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Treating Inflammation with Ayurveda

Every choice we make, everything we do, is either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.

Heal

Inflammation is the word on everyone’s wellness radar. It’s the new mystery symptom that seems like everyone is experiencing. Inflammation is associated with a host of health conditions including cancer, heart disease, asthma, dermatitis and arthritis. Recently, many more studies have come out with a surprising link to conditions like severe depression (due to inflammation in the brain) and even fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases.

It leaves you to wonder: Is inflammation the common denominator of every disease?

All indications point to yes.

From cancer to the common cold, inflammation is the constant throughout all illnesses and diseases.

In Ayurveda, the goal is to find the underlying source of a symptom and not only to treat the symptom itself. Inflammation can be due to any number of triggers from stress and trauma, the quality and choice of foods we eat, water intake, lifestyle and emotional state as well as sleep and exercise routine.

Simply put, every choice we make, everything we do, is either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.

Inflammation is a very important signal, red flagging us to pay attention. If you notice inflammation in your body, here are some ways to reduce it.           

Know your stressors. Toxic relationships, stress from work and even violent movies and T.V. shows can all release stress hormones, leading to inflammation. When you know exactly what stresses you out, you will know what needs to be changed or what preventative measures to take.

Whether it’s meditation, setting intentions, qigoing, pranayama and breath centered awareness or simply detachment, there are ways to be better prepared to face challenges and avoid drama.

Change your perspective on stress. We all know that putting physical stress on the body (i.e. exercise, lifting weights and working out) leads to a healthier body and stronger muscles. The same can be true about intangible stress.

That is what separates successful people from unsuccessful people.

One person takes the struggle and stress and makes it their internal “weights” to get stronger, using it as motivation. The other mentally and emotionally feels it too much to bare and perceives it as the cause of their demise.

Know that a simple change in perception can reduce inflammation.

Cut the crap. And by crap I mean dead, crap foods. Sugar, white flour, starch, processed foods, meat, dairy and GMO foods have all been shown to cause inflammation. Eat to thrive.

Only eat food that is also medicine. If a food doesn’t boost wellness or has no nutritional value, stay clear. We’re looking for a variety of living, plant-based foods, preferably in a variety of different colors, local and in season, because your body is a part of nature and foods naturally harvest with the proper fats, nutrients and water content during seasonal changes to align with our body’s needs. If the food is high in phytonutrients, healing compounds, anti-inflammatory agents, vitamins and minerals, you’re probably in the ‘green’.

Get awe inspired. Recent studies show that being awe inspired by experiencing the great outdoors, reveling in art and even aspects of spirituality are anti-inflammatory. Researchers found that positive emotions associated with experiencing these wonders are linked to lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (proteins that signal the immune system to work harder). Nature heals, so look no further than life’s beautiful creations to reduce inflammation.

Try meditation. Meditation reduces the expression of genes involved in the inflammatory process. Find a meditation or mindfulness practice that works for you and stick to it. Deepak Chopra put it simply when he said this about meditation, “ If you’re doing it, you’re doing it right.”

Enjoy an oil massage. Everyone loves a good massage! Receiving therapeutic massage is known to decrease inflammation amongst so many other health benefits. Just make sure the oil being used is organic and good enough to eat because your skin is absorbing the oils through the skin. In ayurveda, certain infused oils are believed to reduce inflammation including:

  • Mahanaranyan oil - A classic recipe that contains over 54 ayurvedic herbs. It is used to improve flexibility, decrease stiffness, prevent muscle fatigue, and remove pain.
  • Dhanwantharam thailam - Treats pain in the joints due to excess vata.
  • Kottam Chukkadi thailam - Also used to treat ailments caused by excessive vata. It relieves pain and inflammation in the joints and is used extensively for sciatica (lower back pain), arthritis and spondylosis.
  • Penda Thailam - A cooling oil used for rheumatic disorders and excess pitta. Great for  pain relief and inflammation in the joints.
  • Valiya Narayan thailam - This oil also relieves joint pain due to arthritis by balancing the vata and pitta dosha.

Explore Ayurvedic herbs. The following herbs are great for treating inflammation.

  • Ashwaganda- This pinnacle rejuvenating Ayurvedic rasayana herb is used for many health conditions. Clinical studies have shown it to relieve the pain of RA. It’s naturally occurring steroidal content is even higher than that of hydrocortisone.
  • Boswellia Serrata- This herb is showing amazing healing effects for Osteoarthritis (OA). It has even helped patients who were bedridden providing rapid results. It helps in particular with knee pain, flexibility and swelling.
  • Turmeric- Turmeric a is a powerful root used to treat all inflammation in the body and has shown great promise with treating OA and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). It is anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial and an hepatoprotective root that is used as a cure-all. It inhibits the action of inflammatory agents and according to a recent study, is more effective than taking rheumatoid drugs or anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for relieving pain.
  • Ginger- Ginger is a root that is so heavily prescribed that many take it on a daily basis to increase agni (digestion). The medicinal properties are vast from everything to stomach problems to joint pain. It’s an extremely powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. In studies, patients with RA reported increased joint mobility, pain relief, decreased swelling and reduced morning stiffness.
  • Guggul - Used to treat inflammatory conditions like RA, OA and psoriatic arthritis.

Discover Panchakarma. I think it’s important to say that Ayurveda takes a ‘whole being’ approach to treating conditions and typically combines therapies in something called panchakarma (a cleansing and rejuvenating detox program) to integrate all therapies. It combines nutritional changes and herbs or fasting, oil massage treatments, yoga, meditation, and ayurvedic guidance in this special detox program. In my experience as an Ayurvedic practitioner, combining treatments for total mind-body wellness is where the magic happens and the most healing takes place.


Bess O'Connor

Bess O’Connor, a certified Ayurvedic and Holistic Health Practitioner, explores the heart of health at the core of alternative medicine, massage therapy, conscious movement, nutrition, meditation and other healing traditions.


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