Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hot/Cold and Inflammation

Are you supposed to apply hot or cold to an inflamed injury? The answer is both and oddly enough I think that this answer involves the science behind acupunture.

Inflammation is a cell and tissue response to insult and injury -- damaged cells release chemical signals that recruit help from neighboring and also from distant parts of the body. The signals and response result in dilation of local blood vessels, swelling, accumulation of white blood cells, warming of the injured tissue and pain, i.e. inflammation. This is a dramatic and potentially dangerous response for the body as a whole. If too much tissue is involved, the blood pressure plummets and lethal shock results. Some inflammation is needed for the body to protect itself and heal following an injury, but the response must be limited.

Inflammation spreads and is self-perpetuating -- inflamed cells tend to stimulate neighboring cells to participate in the inflammation. The body blocks this spreading cycle by a regional anti-inflammatory response. In essence local inflammation occurs in a region of tissue that is becoming less responsive to inflammatory signals -- sensations of pain as well as hot and cold that are interpreted in the brain as a result of nerve signals from distant tissues result in responses through the vagus nerve complex that result in the regional production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Application of hot or cold to an injured area results in a decrease in pain and inflammation. Initial application of cold is thought to slow the initial inflammation, but subsequently either hot or cold is anti-inflammatory. This appears to be a skin response that effects deeper tissues. Hot pepper products containing capsaicin (left) or cooling menthol (right) ointments work to reduce inflammation by stimulating the same receptor proteins for hot and cold. A convenient source of fast acting menthol is Vick's VapoRub. Oddly the unusual fatty acids (below) in castor oil also work by binding to the hot receptor.[figures from Wikipedia]

You can test the impact of castor oil by chewing a hot pepper, rinsing and drying your hot mouth and then rubbing your mouth with castor oil. The castor oil is related in structure to olive oil, so it has a similar taste. In about 30 seconds the castor oil penetrates the lining of your mouth and reaches the hot receptors already triggered by the hot pepper caspsaicin and the hot sensation dissipates.

You can also get pain relief by applying castor oil to hands and feet experiencing arthritic pain or tendonitis. Interestingly, with the regional response of the anti-inflammatory system, pain in a finger can be relieved by application of castor oil or menthol to the base of the finger or even around the wrist. Sweat bands or cotton gloves or socks can be used to prolong the treatment overnight and you will awaken with very soft skin [Most of the oil will be absorbed and the remainder is like a mild soap, so it is easily washed off the surface.] and relief from inflammation. Results may vary, but it can be very dramatic. Castor oil treatments seem to be very effective in reducing pain and inflammation. If it is helpful to you please let me know.

It is my observation that the placement of the castor oil can be used to mimic acupunture. If any readers have results to support or contradict this observation, please comment.


S.s said...

Thanks very much for this information. I have an inflamed SI joint, and was never certain whether to be applying heat or ice. How helpful!

Dr. Art Ayers said...

You might also try menthol, e.g. Vick's VapoRub, or castor oil.

By the way, unless your SI inflammation is due to trauma, back related inflammation is frequently due to intestinal inflammation, e.g. response to gluten. It is very common for celiacs. In that case, the typical anti-inflammatory diet advice would be helpful.

Glad you enjoyed the info.

Mrs. Ed said...

We're going to try this the next time my husband's back pain acts up.

I have been using Vick's on the bottom of my son's feet whenever he has a stuffy nose. It works like a charm.

Vj said...

I have been suffering with a lot of pain on my outer hip (just below outer waist) and physio therapy hasn't helped much. I have been applying some medicinal oil and I would say my pain has reduced to some extent. I would definitely try this out. I have boat load of castor oil in my house! Will also check out your anti-inflammatory diet, I heard turmeric has such properties.

Vj said...

Forgot to mention, I have been diagnosed with very low levels of Vit D, B6, & B12.

Unknown said...

As a physical therapist, I would say, "Find a different physical therapist!". You need someone who can diagnose your movement impairment (from S Sahrmann's work), and prescribe the appropriate exercises.

Dr Chris PT

Anonymous said...


Fresh celery juice will help with your vitamin deficiencies, and I'm told the Russian Olympic team uses it to reduce inflammation, too.

Enjoy in good health!

Twitter: @HealthyBranches

Anonymous said...

I've been suffering from a very painful swollen knee for 3 weeks.
I've been applying castor oil every day for a week.
I liberally massage the oil in around the whole area of the knee.
I have then tightly wrapped 14"cling film as a bandage 7 or 8 times around my knee/leg.
This gives fantastic even support and compression to the joint.
Hopefully the absorption of the oil is encouraged.
I keep this on for up to 8 hours. 4 hours if I have the chance to replace with a fresh castor oil application.
It certainly seems to be working.
The swelling and pain has markedly diminished over the past 4 days.

I've found the cling film a better support than a Velcro elasticated strap knee support. Probably because the pressure is evenly distributed, whereas the elasticated strapping is not.