- Dr. Jason Rountree
Controlling Inflammation Naturally
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Let's take a few minutes today to talk about inflammation; controlling it, what it is, and why would we even want to be able to control it or reduce it. Now, many many people have heard about inflammation or have blamed inflammation for their issues, their problems; especially in the last few years, there's been a big spotlight on inflammation at the root of many health disorders and painful syndromes.
First of all, what is inflammation? Well, inflammation is a chemical process that occurs in tissues when they become damaged or irritated, or there's some type of irregularity in those tissues. And that inflammatory process brings the body's immune system cells to that area to provide the resources, to either fight off an invader or begin the repair process. You can think about this like if you get a small minor cut on your hand, what happens? Well, you have pain initially, right, from stimulation of the nerve endings in that area. And then you have some bleeding, which then stops when it clots. After that, typically people notice some pain, some swelling in the area with some redness. That's inflammation. That's the body's process of getting healing started. So really inflammation is the first step in repairing tissues.
Once you have that first step started, what happens is you've got the body's immune system cells in that area. They chew up damaged tissue. They start to lay down scar tissues and new healthy tissue to start to repair that damaged area. Once that starts, you get this chemical cascade that happens in the tissues that continues to heal those tissues that have been damaged and generate new tissues and generate scar tissue as well. That's that's only positive, right? Again, thinking about the cut, what happens after you've had that swelling, redness inflammation in there for a day or so? Well, typically you have a scab that develops and then what it gets kind of itchy, uh, and that right there is an example of histamine release, which is a part of the body's healing process. Eventually that scab comes off and you're left with a little scar or you're left with nice healthy skin again, and the body's done its job. It's done the repair process. Inflammation is one of those first steps.
So if inflammation is that first step and repair process, why would we want to talk about controlling it either reducing or increasing it? We have to understand that there are times when inflammation as that first step in healing actually causes more problems than it solves. An example of this is a runaway inflammatory process. And an extreme example would be an autoimmune process like rheumatoid arthritis, where that inflammation mechanism gets out of control. The body loses control of it, and your own immune system starts to then attack tissues that are actually healthy, not damaged. And that attack means that your body starts to chew itself up.
But some people really don't heal well. They are slow to heal or they catch every bug that comes around. And that's an indication in the immune system is dysfunctional. It's not up to par to where it should be. And in many cases, we want to improve that initial inflammatory approach, but it's more common that people with pain, people with autoimmune disorders, people with arthritis and other conditions that involve inflammation, they want to see that reduced. They want to see inflammation come down because that means less pain. It means better function of the tissues as well.
How do you help the body control of this repair type process? Well, there's internal factors and external factors. And when I say internal factors in this case, I'm talking about things that go on inside your body that you can have some influence on. One of those is diet; many times, the consumption of sugars and high carb items will fuel inflammatory processes. So if you can reduce the influx of sugars, a lot of times inflammation problems get better. Another one is exercise. Now exercise can stimulate inflammation, but if done correctly, then on systemic level you'll see the production of chemistry in the body that helps to control inflammation. So in many cases, exercise can be a great internal factor to help control inflammation in the body.
And then there's external factors. For example, using exercise again here, if you overstrain in arthritic joint, it's going to get more inflamed. So with your exercise, if you're trying to use exercise to help control pain and control inflammation, if you have a damaged joint or damaged tissue somewhere, or a tendonitis problem, you don't want to overwork and overstrain those areas while you're trying to exercise and help the body recover.
Another external factor would be medications. Now medications can really be something that a lot of people use to control inflammation, especially if you're looking at non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. And, you know, there certainly is a place for these, but they just generally try to reduce inflammation in the short-term. They have some pretty nasty side effects. So, outside of temporary relief of some inflammatory-generated pain, it's not necessarily a solution you want to look at as a long-term way to control inflammation. Now, obviously I'm not telling you not to, or to take over the counter drugs or to change your prescriptions at all. You need to be talking about medications with your primary care provider and how they apply specifically to your case. I'm just simply saying that in many cases, artificially trying to tamp down some inflammation isn't really going to give you long-term results. And many times it's at the cost of some significant side effects.
Laser Therapy for Inflammation
Other external factors that can be used to help with controlling inflammation, and you know I'm going to say laser. Laser therapy and light therapy in general can be very effective at helping to reduce inflammation by controlling some of the chemical processes that happen with that inflammatory cascade. Now I'm not going to go into depth on that inflammatory cascade because to most people it's incredibly boring. However, if you're one of those folks like me where you just have to know the mechanisms behind the inflammatory cascade, I really encourage you to look at this particular paper, titled "Mechanisms and Applications of the Anti-inflammatory Effects of Photobiomodulation" by Dr. Michael Hamblin. It was published in May of 2017 in the AIMS Biophysics journal.
In that paper Dr. Hamblin does talk about some conditions that we have good evidence for utilizing laser and light therapies with. Number one being Achilles tendonitis, the big tendon in the back of the ankle. Achilles tendonitis can be really painful. It's been well-proven that laser can be helpful for reducing pain and inflammation there. Second is muscle performance and recovery. And if you listen to the podcast or read this blog, you already know about that one utilizing light therapy on muscles, post-exercise helps them to recover quicker and gain strength faster. Third is arthritis, which can be very much helped by the application of laser therapy to control pain and inflammation. Lastly is alopecia areata, which is inflammation and inflammatory loss of hair follicles. This can happen to anyone, at any age, it's not the typical male pattern baldness or hair thinning due to age. This is where the immune system goes a bit haywire and actually attacks hair follicles. Many times it results in the complete loss of hair. If it's controlled properly hair oftentimes comes right back and does just fine.
And then beyond that, we have more and more evidence every year, that many inflammatory diseases can really be helped by the application of light therapy. Now that's not to say that this is the only approach, right? We already said diet, exercise, medications, can be used to help control pain and inflammation and to bring about a good outcome from whatever inflammatory type problem you're dealing with.
Thanks for reading this week's blog. If you're hoping to reduce inflammation naturally in the Kalispell area, I highly encourage you to call us and set up a no-charge consultation to see if laser therapy could be an option for you.