The term inflammation gets kicked around a lot these days in terms of health. On the surface, we recognize this condition as pain, swelling, and skin redness you may experience with a joint or skin injury. And that’s about half right.
We tend to think inflammation is a bad sign, but sometimes the inflammatory response is an indication of healing – a good thing.
Inflammation comes in two varieties – acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is the body’s normal “take-action” response to a threat, which can be from a foreign organism (bacteria, virus, etc.), a toxin or an injury. The inflammatory response causes increased blood supply to the battlefront where immune cells and nutrients come the body’s aid to initiate the healing process.
Take for example, a little papercut. The skin around the cut gets red, swollen and is tender to the touch. This signifies that your white blood cells (immune cells) are doing their job to start the healing process. Within a few days, you’re likely to be over the worst of it and on your way to a full recovery from the wound.
It’s the prolonged, chronic inflammation that means trouble. And you typically can’t see it or feel it like acute inflammation. It’s the silent and potentially dangerous type.
This chronic condition can happen for different reasons: the immune system didn’t do a thorough job at neutralizing the threat, the immune system starts recognizing healthy tissue as being harmful and attacks itself (autoimmune response), persistent exposure to an irritant or even genetics.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of disease states and is thought be, by some medical professionals, a root cause to disease formation. It’s been recognized as a key contributor to high blood pressure, joint pain, autoimmune diseases, obesity, allergies, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Not to mention inflammation’s role in the aging process.
|Allergy||Sensitivities that cause inflammation|
|Alzheimer's Disease||Chronic inflammation destroys brain cells|
|Anemia||Inflammatory cytokines attack erythropoietin production|
|Asthma||Inflammatory cytokines trigger autoimmune reactions against airway lining|
|Autism||Inflammatory cytokines trigger autoimmune reactions in the brain and interfere with right hemisphere development|
|Arthritis||Inflammatory cytokines cause deterioration of join cartilage and synovial fluid|
|Carpal Tunnel Syndrome||Chronic inflammation induces muscle tension that shorten forearm tendons and compressed wrist nerves|
|Celiac Disease||Chronic inflammation damages intestinal lining|
|Crohn's Disease||Chronic inflammation damages intestinal lining|
|Congestive Heart Failure||Chronic inflammation contributes to wasting of heart muscle|
|Gallbladder Disease||Inflammation of the bile duct or excess cholesterol production in response to gut inflammation|
|GERD||Esophageal and digestive tract inflammation due to food sensitivity and imbalanced stomach acid|
|Heart Attack||Chronic inflammation contributes to arterial plaque build-up|
|Kidney Failure||Inflammatory cytokines damage kidney tissue|
|Multiple Sclerosis||Inflammatory cytokines trigger autoimmune reactions against nerve lining|
|Psoriasis||Chronic inflammation in the gut and liver|
|Rheumatoid Arthritis||Inflammatory cytokines trigger autoimmune reactions against joints|
|Stroke||Chronic inflammation triggers thromboembolism|
How does chronic inflammation manifest?
Frequently it starts in the gut as an autoimmune reaction that can turn into systemic inflammation.
Over time, inflammatory triggers cycled through the blood can affect organs, nerves, muscles, joints and connective tissues. You could silently be housing inflammation long before it’s perceived as a disease.
Addressing inflammation at the root
The fact that common Western medicine practices attempt to merely manage the symptoms of inflammation doesn’t help. Treatment is often geared toward suppressing the immune response with steroids and other suppressing medications. But this approach doesn’t address the underlying cause nor does it promote the repair of damaged tissues.
Getting back to the gut, some health professionals believe that many inflammatory diseases start in the gut, even when they don’t present as digestive issues. That’s because several inflammatory triggers can break down the permeability of the intestinal lining, allowing partially undigested food, toxins and pathogens to enter the bloodstream – this is what’s known as leaky gut syndrome. And this becomes an open door for the spread of systemic inflammation.
Common factors for gastrointestinal dysfunction that promote chronic inflammation include:
Diet – Especially alcohol, gluten, casein, processed foods, sugar
Medications – Corticosteroids, antibiotics, antacids, xenobiotics
Infections – H. pylori, yeast overgrowth, viral or parasitic infection
Stress – Increased cortisol
Hormones – Imbalance of thyroid, progesterone, testosterone and estradiol hormones
Metabolism – Inflammatory end products of sugar metabolism and intestinal inflammation
How can you tackle inflammation from within?
First of all, try to avoid the traditional pharmaceuticals like non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen. According to John Finnell, N.D., director of the doctoral program and research at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine in Austin, Texas, these drugs suppress the immune system and inhibit the body’s ability to heal itself. They might temporarily take the pain away, but continual use can lead to deterioration of tissues.
Focus on nourishing the body with anti-inflammatory foods:
And ideally staying clear of a pro-inflammatory diet that includes fast food, fried foods, refined sugars and grains. Generally, processed foods.
There are also several dietary supplements to consider that have anti-inflammatory properties:
And equally important is maintaining the health of the good probiotic bacteria in the gut. Your immune system is highly dependent on the thriving microflora. So keep the body supplied with cultured foods or a quality probiotic supplement.