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How Can Chronic Inflammation Harm You?

Many individuals do not realize that inflammation plays a key role in arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and many other disease like allergies and asthma. Over the past few decades, scientists have realized that the process of inflammation is virtually the same in different diseases, and a better understanding of inflammation may lead to better treatments for numerous diseases.

Inflammation is a hot topic in medical research. Researchers have found a link between inflammation and cancer, people who were physically or sexually abused as children are twice as likely to have inflammatory proteins in their blood, and that men who took a single aspirin (an anti-inflammatory drug) every other day were 22 percent less likely to develop asthma than those who did not.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the activation of the immune system in response to infection, irritation, or injury. Characterized by an influx of white blood cells, redness, heat, swelling, pain, and dysfunction of the organs involved, inflammation has different names when it appears in different parts of the body.

As the initial response that fires up the immune system, inflammation is the crucial first step in fighting off infection and healing wounds. However, when inflammation persists - when the immune system is always activated - this is known as chronic inflammation and can lead to chronic disease.

How to Extinguish Chronic Inflammation

Anti-inflammatory Medications can help inflammatory conditions. Aspirin is one of the oldest anti-inflammatory medications, and many people take it to prevent heart attack and stroke. Ibuprofen, as mentioned earlier, may help protect against Alzheimer's disease. However, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents) such as aspirin and ibuprofen can have significant side effects like liver damage and gastrointestinal bleeding.

You can also lower inflammation levels through lifestyle changes. It all goes back to the fundamentals of taking care of yourself: good nutrition with the inclusion of healthy fats, exercise, healthy sleep, and a positive attitude.

Are There Herbs that Help Reduce Chronic Inflammation?

Yes, there are a number of excellent anti-inflammatory herbs. The most important are:


Turmeric accounts for the yellow color of curry and American mustard and has a distinctive sharp flavor. I recommend turmeric for all inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, tendonitis, and auto immune conditions. Take 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric extracts (available in tablets or capsules) three times per day or as directed on the product label. Whole turmeric is more effective than isolated curcumin, its major constituent. Look for products standardized for 95% curcuminoids. Be patient: the full benefit takes two months to develop. Don't use turmeric if you have gallstones or bile duct dysfunction. Pregnant women shouldn't use it without their doctors' approval. In rare cases, extended use can cause stomach upset or heartburn.

Bromelain is a proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzyme derived from the stem of the pineapple plant. Bromelain has been shown to support musculoskeletal health and healthy inflammatory balance by working on the kinin pathways and inhibiting arachidonic acid formation via phospholipase A. Bromelain is often used to support joint health, specifically for athletes, and age-related musculoskeletal challenges. Research has demonstrated bromelain’s ability to promote a comfortable post-operative recovery. Additional benefits of bromelain include supporting sinus health, as well as the health of the GI system.

A flavonoid found in a variety of botanicals, vegetables and fruits, quercetin is a potent antioxidant which inhibits inducible ICAM-1 expression, an important pathway for maintaining normal levels of inflammation. Quercetin has also been shown to support barrier function in the intestines, and to promote the balanced release of inflammatory mediators from mast cell. Quercetin has been shown to support inflammatory balance by directly inhibiting tyrosine kinase and nitric oxide synthase, and modulating the activity of NFkB, similar to turmeric. By acting as a potent antioxidant, quercetin can inhibit hyaluronidase, an enzyme which catalyzes the break down of connective tissue in the body.

Rutin is a flavonoid that has been shown to help support a normal inflammatory process. Rutin helps maintain levels of the major antioxidant in the body, glutathione. Rutin also works in synergy with other flavonoids, such as quercetin, to support connective tissue health.

Other beneficial herbs include ginger and boswellin.

Essential Regulators of Inflammatory Response

Proteolytic enzymes, such as bromelain, papain, pancreatin, trypsin, chymotrypsin, and rutin, are essential regulators and modulators of the inflammatory response. Among their important actions is a seven- to ten-fold increase in the “appetite” of macrophages and in the potency of natural killer (NK) cells. Proteolytic (protein-destroying) enzymes also degrade pathogenic complexes that can inhibit normal immune function. These immune complexes, which consist of an antigen bound to an antibody, are a normal part of the immune response. But when immune complexes occur in excess, they are a principal cause of certain kidney diseases, nerve inflammations, and a number of rheumatologic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. Evidence suggests that trypsin, papain, and other proteolytic enzymes can break up existing pathogenic immune complexes and even prevent their formation in the first place, enhancing lymphatic drainage. The bottom line of these actions is a regulatory or stimulatory effect on the immune system. Proteolytic enzymes modulate the inflammatory process by a variety of mechanisms, including reducing the swelling of mucous membranes, decreasing capillary permeability, and dissolving blood clot-forming fibrin deposits and microthrombi.

By reducing the viscosity (thickness) of the blood, enzymes improve circulation. This consequently increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients to and the transport of harmful waste products away from traumatized tissue. Proteolytic enzymes also help break down plasma proteins and cellular debris at the site of an injury into smaller fragments. This greatly facilitates their passage through the lymphatic system, resulting in more rapid resolution of swelling, with the consequent relief of pain and discomfort.