You have probably heard about how inflammation is causing everything from your headaches to your muscle aches to your stomach aches. You might have even heard about new diets, drugs, and vitamins that reduce inflammation. But what is inflammation and why should you care? Here are a few things you need to know about how inflammation is having an impact on your health right now.
Inflammation is the body’s reaction to some kind of stimulus. If you have a sprain or a wound, you will often see it swell up, become red, or feel warm or painful. You may even get a fever. Inflammation happens when the body is fighting off something it perceives to be harmful like a wound or an infection. It is kind of like an early warning system, and white blood cells congregate in that area to fight off infection or protect from further injury. Inflammation can be good.
Inflammatory diseases are diseases that are caused by or exacerbated by a faulty immune response, causing inflammation. Some of these diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or psoriasis. Inflammation may also contribute to atherosclerosis.
Inflammation may also affect your internal organs. Myocarditis is another name for inflammation of the heart. Symptoms of myocarditis are fluid retention and shortness of breath. The tubes that move air to the lungs can become inflamed, causing shortness of breath. Kidney inflammation is called nephritis, and that can cause kidney failure or high blood pressure. You may have inflammation, but no pain. Some internal organs do not have nerves that will transmit pain signals. In this case, inflammation is diagnosed in other ways.
Inflammation may cause or worsen conditions that are not considered inflammatory diseases. According to an article in the US National Library of Medicine, “An increasing body of evidence shows that chronic inflammation causes and advances many common diseases. This opens new possibilities for treatment and therapy by blocking the inflammatory processes.” This means that inflammation may play a role in diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and clinical depression.
A high level of C-Reactive protein (CRP) in the blood can mean inflammation. This protein is produced by the liver when there is inflammation present. A positive result on this blood test can mean that there is inflammation somewhere in the body, but the drawback is that the test cannot pinpoint where exactly the inflammation is.
NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) are commonly used to treat inflammation. There is a wide range of over-the-counter NSAIDs such as Aleve, Motrin, and Advil. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories can be natural to obtain and useful, but they are not to be used for more than 10 days. They can have side effects, including
Prescription NSAIDs may be recommended if the over-the-counter medications don’t work, or if you need to be on medication for longer than 10 days. They are available under many different brand names. All brand names of prescription NSAIDs carry a warning that they may cause heart attack, stroke, or bleeding in the stomach.
Exercise is a great way to reduce inflammation. Science has proven that it works. A scientific article titled “The Inflammation Theory of Disease,” stated that “There is growing evidence that diseases with an inflammatory component can be treated through physical exercise, rather than pharmacology.”
Eating antioxidants can protect your body from free radicals. When free radicals bombard the immune system, the result is inflammation. So if you reduce the free radicals, you reduce the inflammation. Antioxidants can be found in many healthy foods like beets, blueberries, broccoli, and spinach. Flax seeds are also high in antioxidants. Studies show that CBD holds anti-oxidant properties, however, more research is needed on the subject.
Sleep is important in many different ways. When you sleep, you are less likely to get sick and get an infection. Getting enough sleep has also been linked to maintaining a healthy weight and strengthening your immune system.
Make sure you get enough fat. Omega-3 fatty acids are the healthy target–they can be found in salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, chia seeds, avocados, and walnuts. Use a dietary supplement if your diet needs some help.
Dietary supplements that have been shown to help provide a healthy balance of inflammatory chemicals in your body include the botanicals cat’s claw, devil’s claw, ginger root, turmeric and Boswellia (frankincense).
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of over one hundred cannabinoids found within the cannabis or marijuana plant. CBD does not cause an altered state of mind or a “high” associated with smoking cannabis. The only chemical compound of the cannabis plant that gives you euphoria is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).
CBD has been of interest to the medical community in the past few years because of the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body. Endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, in the brain, immune system, organs, and tissues. The cannabinoid system works differently in different parts of the body, but in general, it works to maintain stability in each system.
Cannabinoid receptors are also found throughout the body as part of the endocannabinoid system. There are two cannabinoid receptors, CB1 which is found mostly in the nervous system and the connective tissues and organs, and CB2 is found in the immune system. A lot of the body’s tissues continue CB1 and CB2 receptors. All cannabinoids can affect these two receptors.
Our bodies make endocannabinoids naturally which then stimulate one or both of these receptors. Two of the endocannabinoids that researchers have found that the body produces naturally are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). The cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant (phytocannabinoids) can also stimulate these receptors.
A third source of cannabinoids is a chemically produced compound which has been produced in a laboratory. This cannabinoid is now a prescription drug (dronabinol) which is used in a limited way to treat cancer patients who are suffering from nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy.
There have been multiple recent studies that have examined the relationship between the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and control of inflammation. One study tested CBD on rats who had a condition which resulted in inflammation. The CBD reduced the inflammation, and continued to work after three days of treatment.
Another study discovered that rheumatoid arthritis patients appeared to have more CB2 receptors than other arthritis patients. Some scientists think that the body produces the additional receptors in an attempt to fight the inflammation. CBD increases endocannabinoids in the body, which then stimulate the CB2 receptors to decrease inflammation.
An article was published in the library of the National Institutes of Health, called Cannabinoids as Novel Anti-inflammatory Drugs. The review found that both the endocannabinoids produced by the body and phytocannabinoids such as CBD are an effective treatment for reducing inflammation. The article concluded that
Overall, cannabinoids have exhibited significant potential to be used as novel anti-inflammatory agents and specific targeting of CB2 receptors holds the promise of mediating immunosuppressive effects without exerting psychotropic side effects.
One of the difficulties with conducting more research studies is that marijuana is still considered to be a schedule 1 drug by the DEA, which means that it is complicated to obtain for use in clinical research. Be aware that although medical marijuana is legal in many states, and CBD is legal in many more, you have a responsibility to know what the laws are in your area.
Scientific knowledge about cannabinoids and inflammation are still evolving, but the initial results make the health benefits of CBD appealing as part of alternative treatment for inflammation. Alternative treatments and lifestyle changes are recommended for reducing inflammation.
These healthy changes can also improve the way you feel and may help your medical condition. Don’t discontinue any medications your doctor has prescribed for inflammation, but talk to her about implementing some natural options into your treatment plan. If you wish to use Cannabidiol as a part of your treatment, make sure you consult your doctor.