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How to Reverse Inflammation, Experts Say

Doctors explain why inflammation is concerning and what to do about it.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Inflammation is part of our immune system that helps fight off an infection, a virus, bad bacteria or heal an injury. However, inflammation can be harmful and chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, cancer, asthma, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. WebMD states, "But in some diseases, like arthritis, your body's defense system — your immune system — triggers inflammation when there are no invaders to fight off. In these autoimmune diseases, your immune system acts as if regular tissues are infected or somehow unusual, causing damage." Eat This, Not That! Health talked to experts who explained why inflammation can be concerning and how to reserve it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Why Inflammation is Concerning

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Dr. Vernon Williams, MD, sports neurologist and founding director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, CA explains, "The role of inflammation in a number of other common disorders is now recognized. Rather than acute inflammation resulting in swelling, redness and pain, these diseases are associated with long-standing, chronic, low-grade inflammation. There is increasing concern that inflammation-particularly chronic, low-grade inflammation-may predispose people to dramatic and long term consequences after specific triggers of an inflammatory episode. Some people are more likely to develop progressive and long-standing pain and dysfunction (and possibly other chronic medical conditions with inflammatory components) after a "trigger" (such as a fall or motor vehicle accident)."

2

Nutrition and Inflammation

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Dr. Williams says, "Part of the concern is that dietary and nutritional status creates this predisposition. For a number of reasons, our current diets fail to provide us with balanced amounts of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory building blocks such that we have a tremendous overabundance of pro-inflammatory substances in our diet and a paucity of anti-inflammatory substances. Paying attention to principles of an anti-inflammatory diet and nutrition can significantly reduce inflammation without the need to use anti-inflammatory medications (which have the risk of potentially serious side effects). This involves avoiding substances that can promote inflammation. Allergens (food, chemical and environmental) cause and promote inflammation. The Omega-6 family of fatty acids (including corn, peanut and safflower oils), trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils also cause inflammation. On the other hand, there are dietary options such as Omega-3 and Omega-9 fatty acids, and antioxidants (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, CoQ) that reduce and fight inflammation." 

3

Adjust Your Diet

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"From a practical standpoint, adjustments in food and supplement intake such as cooking with extra virgin olive oil, eating more wild caught cold water fish, reducing carbs, and eating larger varieties of fresh, whole, colorful foods help achieve a more advantageous ratio of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory substances in the diet," Dr. Williams states. "This more balanced ratio prevents and reduces the predisposition to dramatic inflammatory responses after a "trigger" event and reduces ongoing inflammation that is at work in pain and other chronic inflammatory conditions."

4

Inflammation and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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 Dr. Orrin Troum, MD, rheumatologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA explains, "There are published nutrition and dietary recommendations for patients with rheumatoid arthritis which causes inflammation. Active RA may be associated with poor nutritional intake and anorexia. Trying to overcome these deficiencies are an important part of the management of the disease. Diets rich in fish oil or where additional eicosatetraenoic acid or docosahexaenoic acid are added to the diet results in decreased cytokines and arachidonic acid metabolites and subsequent decreased symptoms. Other proposed dietary manipulations have been tried in RA therapy, but remain unproven. Overweight patients should be encouraged to lose weight to prevent excess stress on the weight bearing joints."

5

Tech Tools for Fighting Inflammation

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According to Dr. Williams, "Inflammation frequently plays a large role in the continuation of pain. As the baby boomer generation ages, we neurologists and other pain specialists are seeing more patients with inflammatory conditions (arthritis, for instance) that affect older populations and as such, more patients who are suffering the chronically painful effects. The typical course of treatment for the pain associated with these conditions is often confined to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and Naprosyn), steroids and other medications that can have severe side effects and risks, especially with prolonged use. But new treatments have emerged that can help control pain without the risks and side effects often associated with other treatment courses.

One powerful tool that has been used in medicine for thousands of years is electricity. While medications to control pain often work to block the pain response in the inflammation cycle, electrical signal therapy (EST) works differently."

6

Neuromodulation and Pain Control

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Dr. Williams says, "Neuromodulation treatments are those that target the nervous system or brain at specific locations in the body and are part of a growing variety of methods that treat a number of conditions including CRPS, Migraine, Neuropathic Pain and many others. This class of treatments delivers electrical stimulation in an effort to relieve pain and restore function.

Radiofrequency – During this safe and effective procedure, an electrical current is produced by a radio wave, which heats an affected area of nerve tissue. This is designed to minimize the pain signals from that specific area. There are a number of conditions that this type of therapy can be successfully used to treat including spine pain from arthritis and more. The degree of pain relief can be different for each individual but for the appropriate diagnosis, the majority of patients treated with a radiofrequency procedure experience relief.

Pulsed Radiofrequency (PRF) A variation of continuous radiofrequency treatment for pain, this procedure can offer the added benefits of pain control without the destruction of surrounding tissue in the treatment area. The benefits of this are especially noted in more complicated cases of neuropathic pain. In contrast to traditional radiofrequency, PRF is delivered in short "bursts" to help reduce risk of tissue damage and to confine the effect to the specific nerve being treated. 

Electrostimulation with Nerve Blocks – Traditional nerve blocks are procedures designed to interrupt nerve pulses (which send pain signals to the brain) by injecting nerves with a local anesthetic agent. Emerging studies are showing that a brief series of combined electrostimulation and nerve blocks can significantly improve pain associated with nerve damage, outperforming the benefits of medications commonly used for these kinds of problems." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more