or cross indications with any prescription medications that you are taking. See your doctor before starting any new treatments or programs. Anything that you learn from Prairie Hawk Botanica, its blog, or Jennifer Capestany must be considered informational only. You own yourself.
Author: Jennifer Capestany
Jennifer is a clinical herbalist and health coach, specializing in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Her interest in plant medicine led Jennifer to spend years studying herbology, physiology, and nutrition. She works one-on-one with her clients via her herbalist and health coaching business, Prairie Hawk Botanica. Jennifer lives on a homestead in rural Texas with her husband, 2 children, and various animals. In her spare time she loves to be in her large herb and vegetable garden. Sharing herb knowledge and her love of natural healing with others is her calling.
I'm Jennifer Capestany, a clinical herbalist and freelance writer with a practice in North Texas. Helping people deal as naturally as possible with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic illness and other chronic conditions is my calling.