Home' Nova National : December 2009 Contents WE HAVE all suffered physical pain at some
time in our life, but were you aware that the
primary cause of your pain was inflammation?
Inflammation involves a diversity of complex
chemical reactions and interactions, the
central purpose of which is intended as a
protective and adaptive mechanism against
Signs of inflammation may vary in
intensity and tend to include the signs as
described in the first century AD by the
Roman physician Celsus. Celsus detailed pain,
redness, swelling and heat. A fifth symptom
of loss of function was added in the second
century AD by the Greek physician Galen and
the purpose in this case is to immobilise and
rest the damaged area encouraging healing to
Acute inflammatory responses (when
controlled and short term) are usually a
helpful response, removing infections and
dead or damaged cells. However, frequently
recurring acute inflammation, as in the cases
of asthma, allergic rhinitis or frequent
infections, can contribute to significant
chronic illness in the long term. Chronic
inflammation plays a significant role in the
generation of many diseases, including the
seemingly unrelated rheumatoid arthritis,
allergies, asthma, cardiovascular disease,
metabolic disease including non insulin
dependent diabetes mellitus and Alzheimer's
Due to the wide array of interacting
molecules and pathways involved in
inflammation and the significant variations in
proportions and ratios seen between these
molecules and pathways from condition
to condition, there will be variations in the
effectiveness of both medical and natural
anti-inflammatory approaches; some will
work better for some conditions than others.
Successful treatment depends upon the
level of understanding that the physician
has regarding the pathways involved in
inflammatory conditions, combined with
his skill or ability to recommend the most
appropriate course of action to suit the
Increased susceptibility to developing
an inflammatory response may arise in
response to a wide variety of common
biological processes. These include ageing,
toxin exposure, infection, auto-immunity,
allergy, stress, tissue trauma such as surgery
and increased permeability in the lining of
the digestive tract, known as leaky gut
syndrome. Each of these conditions has
its own unique biochemical patterns, so
that when we take into account variations
in individual health and genetics, it makes
comprehensive and effective treatment more
difficult than the simple concept of just taking
Naturopathy has at its foundations
a holistic philosophy of enhancing the
body's own healing abilities to achieve and
maintain homeostasis. Numerous successful
naturopathic approaches effectively modulate
the various inflammatory biochemical
Stress reduction plays a novel role in
reducing inflammation. In a recent study,
frequent high levels of interpersonal stress
were found to elevate circulating levels of
C-reactive protein in adolescents. Simple, yet
effective, naturopathic stress management
techniques involving nutritional and herbal
medicine may thus help in reducing pain and
A strongly held ideal within the field of
naturopathic medicine is that many acute and
chronic symptoms, syndromes and diseases
common today have compromised liver and
digestive function involved in their aetiology.
So naturopathic intervention often involves
introducing measures and remedies whose
purpose is to enhance bowel and liver health
and function. We can achieve significant
health benefits by reducing inflammation by
lessening the absorption of, and promoting the
clearance of, toxic and allergic inflammatory
Beyond addressing bowel and liver
health, naturopathy has embraced the use
of various dietary, nutritional supplemental
and herbal medicines, many of which offer
inflammation control in varying degrees.
The herb ginger is a simple example; studies
have found it to have a moderate effect
in relieving knee pain. Another culinary
herb, turmeric, with curcuminoid actives,
has a particularly important role to play in
addressing inflammation. This occurs via a
mix of potent antioxidant actions, and
reducing levels of fibrin and platelet clotting,
as well as inflammation, particularly by
inhibiting the gene-transcribing molecule
Nuclear Factor Kappa B. Certain combination
remedies of particular herbal medicines
have also shown their capacity for strongly
attenuating synergistic anti-inflammatory
effects. For instance, the combination of
the iso-alpha acid from hops, rosemary and
oleanolic acid from olive leaf has been found
to be beneficial in relieving arthritic pain and
Antioxidants are also useful in mopping
up the damaging cascades of free radicals
produced by inflammation. This includes
the well known antioxidant Vitamins A, C
and E, along with the minerals zinc and
selenium. While offsetting the tissue damage
from inflammation, research has shown that
certain supplemented micronutrients can
also help reduce inflammation, with a review
of recent studies showing that zinc reduced
the level of age-related inflammation.
Other antioxidants, such as the
phytonutrient flavonoids from green tea,
grape seed, berries, and resveratrol from
polygonum cuspidatum, have shown both
antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,
inhibiting various stages in inflammatory
cascades. This occurs primarily through
the suppression of Nuclear Factor Kappa B,
which, when activated, triggers gene
expression for an inflammatory response.
And there's more potential for decreasing
inflammation through our diets by reducing
our intake of saturated fats, which contain
arachidonic acid, a precursor for the
pro-inflammatory eicosanoid molecules
including prostaglandins, leukotrienes and
thromboxanes. Conversely, ingesting another
type of fat, Omega 3 from fish oil, has been
shown to be an effective method of reducing
inflammation. There's evidence that pain
and inflammation may be reduced enough
to be considered an effective and safer
alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
This discussion of naturopathic pain and
inflammation interventions is not complete.
This list is indeed long and impressive, which
is terrific news, because managing
inflammation plays a strong role in effective
preventative health care. I find it very
comforting that the more we learn about
this topic, the more natural remedies and
approaches are being validated.
Good health, Jeremy.
Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy)
is a Qualified Naturopath
Managing Inflammation Naturally
© NOVA DECEMBER 2009
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