Natural Ways to Combat Inflammation
Vol.6 Issue 5

By Rich Burkholder
Director, Aero-Fitness Health Center

Inflammation - or rather - a better and more encompassing description, "systemic Inflammation," is a literal assault and represents a "war on the body." We have to wage war from an informed and dietary standpoint to win this war that rages within our bodies. Addressing inflammation sourced problems with only medication may help with symptom management, but often will not lead to a place of curing the body of this devastating disease that affects millions of people.

I approach this subject from a very personal standpoint, unlike I have ever shared completely with very many people. I take this approach to better serve you, in an effort to emphasize the vital importance of understanding the havoc that is taking place within your body as a result of improper nutrition and other lifestyle choices that contribute to systemic inflammation.

Healthy Isn't a Goal.  It's a Way of Living

When I was 28 years old and only a few months after I had undergone a complete executive physical (in which I was at near peak physical condition), I was diagnosed with Reiter’s Syndrome. Another name for this Syndrome that is more descriptive is "reactive arthritis." This syndrome affects mostly men with a certain and rare gene type, BLA-27. According to the Doctor, my body was being attacked by a virus that interacted with this gene and caused my body to go into extreme systemic inflammation. It was a literal assault on my entire body and organs.

In fact, what compelled me to go to the hospital (in which I worked at the time) was that I was exhibiting signs of a heart attack. Now remember, a few months prior, I had performed a complete physical where my VO2 Max was at 63 (very good cardiovascular condition), my resting heart rate was in the 50’s and my body fat was 5.5%. After many nuclear and physical tests, I learned of my diagnosis of Reiter’s Syndrome. The heart pain was the result of tricuspid and mitral valve regurgitation. This diagnosis was the result of systemic inflammation caused by the Syndrome. In addition, I was diagnosed with Iritus, conjunctivitis, synovitis, arthritis, Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis, etc. You get the picture. My body was inflamed and attacking itself. This is why they renamed the syndrome to "Reactive Arthritis" many years later. This syndrome is a systemic attack on most every joint and even on some organs, as I learned. I felt like my body was shutting down. This diagnosis and weakening condition of my body led to a ruptured Achilles tendon, a ruptured patellar tendon and synovectomy on one of my knee joints, in addition to those diagnoses mentioned above. At the time and because of my limited understanding of what was taking place within my body, the only approach the Doctors knew to take was prescription medication. They had me on the highest prescription dosage of an anti-inflammatory called Indomethacin and a common oral cancer drug called Methotrexate to suppress my immune system. I was on these medications for just over a year, all the while managing the side effects of low energy and memory loss. These side effects are what led me to an extensive study on how to combat this inflammatory process taking place in my body that was also yielding a low quality of life. In addition, I did not exercise for most of that year since it would only seem to exacerbate the inflammation. I know this is an extreme case of inflammation and arthritis issues but I was hoping with this lead in, I might gain your full attention if you happen to be dealing with arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or any other inflammatory disorder. In fact, maybe you have been diagnosed with and are currently managing Reiter’s Syndrome or Ankylosing Spondylitis. Whatever your reason to continue reading, my hope is that this information will help you in a powerful and life altering way.

So, if you are managing any form of arthritis, I know that the following recommendations can dramatically help your body to naturally combat these painful and sometimes debilitating symptoms. Let me emphasize that I am not a doctor. I have, however, served in some health professional capacity for over 34 years and more importantly, I have personally incorporated and continue to use daily (since my epiphany at age 29), natural ways to combat inflammation mentioned later in this article.

Before I begin, let me highlight the many ways systemic inflammation wreaks havoc within your body. Inflammation induces autoimmune reactions and can disrupt thyroid hormone function, it can affect the linings of the airway resulting in allergies and asthma, it can restrict blood flow to the kidneys, damage the intestinal lining that can result in Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease. Inflammatory cytokines cause autoimmune reactions in the brain which can lead to depression, poor memory, Alzheimer’s, autism and Multiple Sclerosis. As I personally experienced, inflammation in the heart. Inflammation can also affect arterial and venous walls that can contribute to heart valve malfunction, heart disease, stroke, high blood sugar and anemia. Long term systemic or chronic inflammation can lead to an enlarged liver and many other subtle but serious conditions over time. I have discovered that these medical conditions can be greatly impacted by the natural ways to combat inflammation, and that we don’t have to be dependent on medication completely - or at all. I must mention that medication did help me immensely and bridged me to where I am at today with my health.

The top five foods that feed or better yet, fuel inflammation, that you will want to reduce greatly or completely avoid are sugars including artificial sweeteners, refined grains, saturated fat (oils), grain fed meat, alcohol, Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and other artificial food additives.

Of these listed, I mention sugar first and for a reason. Sugar is very detrimental to our health and is the number one cause of systemic inflammation and other health conditions. By cutting sugar out by 80-90 percent, you should notice a significant difference in how you feel within two weeks and any arthritic symptoms will often be decreased, and you will have more energy. It may take a little longer but do know that virtually eliminating sugar will have a huge impact on your improved health.

Like many others - myself included - especially when I was younger, I took no thought to how much sugar was in my daily diet. I knew years of use and abuse would not just be reversed overnight. But I did know from my extensive research, that if I continued my bad habits, my health condition would only worsen. But, if I altered my intake of sugar, I would soon be feeling better and eventually I eliminated all of my severe symptoms.

In fact, testing has revealed that my heart no longer reveals valve regurgitation and my health continues to be excellent. I want these kind of results for you. I want you to experience much less or no pain and greater vitality of life. I want you to look, feel and perform better each day. I want you to live a long and strong life. Not a life riddled with chronic symptoms and disease and a quality of life less than you desire. I want you to believe that you can feel better and that there are natural ways that you can improve your health and life. You do not have to accept your medical diagnosis as final. Had I done that, I may not be writing this article today almost 30 years later. It may take a greater investment in your health. You may have to buy more expensive food items but you will also be cutting out many food items that feed your systemic inflammation. Before I leave you with the steps you can take, let me provide one thought. You can either invest in yourself and better health or you may pay a price for bad health sometime in the future. Which one will it be for you?

Inflammation human.
Inflammatory diseases

The following recommendations are steps that you can take on your path of incorporating natural ways to improve your health and decrease systemic inflammation.

  1. Healthy Diet
    1. Consume dark leafy greens.
    2. Omega 3’s: Salmon, sardines, cod, krill, flax, chia.
    3. Berries are full of antioxidants and protect from free radical damage. Think of antioxidants as ANTI-IMFLAMMATORIES.
    4. Spices such as turmeric/curcumin and ginger have been shown to lower inflammation. (Note: I use curcumin daily)
  2. Proper Hydration
    1. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day. Not all at once but spread throughout the day.
    2. Dehydration steals hydration from your joints which leads to toxin build-up, leading to pain and inflammation.
    3. Drink Water. Coffee and other caffeine-laden drinks dehydrate you at the cellular level and affect performance and your overall health. Limit your coffee to 1-2 cups per day but remember to drink lots of water.
  3. Sleep
    1. Sleep is key to rehydrating your body and joints. Sleep deprivation can lead to an elevated immune response and increased inflammation. Target 7-8 hours/night.
  4. Exercise
    1. Moderate, regular exercise causes the body to release hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream, which activates the adrenergic receptors of immune cells. This is good!
    2. Always hydrate before, during and after exercise. Exercise does release free radicals into the bloodstream. If exercise is not followed up with water and proper nutrition including antioxidants, it can cause systemic inflammation.
  5. Gut Health
    1. Good bacteria such as Bifidobacterium has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce common biomarkers of inflammation including C-reactive protein.
    2. Ways to improve "Gut Health" include eating fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, Kim chi, apple cider vinegar and/or taking high quality probiotics.
  6. Supplements
    1. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) or Organic Sulphur. This is truly a miracle supplement and is found naturally in some foods that we eat. I take this in powder form every single day. It has tremendous anti-inflammatory properties and can help anyone with immune system or arthritic type conditions.
    2. Curcumin/Turmeric as mentioned above but worth noting as this can be purchased in capsule form.

I hope this article spurs you on to further research the "Natural Ways" that you can combat systemic inflammation and make a radical change in how you feel and perform each and every day. I have gone from a very severe and extreme diagnosis with debilitating conditions, major physical injuries and a heart condition (where I was dependent on medication to function) to living a life virtually symptom-free, that is full of activity and exercise, having defied medical science.

I live by faith, and do believe that the "Natural Way" to better health in reducing systemic inflammation is the best way, and is one which I live out of necessity.

I encourage you to adopt some of these changes for your better health. You can do it. You can make the necessary changes. Make a decision today to incorporate the recommendations and observe your health improving week by week; month by month; year by year. You can do it… I believe in you!

In all that you do, "Keep Pressing On To Higher Ground" in every area of your life.


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