When to Use Anti-Inflammatories and When to Avoid Them

A friend contacted me to let me know he’d had a toxic reaction that induced swelling. He immediately started an anti-inflammatory and couldn’t understand why he became increasingly ill. I explained that his use of the anti-inflammatory was inappropriate.

Inflammation is a protective device for your body. There are times when using natural or over the counter anti-inflammatories will help you heal and instances when they should be avoided.

A histamine reaction causes swelling/inflammation when a physical impact or toxin triggers a response. In case of a physical injury, the resulting swelling works to minimize or eliminate internal bleeding. Swelling around a bruise is an example of this. You can see the dark, thick, blood clotting under the surface of the skin. Swelling of the area prevents more extensive bleeding until the blood has time to clot. With most injuries an anti-inflammatory can help alleviate pain and accelerate healing. By reducing inflammation the Qi/energy, of your body can more efficiently push new blood into the area and move old blood out to nourish and regenerate your tissues.

But for a serious injury it’s advisable to check with a doctor before inhibiting your body’s natural response. In case of an impact to the head or organs, it is imperative to get a doctor’s approval before taking an anti-inflammatory. Bleeding in the brain or internally, after an impact, can cause a stroke or embolism (internal bleeding), which could be life-threatening. Inflammation is your body’s way of preventing these potentially fatal events.

A reaction to a toxic substance can also cause inflammation. An insect, snake or animal bite, or a virus, bacteria, fungus, or chemical substance can induce swelling. Inflammation prevents the spread of the toxin throughout your body. Your white blood cells then have time to rush to the sight and eradicate the invader. So, as in the case of my friend, taking an anti-inflammatory in these instances can make you sicker. By suppressing your defense system you permit the toxins to enter your blood stream more quickly and be dispersed throughout your body. This sets off other protective measures to rapidly push toxins out of your body. Fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, profuse nasal discharge, or rashes are your body’s second line of defense to eliminate toxins.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, sugar/sweeteners can cause inflammation. Alcohol has the same effect as sweeteners. While occasional use can often be tolerated, continual use can be viewed by your body as toxic. A constant assault of ingested sweeteners can cause inflammation and pain in specific areas, such as your joints. Sweeteners can also create inflammation and pain throughout your entire body. Taking an anti-inflammatory may make you feel better temporarily. However, unless you address the real problem, and discontinue the use of sweeteners on a regular basis, the ongoing inflammation can cause debilitating or life-threatening health issues. You increase your chances of heart attacks, embolisms, strokes and Alzheimer’s with regular use of sweeteners and alcohol.

If your body is already inflamed, because you use sweeteners or alcohol on a regular basis, it won’t take much additional toxic exposure to send your body into crisis.

Turmeric is getting a lot of attention lately as a natural anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is good for chronic inflammation. For acute problems, to quickly reducing inflammation, Bromelain is very effective. Bromelain is a digestive enzyme. Taken with meals it helps you digest your food. Taken between meals it’s incredible for inflammation. The adult dose is 500-1000 mg (one to two pills), at least one hour before or one hour after eating. If you are following these guidelines and your stools become loose, or you have diarrhea, it means the inflammation is resolved and you are just digesting your food. At which time, cut down the dose or stop taking the Bromelain.

What else helps eliminate inflammation? The digestive enzymes in vegetables! If you are eating enough slightly cooked or raw vegetables throughout the day the live enzymes, in the vegetables, act much like the Bromelain. Initially they will help you digest your food. But if you are eating enough of them, they can resolve inflammation and scar tissue.

An indication of inflammation is pain with pressure. If you wake up in the night and have to move due to pain, that’s inflammation. If you press on a swollen area with your fingertip and the area immediately pops out after you release it, that’s also inflammation. If the area retains the fingerprint, for any length of time, that is an indication of edema, which is a separate issue.

Icing an area helps resolve inflammation but also slows down the flow of blood. Heat increases the flow of blood to promote healing. This is why it’s advisable to use ice for the first 24 hours after an injury and then switch to heat. If there is still much inflammation after 24 hours, then alternate 20 minutes of ice with 20 minutes of heat to reduce pain but also accelerate healing.

When used appropriately, anti-inflammatories can be a wonderful tool. For cases of chronic inflammation, or edema, or for help kicking the sugar habit, get in to see me.

Health & Happiness,

Nancy Burton, L.Ac.