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What is Inflammation and why is it so important?

What is Inflammation and why is it so important?

26 February 2021

If you are a patient at MIOG, the word inflammation will not be new to you. Whether we are talking about an anti-inflammatory diet, anti-inflammatory herbs (hello curumin!) and nutrients, or pro-inflammatory foods. But what is inflammation and why is it so important?

What is inflammation?

In very basic terms, inflammation is the immune system's response to an irritant. Ever had red eyes and irritation from hayfever, or hives form a food allergy? Whether an allergen, a cut or splinter, or a bacteria or virus, the body responds by sending little messengers to increase chemicals that neutralise the pathogen or threat, increase blood flow to the area, and ultimately (ideally) facilitate healing.

Other significant contributors to inflammation are obesity, cigarette smoking, alcohol, autoimmune conditions, dietary factors, and stress. When your body is undergoing stress, whether it is mental, psychological or physical stress, it releases the hormone cortisol, which in itself is pro-inflammatory. Particularly if stress becomes chronic (even if at a low level), then the inflammatory response can begin to breakdown cells and tissues and initiate a "perfect storm."  Oxidative stress caused by chronic inflammation is able to damage DNA, causing cell mutations leading to the first ever cancer cell.

Inflammation & Cancer

Many types of cancer are inflammatory conditions. Inflammation may contribute to the creation of that first every dodgy cell, and cancer then creates a pro-inflammatory tumour micro-environment to assist with increasing blood flow to the tumour (angiogenesis), and cell signalling for growth, progression and metastasis.

This is why identifying and treating the causes of inflammation are so important both when preventing and/or treating cancer and other chronic degenerative conditions. From a naturopathic perspective, treating the cause is one of the foundations of our practice.

How can I prevent inflammation?

First, identify any triggers to inflammation. 

  • Are you eating an inflammatory diet (deep fried food, processed foods, red meat, excessive alcohol, refined sugars)?
  • Try to reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods and integrate fresh and whole foods into your diet. Oily fish such as salmon and sardines, olive oil, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, berries and plenty of water. All of these foods will reduce inflammation.  Ask our naturopath or nutritionist about an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Are you feeling mentally or psychologically stressed?
  • We cannot stress this enough. Try to identify causes of stress and talk to someone about modifying them. Whether it be your partner, family member, friend or professional. Sharing your feelings can help reduce stress.
  • Also try a meditation app: doing a 10 minute deep breathing or meditation session has been shown to significantly reduce cortisol levels.
  • Get plenty of good quality sleep!
  • Sleep can help reduce stress and chronic inflammation in the body. Don't we all feel better with good quality sleep?


The best herbs and nutrients for inflammation

Most of our prescriptions and recommendations would include herbs and nutrients for inflammation, and there is plenty of clinical evidence to support the use of targeted complementary medicines with anti-inflammatory actions in cancer and during treatment. Careful though - we must always be sure that there are no negative interactions when it comes to treatment or other medications. Which is why it is always essential to work under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

Are you concerned about acute or chronic inflammation? 

Why not get in touch with our friendly team at MIOG and we can organise for you to talk to one of our lovely Naturopaths or Clinical Nutritionist to see how we can help you.


About the Author: MIOG support team

At MIOG, all staff are qualified practitioners, including our valued receptionists and administration support team. With Bachelors of Health Science in either Naturopathy or Nutritional Medicine, the team are educated and experienced, with valuable insight into nutritional, herbal, and lifestyle interventions for oncology care.

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