This is the second post in a series on inflammation. Start with the first post which is things to know about inflammation. Here we address what to do about it.
First find the sources and resolve them
You can take natural supplements or medications to reduce or block inflammation. However helpful, this is always a bandaid approach if you’re not finding the root causes. For example:
- Taking thyroid hormones for Hashimoto’s is helpful but does not stop the autoimmune process.
- Antihistamines will reduce histamine reactions like allergies or hives, but they won’t redirect your immune system out of overproducing histamine.
- Humira for an autoimmune disease blocks tissue destruction, but it doesn’t stop the autoimmune process.
- Ibuprofen or curcumin may help arthritic joints feel better temporarily but doesn’t stop arthritis.
- Fish oil or ginger may help period pain but won’t fix the underlying hormone imbalance.
Unraveling the source
It’s important to identify the reasons why your inflammation exists in the first place, and then take steps to fix it. In functional medicine, we have a “laundry list” of inflammatory triggers we investigate. We want to find out which ones are key players for you. If you lower your triggers then it will be much easier to get your inflammation down.
With chronic inflammation, it is always best to go through this checklist. It may feel overwhelming, but if these things are inflaming you, wouldn’t you rather resolve them than use a band-aid approach?
- Stress, stress, and more stress! Stress chemistry is highly inflammatory to your body and brain.
- Hormone imbalances create inflammation.
- Autoimmune processes that are uncontrolled create a very damaging type of inflammation.
- Food intolerances and dysbiosis rile up gut inflammation. Your gut lining is permeable, so gut inflammation affects your whole body and brain.
- Blood sugar dysregulation, belly fat, and insulin resistance all create inflammation.
- Low oxygen, more common than you may realize, happens if you have anemia, apnea, or these other causes.
- Injuries should cause short-term inflammation but sometimes this backfires and becomes chronic.
- Crappy foods are actually inflammatory! This includes sugar and any type of fried food.
- Infections, big and small, create inflammation. This includes temporary colds, flus, and sinus infections. It also includes chronic infections like Epstein Barr, herpes, hepatitis C, and Lyme.
- Chronic histamine reactions (allergies, hives, rashes) or mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) create lots of inflammation.
Resolving your triggers is often enough to turn inflammation around. If not, and more immune direction is needed, the natural things often work quite well.
The safe and natural things
There is a myriad of herbs and supplements that put out various types of inflammation. You can use these at the same time as digging out the root causes. One example that you may know about is curcumin from turmeric. However, it’s not appropriate to load up on turmeric for all types of inflammation.
It turns out there are different types of inflammation, and once we identify which type you have, we can use the right things to calm it down. We don’t want to stop or suppress your immune system. We want to direct it to resolve chronic, stuck inflammation. Let’s get more of an understanding of the most common types of stuck inflammation and what to do about them….
- Omegas: From period pain to injuries that don’t heal, these fatty acids are hands-down the best general anti-inflammatory. They work on your prostaglandin system (like NSAIDs). It’s the Omega 3 fats that do this best, although the Omega 6 GLA (from primrose, black currant, or borage) also works.
Omega 3s only work if you make enough glutathione (your body’s master antioxidant). If not, these fats may break down into inflammatory compounds instead of resolvins. You can bypass this issue by using SPM resolvins instead of Omega 3s, or you can take liposomal glutathione with your Omega 3s. The latter is a good choice as glutathione is another good general anti-inflammatory agent.
Add these to the general support above:
- Curcumin and resveratrol are excellent autoimmune squelchers as they down-regulate the type of inflammation that is highly destructive in autoimmune processes (NF-κB pathway). However, curcumin is poorly absorbed, so brands make a huge difference in efficacy.
- Vitamins A and D help get autoimmunity into remission. These are easy to measure on bloodwork. Aim to get levels in the upper quartile of the lab range.
Stuck in Th2
I describe Th2 dominance in depth here. In a nutshell, this is when you have chronic inflammation, or infection, in your “hollow space” organs: nose, sinus cavities, lungs, gut, vagina or bladder. Think Candida, sinus infections, asthma, allergies, UTIs, vaginal infections. There are many other Th2 drivers which you can learn about here.
- The ingredients in Th2 Modulator (Chinese herbs Astragalus and Perilla, plus quercetin and NAC).
- The Chinese herb Sophora flavescens, or it’s active ingredient Oxymatrine.
For microscopic infections anywhere in your body (yeast, bacteria, viruses, amoebae, spirochetes, mycoplasma), use Vitamins A and D and glutathione, with:
- The ingredients in Th1 Support support your own ability to defend against these pathogens. This includes the Chinese herb Scutellaria baicalensis, plus sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts, zinc, ginger, and berberine.
- The ingredients in Innate Immune Support help make natural killer cells for viruses. This includes Chinese herbs Astragalus and Andrographis, plus Ganoderma (Reishi mushroom).
- Herbs to go after specific microbes, on a case by case basis.
Histamine and congestion
- Quercetin and bromelain plus vitamin C for histamine.
- Bi Yan Pian for noninfectious nasal congestion.
I hope this series helps you to move out of inflammation. If you want some help, please reach out!