Easing Inflammation

Inflammation can negatively affect any organ or tissue, from the muscles and bones to the brain and nervous system.

by Dr. Larry Wilson — 

Inflammation is usually a normal process whereby the body responds to stress by sending more blood and macrophages to an area and secreting certain chemicals, such as histamine, that irritate the tissues to a degree. This is part of the normal response to stress. — However, problems can develop if the body becomes caught in an inflammatory reaction that it cannot stop — which often results in serious illness. Inflammation can negatively affect any organ or tissue, from the muscles and bones to the brain and nervous system. Many health authorities agree that inflammation is a serious problem in millions of people worldwide.

Inflammation-related diseases

The most common inflammation-related diseases are cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, and neuritis or neuralgia. In fact, any illness that ends with “itis” or “algia” is associated with inflammation. Others rooted in inflammation can include obesity, edema, canker sores, high blood pressure, headaches, and most aches and pains.

Emotional problems triggered by inflammation can include anger, anxiety, mood swings, bad temper, worrying, irritability, paranoia and even schizophrenia. Most female organ conditions such as hot flashes, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, fibroid tumors, vaginal pain and fibrocystic breasts are also linked to it, as well as many skin diseases. And the list goes on.

However, not all cases of the conditions listed above are entirely due to inflammation, but many of them are at least partially caused by it.

Lifestyle causes of inflammation

Sleep issues — If you do not get enough rest during the night, your tissues do not have an adequate amount of time to fully repair. This always results in irritated and inflamed tissues, especially of the joints and tendons.

Most people need nine or more hours of actual sleep — not just lying in bed — every single night. Another problem is that of going to bed too late in the evening. Most people need to be in bed by 9 p.m. each night in order to fully regenerate their bodies.

Drinking quality spring water or carbon-only filtered tap water can greatly help reduce some types of inflammation.

Dehydration — This is extremely common, and its causes include:

• Not drinking enough water. Most adults need about three quarts every day, and more if they are outdoors a lot, performing physical labor or spending time in the heat of summer.

• Drinking water that does not properly hydrate the body. Water from a reverse osmosis system does not hydrate the body well. Drinking this type of water for more than a few months can demineralize the body and cause inflammation.

• Engaging in dietary habits that dehydrate the body. These include drinking alcohol of any kind, ingesting caffeine in any form and eating sweets or sugars, including fruit and fruit juices. All of these dietary habits will dehydrate the body to some degree, and often severely.

Changing one’s water intake to a quality spring water or carbon-only filtered tap water can greatly help reduce some types of inflammation.

Exercise habits — Exercise should always be gentle. This is true for everyone. Too much exercise wears the joints, tendons and ligaments. It also throws the body into a fight-or-flight pattern, which is characterized by a profusion of inflammation. However, not exercising may also contribute to inflammation by reducing respiration, oxygenation and circulation.

Low oxygenation — Low levels of oxygen irritate the body. This is the case in most large cities where auto traffic is high, as well as in some indoor environments. Deep breathing, and some gentle daily exercise, along with sitting and standing up straight are most helpful. If possible, people should not spend a lot of time in a low-oxygen environment.

Toxic exposures — Most toxins are irritants. Examples include smoke from any source; exposure to solvents, pesticides, toxic hair and skin products; some paints, synthetic clothing; dental mercury and nickel; formaldehyde in building materials and carpeting; and all toxic metals found in water, food and the air.

Therefore, to reduce inflammation, avoid and eliminate toxic products from your life. This requires reading labels and watching everything that you come in contact with. This can be a chore, but it is well worth the effort.

Thinking and emotional habits — Some people experience rage, anger, intense emotional upset, extreme guilt feelings or other thinking patterns that are highly inflammatory. These all negatively influence body chemistry and damage the body.

Relationships and other social causes —  Arguing, fighting, suing people or being sued, gossiping and drug use of all kinds can easily increase inflammation in your body. These tend to throw the body into fast oxidation and a fight-or-flight response.

Try and learn to be at peace and relaxed at all times, no matter what others are doing or what happens. I recommend a particular type of mental exercise to assist in this process — the Roy Masters meditation practice, which is nondenominational, simple and highly effective.

Lifestyle causes of inflammation

The list of foods irritating to the body and the reasons why are quite extensive, but eliminating as many as you can from your diet will help reduce inflammation. These include:

Wheat and spelt in all forms — These foods are very hybridized today and are low in zinc and quality protein but high in inflammatory glutamic acid.

All raw food, except raw dairy products — Raw salads and fruits are somewhat irritating to the digestive tract, due to their high fiber content. They may also contain infectious organisms, parasites and other things that irritate the body. This is an important reason why I advocate cooking all food, except for raw dairy and 10 to 12 ounces of carrot juice daily.

Fruit — The problem with fruit is its high sugar content and, in the case of citrus, the high acid content. Fruit juices and dried fruits are even worse.

All sugary foods — These include sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, rice bran syrup, soy milk and other sweets. Sugars disrupt the body chemistry, deplete B-complex vitamins and zinc, and have many other detrimental and irritating effects.

Caffeine and related stimulants — Caffeinated teas, mate, maca and coffee (especially more than one cup of coffee daily) are quite irritating to the stomach and other parts of the body.

Chocolate and some herbs — Chocolate contains a caffeine-like substance called theobromine that contributes to inflammation. Many herbs such as guarana and ginseng can be irritating, especially if used incorrectly or for an extended period of time.

Pasteurized, homogenized and otherwise cooked cheese, milk and other dairy products — Dairy products contain some omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. However, if the dairy product is pasteurized and homogenized, or worse — baked, fried or even just reheated — any omega-3 fatty acids are usually destroyed. Unfortunately, these are the dairy products that most people consume daily. Then they wonder why they develop arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

Dairy products should be eaten raw, if possible. The milk from cows or other animals should be sourced from free-range and grass-fed animals, as their milk is higher in omega-3 fatty acids than that from grain-fed animals. These products also supply vitamin D3, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient.

Too much red meat — Red meats are high in iron. While we all need some iron, too much is highly inflammatory. Most people need red meat only two to three times per week. An exception is made for menstruating women who lose a lot of iron each month. Ideally, meats should come from animals that are grass or pasture fed and not grain fed. As with milk, grass-fed meat contains more omega-3 fatty acids.

Food chemicals and additives — Chemicals such as MSG, aspartame, food coloring, preservatives and others can aggravate inflammation.

Nightshade family of vegetables — These include tomatoes, red and white potatoes (but not sweet potatoes), eggplant and all peppers (both sweet and hot peppers). They contain solanin, a somewhat irritating toxin.

Common table salt — Salt is extremely irritating and creates a lot of inflammation in the kidneys and elsewhere. Unrefined sea salt used in moderation is a better choice.

Iron-enriched foods — Nearly all white flour products and some other refined food products are fortified with iron, which can be extremely irritating to the body.

Chlorinated and fluoridated water — Chlorine and fluoride are poisonous chemicals that are added to our water and are extremely irritating to human tissues and the digestive tract.

Most fish, shellfish and seafood — These contain too much mercury and often other toxic metals such as cadmium and lead. The large fish such as tuna, mackerel, ahi, mahi mahi and shark contain the most toxins, but even salmon has too much mercury.

Sardines, however, are much lower in mercury content due to their small size. They are also very high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3 — important anti-inflammatory substances. I suggest eating three to four cans of sardines weekly for this reason and avoiding the other types of fish.

Vegetarian diets — Vegetarian diets are low in a number of anti-inflammatory nutrients including calcium, magnesium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3. These nutrients are hard to obtain in large quantities while on a vegetarian diet, and even harder with a vegan diet. Meats are one of the few good sources of zinc and taurine.

Non-organic food of all kinds — Non-organic food has more pesticide and insecticide residues on it, which are all somewhat inflammatory. Eat organically grown food as much as possible to reduce inflammation.

Not eating enough cooked vegetables — Vegetables contain a plethora of anti-inflammatory nutrients, including many vitamins and minerals, such as zinc and magnesium.

An important cause of body inflammation is damage from free radicals or singlet oxygen atoms. This is also called oxidant damage. Cooked vegetables contain hundreds of anti-oxidants such as xanthenes, lutein, bioflavinoids, flavones and many others. Most people do not eat enough cooked vegetables each day.

Eating cooked vegetables three times daily, with either one protein or one starch, eliminates harsh food combinations that provoke inflammation. This is also much better than taking anti-oxidant nutritional supplements, which are often irritating to the digestive tract. Avoid taking high doses of most supplements, although low doses of vitamins A, B, C, D and E are excellent for reducing inflammation, along with some calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium.

Other foods— Although less common, foods such as garlic and radishes can be irritating to some people. Often the reason is that they cannot digest the food properly. In fact, many, if not all, adults need to take a digestive aid with meals.

Eating habits that cause inflammation

Skipping breakfast — This can add significant stress to the body and engender a fight-or-flight reaction due to hunger.

Eating too fast, in the car, standing up or in a noisy environment — Regular, quiet, sit-down meals, along with eating slowly, chewing thoroughly and resting for 10 to 20 minutes after a meal are soothing for the digestive system and the body.

Other practices to avoid are eating or drinking very hot or very cold foods or beverages, drinking too much water or other beverages with meals, and being upset at mealtime. Wait to eat if you are feeling anxious or upset. For the best digestion, avoid noisy restaurants or upsetting conversation at mealtime and eat simple food combinations.

Medical and over-the-counter drugs

For some people, drugs cause inflammation. Among the worst offenders are the anti-inflammatory drugs such as Tylenol®, Aleve®, Excedrin® and Anacin®. Even aspirin can cause stomach ulcers in some people. These drugs can inhibit inflammation but, in many cases, they inflame the intestines and the kidneys.

Other classes of medicines that can worsen inflammation include statin drugs, thyroid medications, amphetamines, asthma drugs and many others. Avoid all drugs, if possible, as most cause inflammation of the digestive tract, liver and other organs. Always read the side effects before taking any medication. Stop taking drugs that are causing severe side effects and look for natural alternatives. Long-term use is even worse for the body.

Vitamins, minerals, herbs and homeopathic remedies

Some people may be surprised to learn that even natural remedies and vitamins, minerals and herbs can cause inflammation. They can irritate the digestive tract and/or make the body much more yin, in Chinese medical terms.

For example, B-complex vitamins can increase the oxidation rate and cause irritation in some people. High-dose manganese, potassium, chromium, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E, if taken for a prolonged period of time, can be irritating because they may deplete other vital nutrients in the body.

This is why I always seek to balance body chemistry by using hair mineral testing rather than just giving out remedies, which can actually make some conditions worse.


Dr. Lawrence Wilson has a medical degree, has been in the health field for more than 25 years and is the author of several books. or 928-445-7690.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 4, August/September 2012.

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