Anti-inflammatories: friends or foes?

25th September 2018

The message you get might be confusing: one day you hear that inflammation is good for healing, next day you are told inflammation can cause serious damage to your vital organs. What is true then? Actually both. Let me explain. There are two kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic. The former happens when your body is attacked by infection, injury, burn… It responds in an inflammatory reaction, sending an army of cells which fight relentlessly the attack. And you can see the signs of this fight: redness, swelling, pain… So this is an acute inflammation. But what happens when your body is under constant threat, such as air pollution, bad diet, obesity, stress, smoking and so on? This is when a chronic inflammation kicks in. And to make things worse, your well train army of anti-inflammatory cells is helpless. Your defence system gives up, unable to fight on so many fronts. Or even worse, sometimes your own army turns against you, accelerating damage to your body and organs. You are at high risk of developing diabetes, heart failure and even cancer…

So, you may ask, what about anti-inflammatories? According to endless TV commercials they can combat any inflammation in no time! So they must be good! But are they??? Just think about it: your knee swells after training. Well, one or two ibuprofens take the swelling away. Yes, but swelling is the sign of your body fight so you allow these tablet to stop your own defence system fighting inflammation! These tablets are mercenaries. You “hire” them instead of using your own army. And as you know, mercenaries are not cheap. yes you pay pennies at the counter but they take their “payment” from your body, damaging tissues, killing your own defence cells, stem cells and causing several complications.

Unfortunately taking anti-inflammatories is a part of our “quick fix” culture. Headache? Take a tablet for immediate relief. Knee ache? Take a tablet. Back pain? The same… But why do you hire these mercenaries instead of investing in you own army? Appropriate food supplements, such as turmeric and fish oils, good diet with no or little sugars and red meat… And exercise. There is a study published recently indicating that starting moderate physical activity even in or after middle age provides a substantial health benefits.

So, in a nutshell, inflammation is good as long as it combats injury. And your body has got plenty of good “soldiers” to fight the injury. They just need support from you as presented above. (zk)