There are two main types of inflammation.
There is acute inflammation that occurs as the body's response to an injury. This is healthy inflammation.
There is also chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is inflammation that is ongoing and that the body is not able to turn off. This is unhealthy inflammation.
All chronic conditions have inflammation as a part of them.
Acute inflammation tends to last 1-7 days as the body repairs itself. It tends to remain localized to the area that was damaged. A whole interesting plethora of things occur in the body during this time to help the body heal. Pain, heat, redness, and swelling are all part of the healing picture. Sometimes there is even a loss of mobility to the injured area, which is telling you to let it rest so the body can do what it needs to do. (sadly we often don't listen and push on through and then healing can take longer.). This is all good, healthy inflammation that comes in when it is needed and shuts off when it is not needed.
Chronic inflammation is different. Chronic inflammation is inflammation that is not able to be shut off. When you think of inflammation as a fire (which is really what it is)......you can envision that the body has a certain number of fire fighters. A fire starts, the fire fighters head over and put the fire out and help to clean up the debris.
When we have too many fires going beyond the capacity of our fire fighters, the fires don't get put out. They continue to burn. And often times they spread out and increase in intensity.
So why don't we have enough firefighters? Well, essentially we destroyed them through many lifestyle choices that created damage in the body. We have damaged our gut biome through the overuse of antibiotics and poor food choices. We continue to eat foods that further create inflammation, and because of leaky gut, can create food cravings to the very things that are damaging to us (enter addiction). . We don't get enough movement. We have high toxic loads from pollutants including heavy metals. We take OTC medications and pharmaceuticals which interfere with the body's natural processes. We have a lot of stress from daily life. All of these are ongoing triggers, creating more fires and stoking the ones that are already there.
So how to we get more firefighters?
Tammi Sweet refers to one aspect of this as the "oil change" and speaks of using Omega 3, which is found in cod liver and fish oils. Her recommendation is to continue this for a. year before starting to really see results. (remember, it took a long time for our body to get to this state through many little choices, so it does take a while to restore it.)
Another way is to support the gut bacteria. My favorite way to do this is through fermented living foods such as kraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Supplements are also a choice, but they often do not make their way all the way through the digestive tract, whereas fermented living foods do.
Avoid ongoing triggers to inflammation in foods. These are most likely gluten, dairy, glucose, trans fats, and lectins.
Lower your toxic load, which is often caused by heavy metals.
Get movement - every day multiple times a day. This can be as simple as going on a walk to get the whole body moving and things flowing.
A word on diet choices.......leaky gut is a real thing, Unfortunately it has become a catch all phrase that has gotten watered down. Essentially our gut should be about 5% permeable. This is normal. Through antibiotic use and poor food choices (and continually eating foods that we might be sensitive to), the gut becomes more permeable. When things sneak through that shouldn't, our body says "Hey, thats not supposed to be here" and it creates antibodies. We then develop sensitivities and allergies to foods we normally would eat. Im certainly oversimplifying it, but you get the gist of it.
The quickest way to reset the gut is to do an elimination diet removing offending foods and see how you feel, then introduce them back in and see how you feel. If it is too challenging to remove them all at once, remove the major ones one at a time. Dairy, Gluten, Nightshades, Grains. Fermentable foods such as onion, garlic, asparagus, artichoke.
We also do need to look at histamine levels and a condition referred to as Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. This can be generalized as "systemic inflammation", although I feel that is too general. Histamine is sent out by the body when it is in situations where it does not feel safe. This could be due to environmental factors, dietary factors, but it also can be related to emotional, mental....you know, the trauma stuff. Our bodies release histamine when we revisit trauma, just as they might release histamine when we eat eggs if we are someone that is allergic to eggs. For the sake of this article, MCAS feels too complex to go into depth on, and it is also something I am still in the process of researching and learning about. I will say that I feel that we can use herbs to shift and interrupt mast cell activation/inflammation, however, we absolutely must do the emotional work to truly shift those histamine patterns. That emotional work likely lies in the nervous system and creating a sense of safety within. I feel this is really hard to do with the face paced world that we are in, and one of the keys lies in stepping away from the continual bombardment of information on the internet. It's just not healthy and creates a sense of "danger" or "threat " 20, 30, 40 times an hour for some.
In summary, acute inflammation is usually a good thing, and we should do what we can to support that process, which may just mean getting the heck out of the way and listening to what the body is telling us to do, which is probably rest.
Chronic inflammation is not a good thing and has many layers and complexities to it. Herbs may be used to quell the fires from time to time and to address symptoms that arise. AND, lifestyle changes are absolutely necessary to bring about any true and lasting change to the cycles.