If you’ve ever had a bee sting or a sprained ankle, you’ve experienced inflammation. Allergies? Another form of inflammation. Sunburn? Splinter? Frostbite? More inflammation. Arthritis? Appendicitis? Tonsillitis? Dermatitis? Colitis? All those “itis” words are also just a fancy way of saying “inflammation,” too.
Inflammation is your body’s reaction to an injury, infection or irritation, and despite how uncomfortable all the examples above sound, it’s a critically important process in the body.
Naturopathic doctors may see inflammation differently than what you’re used to. For a naturopath, inflammation isn’t bad, per se. It feels bad, and it can cause harm, but it’s also there for a reason.
Next time you find yourself facing an “itis” or some other inflammation, you might find it helpful to look at it as a naturopath might. Here are a few key principles to keep in mind.
- It’s a normal response. Acute inflammation is a normal, healthy response. It’s the body’s first response to harm, and acts as a marker to rally your immune troops to the scene of the crime and protect you from further injury. Without it, your body wouldn’t be able to fight infection and rebuild damaged tissues.
- Not all inflammation is bad. Once inflammation starts, your body has a corresponding process to shut it down again. Sometimes, though, we get out of balance, and we end up with chronic inflammation. Conditions like colitis and asthma are the result of chronic inflammation. Inflammation is not the enemy until it gets out of balance.
- Treating minor inflammation can have drawbacks. When you have a sore knee, for example, and you take Advil and go out for your run anyway, you may be removing the signal your body is sending you saying, “Hey. I need a break from running.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with treating inflammation, but just remember that you may be turning off the communication network that lets you know how you’re doing.
- Root cause is important. While a naturopath may well treat your symptoms, we’re always concerned with why you have them in the first place. In the case of inflammation, naturopathic doctors ask, “Why is the inflammatory response out of balance?” Chronic inflammation can be caused by many things, such as food intolerances, toxicity, an imbalance in your gut flora, or nutrient deficiencies. Looking at the whole person and understanding the root cause of the inflammation gives us the option of getting it back into balance.
Want to know how your naturopathic doctor sees another symptom or condition? Let us know in the comments!