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Treatments for inflammation
As mentioned earlier in this article, patients (and many health care professionals) must remember that inflammation is part of the healing process. Sometimes reducing inflammation is necessary, but not always.
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are taken to alleviate pain caused by inflammation. They counteract the COX (cyclooxygenase) enzyme, which synthesizes prostaglandins which create inflammation. If prostaglandin synthesis can be blocked, pain is either eliminated or reduced.
Examples of NSAIDs include naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin.
People should not use NSAIDs long-term without being under the supervision of a doctor, because there is a risk of stomach ulcers, and even severe and life-threatening hemorrhage. NSAIDs may also worsen asthma symptoms and cause kidney damage. NSAID medications, with the exception of aspirin, can also increase the risk of stroke and myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Acetaminophen (paracetamol, Tylenol) can reduce pain associated with inflammatory conditions, but have no anti-inflammatory effects. They may be ideal for those wishing to treat just the pain, while allowing the inflammation to run its course.
Corticosteroids - these are a class of steroid hormones naturally produced in the cortex (outer portion) of the adrenal gland. They are synthesized in laboratories and added to medications.
Corticosteroids, such as cortisol are anti-inflammatory; they prevent phospholipid release, which undermines eosinophil action and a number of other mechanisms involved in inflammation.
There are two sets of corticosteroids:
- Glucocorticoids, which are produced as a reaction to stress, and are also involved in metabolizing fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Synthetic glucocorticoids are prescribed for inflammation of the joints (arthritis), temporal arteritis dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus, hepatitis, asthma, allergic reactions, and sarcoidosis. Creams and ointments (topical formulations) may be prescribed for inflammation of the skin, eyes, lungs, bowels and nose.
- Mineralocorticoids, which regulate our salt and water balance. Medications with mineral corticoids are used for the treatment of cerebral salt wasting, and to replace missing aldosterone (a hormone) for patients with adrenal insufficiency.
Corticosteroid side effects are more likely if taken in oral form, compared to inhalers or injections. The higher the dosage and/or the longer they are taken for, the greater the risk of side effects. Side effect severity is also linked to dosage and duration of treatment. Patients taking oral corticosteroids for over three months have a considerably greater chance of experiencing undesirable side effects.
Inhaled medications, such as those to treat asthma over the long-term raise the risk of developing oral thrush - rinsing the mouth out with water after each application can help prevent oral thrush.
Gucocorticoids can also induce Cushing's syndrome, while mineralocorticoids can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), low blood potassium levels (hypokalemia), high blood-sodium levels (hypernatremia), connective tissue weakness and metabolic alkalosis.
ImSAIDs (Immune Selective Anti-Inflammatory Derivatives)
ImSAIDs are a class of peptides developed by IMULAN BioTherapeutics, LLC. Scientists found that they have anti-inflammatory properties. They alter the activation and migration of immune cells involved in amplifying the inflammatory response. This is a new category of anti-inflammatory medication which has nothing to do with steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. ImSAIDs have shown promise as potential veterinary drugs for controlling and reducing inflammation. Experts believe that they might eventually be suitable for human use.
Some herbs have anti-inflammatory properties
Harpagophytum procumbens - also known as devil's claw, wood spider or grapple plant comes from South Africa and is related to sesame plants. European colonists brought devil's claw back home to treat arthritis, fever and pain. According to the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Devil's Claw has diuretic, sedative and analgesic properties.
Hyssop Hyssopus - from the plant family Lamiaceae, is added to eau de Cologne and Chartreuse (liqueur drink). It is also used to color some spirits. Hyssop is mixed with other herbs, such as liqourice for the treatment of some lung conditions, including inflammation. Beware of the essential oils of hyssop, as they can lead to life-threatening convulsions in laboratory animals.
Ginger, also known as ginger root, is the mass of roots (rhizome) of the Zingiber officinale plant. It is used as a medicine or a spice. Jamaican ginger was the traditional medical form of this root, and has been used as a carminative (to treat gas or wind) and a stimulant. It has been used for hundreds of years to treat dyspepsia, constipation, colic, other gastrointestinal problems, as well as rheumatoid arthritis pain.
Researchers from Michigan Medical School reported that ginger supplements were found to reduce the markers of colon inflammation. Chronic colon inflammation is associated with a higher risk of developing colon cancer. They added that ginger supplements may help prevent colon cancer.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) - also a plant of the ginger family. Current research is looking into the possible beneficial effects of turmeric in treating arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and some other inflammatory conditions. Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, is under investigation for the treatment of several illnesses and disorders, including inflammation.
Cannabis - contains a cannabinnoid called cannabichromene, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Other treatments for inflammation
Applying ice - do not place the ice in direct contact with skin, wrap it in a cloth or a purpose-made ice bag. Applying ice has been shown to reduce inflammation. Athletes commonly use ice treatment for managing pain and inflammation. Inflammation can go down more rapidly if you rest, apply ice, compression, and elevate the affected area (have your ankle raised if the swelling is there, for example).
Fish oil (Omega-3) - scientists form Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science reported on a study in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity that the daily consumption of fish oil, omega-3 reduced both inflammation and anxiety in a group of young healthy people.
Green tea - researchers from the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center found that regular green tea drinking enhances bone health and reduces inflammation in postmenopausal women. They added that Tai-Chi appears to have the same beneficial effect.
Tart cherries - sports scientists found that tart cherries have powerful anti-inflammatory properties which may help millions of Americans who suffer from joint pain and arthritis. The team, from Oregon Health & Science University even went as far as saying that "(tart cherries) have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food". They believe that tart cherries could help patients with osteoarthritis manage their pain effectively. Twenty females aged from 40 to 70 years drank tart cherry juice twice a day for three weeks; they all suffered from inflammatory osteoarthritis. At the end of the three weeks there were significant falls in levels of key inflammation markers.
Researchers from Georgia State University say they may have identified a new way to suppress inflammation without the harmful side effects.
Lower birth weight or having been breastfed for less than 3 months is linked to higher levels of a biomarker for inflammation, heart and metabolic disease in young adults.
A mouse study shows the benefits of electroacupuncture in treating sepsis, an inflammatory condition appearing in intensive care units that kills around 250,000 in the US annually.