Driving on a main route, signs and signposts direct you and alert you to problems ahead. Similarly, our body signals not only when it’s fighting fit, but also to warn of potential threats you’d be wise to avert.
Inflammation is the most common indicator of something not right, whether injury or illness. Injury is immediately apparent, and best dealt with at once. Illness, or unwellness, is less easily identified; insidious and persistent. That’s why inflammation in any part of our body is such an invaluable pointer to a disorder that needs to be identified and treated.
A conventional medical response to inflammatory conditions is to offer a chemical drug as a remedy. To take only one example, osteoarthritis –extremely prevalent in the over-65s, adversely affects quality of life with its limitations on mobility and constant aches and pains that can escalate to crippling agony.
We’re not all keen on prescription medicines long-term, though they can be a beneficial, short-term solution. So it’s good to know that for some years now there’s been intense and ongoing global research (including at the University of Otago) into inflammation as linked to specific ailments, and, more worryingly, as an identified precursor to dreaded illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes and dementia.
Inflammation is also a threat to ageing well, and it’s the elderly who are most often on a combination of medications that can result in unanticipated side-effects. That research is proving useful in confirming the role of natural and drug-free methods of combating inflammation and the conditions indicated by its presence.
Robin Grierson of the Red Flax Clinic, Ohauiti, is a qualified naturopath, herbalist and massage therapist with a professional interest in homeopathy, pro-biotics and organics. Her ethos is to restore and maintain good health and wellbeing among her clients.
“Inflammation has always been the body’s way of telling us something is badly wrong,” she says. “You recognised the symptoms and dealt with the cause by whatever natural means you could. However, in today’s toxic environment, with most food over-processed and with high levels of stress an unwelcome norm, inflammation has become what research is revealing as a rogue phenomenon.”
She explains further. “Our bodies are over-reacting to the multitude of stressors to which we are exposed that can trigger an inflammatory response not necessarily linked to any existing condition. When talking of a toxic environment, we can consider pollution, or ponder on the liberal use of Roundup in our gardens, on farms and by councils. I’m not talking only about getting rid of weeds, though there are better alternatives. Roundup is being used on cereals and other crops to boost growth before harvesting, or even, for example, as a defoliant on carrots and potatoes. With rising levels of food sensitivities, particularly to gluten and lactose, high-risk allergies, asthma and other respiratory disorders, it’s important to start asking ourselves how much of this is necessary or desirable.”
The naturopathic response is, in general, to encourage us all to return to a closer connection with nature through food organically grown, and prepared and cooked in our own kitchens. Robin is also an advocate for boosting health and wellbeing through increased levels of fitness by exercise and diet.
“We’re too sedentary,” she maintains.
“Good health is all about balance. Personally, I believe that eating well is a prime directive for staying healthy, and yes, we probably still need natural supplements because we’ve compromised our food supply and made ourselves too busy, too preoccupied, to stop and work out what ails us and what will cure.”
Some of the natural supplements she recommends are Omega 3 fish oils, Vitamin C and Vitamin B complex. Oh, and superfoods such as the ‘reds and greens’ in vegetables and fruit.” She ticks them off on her fingers. “Beetroot, red cabbage, red onions, kale, silverbeet, spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli are essential to our diet, as are raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, blackberries. And herbs, of course – add them to every meal you dish up, both raw and cooked. And spices like ginger and turmeric can be vital.”
“It’s not that complicated,” says Robin. “Taking care of yourself is basic good sense. We should be grateful our bodies let us know when we’re going wrong. Every human being is a unique composition and that’s why the naturopathic approach begins, always, with a detailed assessment of clients and their bad habits. Habits that can be changed to good any time we want to, and in only ninety days.”
Change as a destination for good health. Isn’t that worth exploring?
Jenny Argante is a freelance researcher, writer and editor, and co-edits Freelancemagazine, the only New Zealand magazine for creative writers of all kinds. She lives in Tauranga and has helped new writers to produce over forty books
The Red Flax Clinic
44 Woodleigh Place
Bay of Plenty 3112
T: 07 544 5007
M: 027 621 59 69
Naturopathic Council of New Zealand ncnz.co.nz
Tauranga Herb Society Secretary: Tel 07 544 2152