Inflammation: Is it the enemy? Or is it your friend?

larm rmah

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

In the fitness world, inflammation often gets bad press. It is perceived as an enemy of the body simply because when we are inflamed we’ve usually experienced some form of injuries and chronic pain. It’s certainly true that inflammation can be associated with almost about every major health problem we have in medicine today.

So… when people talk of inflammation that they immediately think of it as the bad guy..

This really isn’t the case.

We actually need a healthy amount of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is evidence of an active response to injury or illness by your immune system. Its function is to remove cellular debris from the site of damage and facilitate repair.

Like everyone, you’ve been injured, so your truth is that the injured area becomes stiff and sore. Your body can’t actually speak, so its way of telling you to be gentle on yourself is to limit range of motion in the affected area to prevent further damage. The body is applying its own version of a “splint” to allow it time to heal. Increased inflammation isn’t bad – it’s a part of your healing process.

It’s important not to upset this process by the body so that it can do the job properly.

Right now there’s quite a debate about the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method. It’s been around in sports therapy for a long time simply because there have been a tremendous amount of studies that show that chilling an area after injury can help it by slowing up the ‘healing process’. Ice slows blood flow, and also slows down inflammation response.

We  end up taking on seemingly ‘logical’ methods that, while look good on paper, aren’t really ideal for what we are trying to accomplish. When we are injured, we need inflammation to do its job to heal that area, assist in getting the area mobile again, increasing blood flow, so that the healing process is sped up. But.. we don’t consult our own body about the strategy, do we? If we did it’d most likely:

Go Away and let me get on with my time-proven healing system!

Inflammation is not ‘bad’. It has many positive benefits. The real issue with inflammation is preventing it becoming chronic. This is when inflammation starts creating problems in our lives.

Much exercise creates what is terms by sports scientists as ‘micro trauma’ at the cellular level. We mortals call it muscular damage.
When this happens there’s a repair process that does involve an inflammatory response. Its purpose is a positive one that we should try to accept. It helps to promote healing and it is a part of the process of helping your muscles get stronger, and more ready for future training sessions. Actually, it’s often a stated goal of training regimens. This is the mild form of inflammation, and many of us feel it after exercise. It’s a component that helps us avoid more soreness from future training sessions. Most of us understand the process. It’s a part of the adaptation principle to stresses or demands on our body. In this way we can see the healthy inflammation response as something we can welcome in order to get stronger, faster, and more prepared for future training sessions.

This is a good thing… but chronic inflammation is something very different.

Chronic inflammation occurs when we managed to cause either too much damage at the cellular level, or we have created repetitive stress in a particular joint or soft tissue. Go crazy in the gym and do four times as much work as you usually do and can’t walk right for days and days after. That’s a good way to get chronic inflammation.

Excessive muscle soreness can seriously compromise our performance – just because we can’t actually stand the pain. One study of runners experiencing severe delayed onset muscle soreness showed running performance was reduced by as much as three percent. It may not look like a lot, but when over the entire lifetime of a runner’s performance lifespan their economy is only reduced on average by about 10 percent, that’s a significant amount.

So.. a bit of soreness isn’t much to worry about. It’s part of our natural adaptation to a new body stressor. However, a significant degree of soreness that changes movement patterns means that  the joints will end up moving in ways to protect the injured area and  create an environment for more injuries or problems.

Ok. So where does that leave us? For me, at age 69, my running days are over and I can amass enough pain and stiffness from a day in the garden. I have found two things to be very, very helpful, to the point that s long as I remember them, I am up bright and early the next day ready for another round of weed pulling.

I have two golden rules” Drink enough water – obviously my alkaline hydrogen rich water.. and I boost that with a small bottle of the same water plus two I LOVE H2 tablets dissolved in the same water, so I am getting a  real ‘hit’ of H2.

And why am I so confident of this strategy? Well it works for me, but if you care to take a closer look at the amazing science of molecular hydrogen you’ll see that just one of its many health supporting properties is support for our natural inflammation cycle. In short, it supercharges my perfectly normal and healthy inflammation response and so shortens the time it takes to do the job I’ve set it with my previous day’s exertions.

More on my water here

More on I LOVE H2 here

All the science here