Inflammation has become the latest medical buzzword, but it’s hard to suss out what it really means. Sure, we all know that inflammation is a rush of white blood cells to fight an infection, but its real effect on the body seems a bit more difficult to wrap your head around.
Equally as mysterious is how to go about treating inflammation and what methods are most effective for calming its symptoms, like redness, swelling, joint pain and stiffness and even body parts that are hot to the touch. Integrative medicine might be the solution to your inflammation woes. But what exactly does integrative medicine mean? And how can you use it as an all-encompassing weapon to fight inflammation?
What Is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine is simple to define, but can take a bit more effort to put into practice. Explore: the Journal of Science and Healing defines it as providing care that is “patient centered, healing oriented, emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and uses therapeutic approaches originating from conventional and alternative medicine.” This whole-package approach was said to have emerged as a result of consumer demand, but can now be seen as a potential solution to the American healthcare crisis.
Integrative medicine takes into consideration the mind, body and spirit of the patient, rather than just focusing on the physical, says Andrew Weil in Health and Healing: the Philosophy of Integrative Medicine. There has even been substantial evidence of the efficacy of some methods of an integrated approach to treating premenstrual syndrome, reports the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
How Does Inflammation Fit In?
The term “inflammation” as it applies to medicine has been passed down from ancient times, which has resulted in a vague definition. But medical professionals universally agree that it’s an immune response from living tissue that leads to a flood of blood cells and fluids to the affected area. Asthma, infected ingrown toenails, appendicitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, sinusitis and active hepatitis are all considered inflammatory diseases, but the list of things that cause inflammation continues, even including some foods, like sugar, refined carbohydrates and the hot button- gluten.
How Can Integrative Medicine Help?
Integrative medicine can look at all aspects of what might be causing inflammation – the physical, mental and spiritual. Stress management is just one way that the integrative approach can help mitigate inflammation. A study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity claims that stress can produce a response that triggers an inflammatory process. Neuropeptides or other inflammatory mediators can be released from sensory nerves. Using an integrative strategy like mindfulness-based stress reduction may result in the reduction of inflammation. This technique is highlighted in a study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
An anti-inflammatory diet as part of an integrative medicine intervention could help prevent and ease the symptoms of a host of diseases. The University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine Department of Family Medicine published a food plan instructing patients to avoid unhealthy fats, eat fruits and vegetables and make sure they’re getting enough fiber. This, they say, could potentially have an impact on inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
According to another study, an integrative approach to lifestyle changes and medical intervention can affect the inflammatory process and potentially lead to longer, healthier lives and fewer burdens on an already burdened medical system.
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