Inflammation and Immune Response: Healing Arthritis and Chronic Pain


Inflammation is an amazing tool that the body has to fight disease. When a bee stings or a mosquito bites, the area around the wound turns red and a little bump appears as the immune system sends extra fluids with special blood cells to help control the foreign matter that was injected into the skin. After a few minutes or hours the skin returns to normal, the swelling goes down, and hopefully the itch has stopped. This was an inflammatory response that worked well.

Tennis elbow is an example of an inflammatory response that lasts longer. While this seems like disease, here the body may actually be working correctly; it may be that the body’s intelligence is telling the athlete to rest the elbow until the internal injury has healed–until the pain and swelling goes away.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs

If the athlete doesn’t want to listen to the body, they may go to the doctor and get an anti-inflammatory—an NSAID, a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug. These drugs reduce the swelling by interfering with beneficial natural processes, the most important of which are fat digestion and blood clotting. Side-effects can be a problem.

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Using anti-inflammatory drugs is therefore a judgment call. If the pain is bad enough or the interference with daily activities is great enough, taking an NSAID may be the best choice. With simple inflammation the choice is easily made, but what if the pain never goes away?

Sometimes the inflammatory response doesn’t work so well. The area becomes inflamed and it just stays that way. Arthritis is an example of an inflammatory response that seems to be permanent; the joint always hurts. What’s the right approach?

Most people choose to take aspirin or some other NSAID for arthritis. Sometimes they even feel the need for Celebrex® or some other prescription anti-inflammatory. But is there a more natural approach to chronic inflammation?

Supplements for Inflammation

There are important natural approaches to improving chronic inflammation. One is supplementing with essential fatty acids (EFAs). This is even more important if the patient is taking NSAIDs because the drugs interfere with fatty acid metabolism. The second approach is getting more anti-oxidants into the diet. A third is using herbal tonics.

EFAs: Supplementing with EFAs is very cost effective. They are available at any health food store for 30 to 50 cents per day. They will provide the raw material for many body processes, including cell maintenance in every organ system of the body.

Antioxidants: Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is a good way to get more anti-oxidants. Drinking white and green teas is another source. Many supplements are now on the market but get a brand that has a high ORAC number. ORAC is the Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity—basically a measure of the strength of the antioxidant.

Tonics: The third form of supplement is the herbal tonics that are available from a number of reputable companies. An internet search for “herbal tonics” will find several that are usually specialized for a particular body system.

Correcting the Diet

A separate approach to arthritis or other chronic inflammation works if there are subtle allergies. Using the “Eat Right For Your Type” diet may remove slight allergies to foods that, while they aren’t causing the patient to break into a rash, are causing a load on the immune system that is keeping the healing process from being completely effective.


Basically the body has the intelligence to heal itself. If the body isn’t healing, it’s because the diet or the environment is stressing the immune system to the point of being overwhelmed. It makes sense to either give the body a few more resources or remove some of the stresses