Presented by Dr. Wes Rocki MD, PhD
Chronic inflammation is often recognized as the underlying cause for many chronic diseases. Commonly, we see inflammation manifest as red and painful joints after a strain of an injury or a sore throat. These are forms of acute inflammation, which is usually beneficial as it is a part of the body’s repair and self-healing. The increased temperature of the inflamed area inhibits or kills bacteria, while the redness represents an increase in local blood flow, which brings an abundance of white blood cells to fight pathogens. The inflammation also produces chemicals to cause local pain, which serves as an important signal for us to be aware of the injured area.
However, chronic inflammation may go from being a beneficial response to becoming a disease of its own, sometimes leading to serious health consequences. Chronic inflammation can happen at the cellular level in practically every organ and body system. For example, it may be a surprise to you that coronary disease has an inflammatory etiology. The same condition in the guts (GI system) causes leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions, all of them leading to GI dysfunction and food malabsorption. Researchers are also noticing a correlation with inflammation in the brain and depression.
What it is the contribution of alternative medicine to managing chronic, systemic inflammation? The approach is multi-faceted, including an anti-inflammatory diet, supplements, and essential oils. An important step is reviewing your environment for toxins (such as in food or at home or work). At the energy level, acupuncture and other tools of energy medicine are useful in mobilizing stagnant or overloaded energy in particular areas. Mind-body approaches such as hypnotherapy help to extinguish the emotional flames of inflammation. Hypnotherapy also helps discover the inner mental toxins e.g. anger, self-hate, victimhood that contributes to chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation may be a response to chronic infections, such as Lyme disease. In these circumstances the focus of alternative medicine is to strengthen the immune system. It is done through healthy lifestyle changes including nutrition, exercise, and supplements. Hormones released during reaction to stress suppress immune function. Mind-body medicine trains patients in healthy management of stress.
It is common for diseases that manifest with chronic inflammation to have a strong psychosomatic component. This means that moods, attitudes, beliefs, faith, and hopelessness all influence the course and outcome of disease. Mind-body medicine tools are particularly effective in addressing these psychosomatic problems by teaching patients how to suppress the negative aspects and strengthen those which support healing.
Still another form of chronic inflammation is seen with autoimmune diseases where inflammation is the result of an overactive immune system turning against one’s own body. Among those diseases are Hashimoto thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis. Alternative medicine uses diet and supplements to bring immune function back to normal. Another important tool is the recognition of the miscommunication between the immune system and the body (the host). Meditation, guided imagery, and hypnotherapy are useful tools towards realigning this inner communication.