Inflammation is proof that too much of a good thing is a really bad thing. That's because inflammation comes from our immune system doing its job too well. It provides the body’s white-blood-cell defense against outside invaders, including bacteria and viruses. But some conditions and diseases — such as arthritis — can trigger the immune system’s inflammatory response where there is no need, and then the response itself becomes the problem.
“People think inflammation needs to be stomped out at all times, but it plays an essential role in healing and injury repair to keep your body safe and healthy,’ explains Dr. Robert H. Shmerling,, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Some inflammation is good. Too much is often bad. The goal is to recognize when inflammation is simply doing its job, and when it can potentially cause problems.”
Of course, inflammation can be more of a nuisance, such as a bit of discomfort after a hard workout, perhaps relieved by over-the-counter pain medication. Inflammation can be of short duration (acute) or long-lasting (chronic). Chronic inflammation is associated with a variety of painful and sometimes deadly conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. And lung inflammation is one of the things that can make Covid-19 so dangerous.
Traditional inflammatory treatments might include a variety of powerful medications, such as steroids, or surgery, usually for joint damage. Beyond the most severe cases, people are increasingly looking for healthier treatments that are easy on the body and promote a healthy immune system. These include diet exercise and different forms of medical cannabis.
Eat Right to Reduce Inflammation
According to the publishing arm of the Harvard Medical School, “One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store.”
Just as important as knowing which foods are anti-inflammatory is avoiding the ones that might actually cause inflammation, including:
- Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
- Fried foods such as french fries
- Pop and other sweetened beverages
- Red meat and processed meat
- Margarine, shortening and lard
In contrast, other foods can fight inflammation and the chronic conditions associated with them. An anti-inflammatory diet should include:
- Olive oil
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
A few different fruits and vegetables — including blueberries, apples, and leafy greens — have high concentrations of natural antioxidants and polyphenols, which are protective compounds. Nuts may also reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Exercise Your Inflammation Away
Pumping your body can also pump away inflammation. A study published in the Brain, Behavior and Immunity journal shows that as little as 20 minutes of exercise a day can serve to reduce inflammation.
The researchers had 47 participants walking on treadmills for 20 minutes. “Our study found one session of about 20 minutes of moderate treadmill exercise resulted in a 5% decrease in the number of stimulated immune cells producing TNF,” says lead researcher Suzi Hong, from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
TNF is a cytokine that can “induce cell differentiation and proliferation, but also cell death, including cancerous ones.” TNF also has “pro-inflammatory properties,” helping the body to direct its inflammatory cells to the site of the injury, creating an immunological response. In other words, it can cause inflammation
Diseases related to inflammation, such as heart disease and obesity, receive direct benefits from a healthy exercise regimen.
Cannabis for Inflammation
Medical cannabis is getting increasing recognition for its anti-inflammatory, immune-system-boosting properties, with compounds THC, CBD and terpenes all playing their own roles.
While CBD oil is hailed for its benefits in this area, it’s also getting the attention of the medical community in the Covid-19 pandemic. Research shows that it may help reduce the inflammation in the lungs associated with the coronavirus and cold even reduce susceptibility to the disease.
At the same time as it helps with inflammation, it has fewer and milder side effects than many traditional anti-inflammatory medications. Other potential health benefits of CBD oil include relieving pain, reducing anxiety and depression, treating some cancer symptoms, and helping with heart health.
Terpenes are also being looked at for the good they do. These are the fragrant oils found in cannabis (as well as other plants), giving them their earthy, spicy, floral, fruity, herbal and even skunky flavor and aroma profiles.
Certain terpenes are associated with different health benefits, including improving mood, reducing pain, helping with sleep and fighting inflammation.
For example, beta-caryophyllene, the terpene that imparts peppery, spicy, woody aroma to some strains of cannabis, has been shown to work with CB2 receptors found in the immune system to relieve pain. It can also act as an antioxidant for treating inflammation and inflammatory bowel disease.
The terpene geraniol — named after the flower geranium and having a similar smell — can also act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Adding Vitamins and Supplements to the Mix
Terpenes may work well with vitamins and supplements that fight inflammation. Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K}(https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-best-vitamin-for-fighting-inflammation-4176859) are all supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties. So do supplements such as echinacea, curcumin and fish oils.
People are now trying terpenes in conjunction with vitamins and supplements to see if they can enhance each other’s effects. One pairing interesting people is the beta-caryophyllene terpene with vitamin B complex, since they both show potential in fighting the inflammation and pain of arthritis. Bubba Kush, Sour Diesel and GSC are just a few of the cannabis strains with high beta-caryophyllene content.
While our immune system may overreact at times and inflict us with inflammation and pain, we can thank it for a job well done using some TLC and holistic treatments that bring its excesses under control.