Inflammation is a catalyst of all the signs of aging in our bodies.
Inflammation is the bodies response to something going wrong. It could be a bacterial or viral attack, an injury, or an exposure to an allergen or dangerous chemical. It is a protective mechanism meant to guard the body from harm. The function of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out damaged cells and tissue, and initiate tissue repair. The five signs of inflammation are heat, pain, redness, swelling, and loss of function. The trouble with inflammation is that it often times becomes chronic, and begins to cause problems, not protect from them.
Chronic Inflammation vs acute inflammation
Chronic inflammation can result from a multitude of problems. These can include a chronic low grade infection, autoimmune diseases (possibly linked to chronic low grade infection), dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the natural bacteria in your gut, chronic stress, inactivity, poor diet that is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, eating foods that cause an allergic reaction, and repeated exposure to chemicals and/ or medications that cause an immune response. Examples of more complex chronic inflammation include psoriasis, eczema, insulin resistance, etc.
Acute inflammation results from something the sees as a threat, or that is damaging to the body. Once the pathogen or allergen is removed, the inflammation goes away. Inflammation on skin presents itself with redness, itchiness, hives, broken blood vessels, Inflammation on skin can be caused by both natural and synthetic compounds, with some compounds causing irritation in a large amount of the population, and some only affecting certain individuals. It’s important to monitor the ingredients in your personal care products, and how you react to changes in your care regimen, including changes in laundry detergents and cleaning products.
How to address skin inflammation
Defending yourself against inflammation requires a two pronged approach. You have to root out the cause, but you also have to treat the symptoms.
Often, chronic inflammation is the result of burning the candle at both ends. It’s hard to make time for self care when you’re that busy. Cooking healthy meals is replaced by eating convenient foods. Exercising, enjoying a hobby, learning about what supplements you should take all takes time. When we don’t make time for these things, the stress starts building, and our ability to handle is diminished because of our diet and exercise habits. This decreases our immune systems ability to function properly, which could lead to a low grade chronic infection.
The way to stop this death spiral is to dig in and start to address one problem area at a time. Take a walk every day. Start adding in 1-2 servings of vegetables at every meal. Write in a prayer journal. Take a probiotic and multi-vitamin daily. Participate in a hobby that you find rewarding every week. Any one of these steps will help to improve your health, and give you more momentum to take on the next area.
Chronic inflammation can also result from frequently being exposed to something you are allergic to. This might be a food that you are eating or an environmental factor such as mold or chemicals. If you think you might have food allergies, the Whole 30 diet plan is a great place to start to find out what is irritating your body.
Calm the symptoms of inflammation
There are quite a few natural remedies that help reduce inflammation in the skin.
- Apricot Kernel Oil – Apricot Kernel Oil is very light oil that is easily absorbed into skin. It’s high in oleic acid, which means that it’s great at softening skin. It is also high B-sitosterol. B-sitosterol is sort of like the plant version of cortisone, and it helps to reduce the itchy, dry skin feeling. Citrus Grove Skin Smoothing Oil and our Royal Treatment Face Cream both contain apricot kernel oil and olive squalane, so it’s very soothing to skin.
- Coconut Oil- Coconut oil is one of the best skin softening oils known to man. It’s high in plant polyphenols, so it has great anti-oxidant power, as well as soothing to skin. Coconut oil has been shown to be acne forming and pore clogging in some individuals, so you might not want to use it on your face. (I have heard from many people that they don’t have any trouble using it on their face, though.) Coconut oil also helps to reduce itching and inflammation in skin. Our Citrus Grove Skin Smoothing oil and our Honey Bee Hand Cream both contain organic extra virgin coconut oil.
- Probiotics- Just like our guts, our skin has a microbiome that can be disrupted. When this biome becomes unbalanced, we can experience redness, inflammation, or acne. Applying probiotics topically to skin has been shown to reduce the appearance of redness and fine lines associated with inflammation. Both our Honey Bee Hand Creams, Happy Baby Butt Butter. and Royal Treatment Face Cream contain probiotics. An easy at home remedy to relieve inflammation is to apply plain yogurt to the affected area, let dry, then rinse off.
- Calendula- Calendula petals are a tried and true remedy. They have been used for ages to help calm red and inflamed skin. You can infuse oil with calendula petals, then apply to irritated skin. I would suggest infusing calendula petals into an anti-oxidant rich, calming oil such as apricot kernel oil for maximum benefit. Our Calendula soap uses calendula infused oils, as well as petals added to the soap at the trace, so that the wonderful properties of the flower are in the bar, without too many whole petals floating around the tub.
- Allantoin- Allantoin is the active ingredient in aloe and comphrey root. It has been shown to reduce redness and irritation and promote wound healing 1. Our Royal Treatment Face Cream, Happy Baby Butt Butter, and Bee Rugged Hand Salve.
- Essential Oils- Lavender, Geranium, Rose, Clary Sage, and German Chamomile are all excellent for calming inflammation.
So to recap, eat healthy, exercise, make time for recreation. Use natural oils and botanicals to calm inflammation and give your lifestyle changes time to work. Through the years I have found that I am allergic to gluten and milk. There are other foods that I’ve found I can only eat in small doses without causing a reaction. I steer clear of strongly scented products, and try to use natural alternatives in my cleaning, as my lungs have become very sensitive to chemicals. I would love to hear what has worked for you in beating inflammation.
- Klouchek-Popova E et al. Acta Physiol Pharmacol Bulg. 1982;8(4):63-7.