Inflammation: Cause or Effect?

As I drove to work today, I was listening to the news and one of the topics was side-effects of anti-inflammatory medications. That news story made me want to express the holistic approach to healing versus the western medicine approach to treating conditions. Inflammation is a great way to explain this concept so central to dynamic health.

Inflammation in our bodies is characterized by a few cardinal signs: swelling, redness, heat, and pain. Inflammation may be easily visible to the naked eye, as in a severely sprained ankle. In contrast, inflammation can be deep in our tissues. An example of this that I commonly see in my office is patients complaining of digestive problems that upon examining and palpating their abdomen, I find have severe tenderness to even light pressure. This tenderness to light pressure is a sign that they have intestinal inflammation. It isn’t visible from the surface, but nonetheless their digestive tissues are inflamed.

One other distinction when talking about inflammation is inflammation that isovert versus inflammation that is on a microscopic level. People can have “systemic” body-wide inflammation that causes plaquing of their arteries or hastens the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Inflammation doesn’t have to be visible, it can be microscopic. The more we learn about inflammation the more we realize its implication in a wide variety of conditions.

So when a patient presents to a doctor’s office today complaining of inflammation, what is the doctor’s response? I would hope that it would be to determine the CAUSE of the inflammation. That is what I do every day in my office.

A simpler, quicker, and one-size-fits-all approach is to give each patient an anti- inflammatory medication. This addresses the EFFECT, which is inflammation, without expending any effort to diagnose the cause of the patient’s inflammation. This approach drives me crazy! Sadly, this is the standard of care for most doctors.

So you may ask, “What can be a CAUSE of inflammation in my body?” Here is a brief list of common causes of inflammation:

  • Improper joint biomechanics: For example, if you ride a bike frequently to get exercise and your knee starts to hurt, the geometry of your bicycle could be causing abnormal wear and tear on your knee.
  • Tight muscles causing abnormal wear on joints: If your muscles aren’t balanced and working properly they cause joints to degenerate at an accelerated rate.
  • An inflammatory diet: The Standard American Diet (SAD), consisting of lots of grains, refined carbohydrates, tons of dairy, processed foods, and red meat is inflammatory. On the other hand, fresh fruits and vegetables, cold water fish, and unprocessed whole foods are anti-inflammatory.
  • Subclinical immune challenges: This could be anything from a semi- dormant virus, such as hepatitis, to an infection smoldering away in a tooth underneath a crown. “Subclinical” means the infection isn’t keeping you in bed or giving you overt symptoms. Nonetheless, it is putting strain on your body and causing inflammation.
  • A lack of anti-inflammatory pre-cursor nutrients: Your body makes its own anti-inflammatory molecules that are great at quenching the inflammatory fire. But you need the basic nutrients like EPA (an Omega 3 oil) and the vitamin and mineral cofactors to be able to produce them.
  • Poor adrenal gland health: Your adrenal glands, your “stress glands,” produce cortisone and cortisol which have anti-inflammatory properties. If your adrenals are “stressed out” then your body won’t be able to produce adequate amounts of either of these hormones.
  • Metabolic syndrome or Insulin Resistance: These conditions, which are becoming more and more prevalent in our society, are very inflammatory.

Can you see why it is important to look for the cause of inflammation? I went to college for 8+ years to learn how the human body works. I also learned how to diagnosis causes of inflammation and solve them, in most causes, by natural means. I have devoted my life to solving patient’s health complaints, and I LOVE doing it.

I hope you will give me the opportunity to find the CAUSE of your health
complaint. In today’s health care environment, more and more patients are fed up with covering over the symptoms with medications. They want a doctor that will go to bat for them and put in the work necessary to solve the mystery of their pain. I’m excited to be that doctor for you.


Dr. Brant Pedersen (DC)