what-is-inflammation

Inflammation has now become a big buzzword in the health and wellness world. Currently, a common trend in homeopathic diets is to consume inflammation-reducing food.

Inflammation is a mechanism of the body to signal that something is making the body sick or unwell. After receiving the signal, the body begins the healing process.

What Is the Inflammation Healing Process?

Acute Inflammation

Regarding acute inflammation, the inflammatory period in the healing process can last several days. A cut or scrape is an excellent example of acute inflammation of bodily tissues. When a cut happens, white blood cells are attracted to the area through chemical signals, because fluid from blood vessels leaks and subsequently triggers the signs of acute inflammation and injury—redness, swelling, and warmth.

The injury also triggers local nerve cells which send pain to the spinal cord and brain. Injuries can also trigger immune cells, causing other symptoms, such as fever. At the end of the inflammatory period, monocyte cells arrive and clean up dead cells as well as the foreign matter at the injury site.

Chronic Inflammation—Deep Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a medical theory that suggests injuries are happening deep in our bodies. The offending substance is damaging tissues, but these tissues are not around nerve cells that send profound pain signals to the spinal column or brain. Even though the insulting substances are harmful, their direct effects on the body’s internal systems are more subtle resulting in feelings such as discomfort.

Chronic inflammation is sometimes also called long-term inflammation and can last for several months and even years. Reasons the body develops chronic inflammation are:

    under-immunity or failure to eliminate an offense which caused acute inflammation
    over-immunity—AKA an autoimmune disorder. (Autoimmune conditions are when the immune system attacks normal healthy tissue, mistaking it for a pathogen that causes disease.)
    exposure to a low level of an environmental irritant or toxin, such as an industrial chemical, over a long period

Common Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation

A concerning fact about chronic inflammation is the signals your inflamed internal organ is sending the neurological system. Many inflammatory problems begin in the gut. It’s no surprise that an inflamed small intestine—where most of the action takes place—results in bloating, flatulence, and sometimes a burning sensation. These are pretty mild symptoms of a potentially dangerous problem.

Fatigue is, surprisingly, also a symptom of deep or chronic inflammation. (No—you should not feel that tired all the time!) Logically having fatigue as a by-product of inflammation makes sense: bodily systems that are not functioning correctly would undoubtedly make a whole body tired.

Depression is also a symptom of chronic or deep inflammation. New studies show that the release of cytokines produces similar effects to the classic depression definition. Being sick is no fun. Think about getting the flu. It’s easy to experience disrupted sleep, depressed mood, fatigue, foggy-headedness, and impaired concentration. If the body is fighting a low-grade chronic infection over an extended period of time, the manifestations of the flu, cold, virus, etc., will most likely also be present.

Autoimmunity and Immunity—a Delicate Balance

The body is always wavering between an immune system that does not produce a strong enough response to infection or produces an overactive response. A common scenario of under-immunity and chronic inflammation is gut infections. Repeated gut infections are hard on the body. The immune system is tirelessly working to fight off the infection which results in that organ becoming inflamed over an extended period of time—(not to mention the bad bacteria replacing the good bacteria.) The result—perhaps fatigue and stomach discomfort.

Autoimmunity is when the body has an overactive immune system and mistakes healthy tissues for pathogenic properties. More scientists are agreeing environmental influences are causing autoimmunity. Of course, genetics are not ruled out as well. When an autoimmune body attacks its own systems, the result is a flare that can last anywhere between a couple of days to even a month.

Disease Manifestations of Inflammation

Inflammation is in many ways a wonderful mechanism of the body. It tells the body it’s sick. Chronic inflammation—especially the kind that results in discomfort—can wreak havoc on the body.

Studies have shown that inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis, of course, causes joint pain but also joint damage and bone damage. Joints and bones are connected, and the inflammation is creeping onto that tissue and destroying it. What else is inflammation damaging in the body?

Perhaps as a reaction to inflammation bodily tissues, other illnesses or damage are results, including:

    Cancer
    Type 2 Diabetes
    Asthma
    Bowel Diseases
    Alzheimer’s Disease
    Arthritis
    Metabolic Syndrome
    Cardiovascular Disease

inflammation diagram

How to Manage Inflammation

Medicine, of course, is used to manage inflammation. For infections in sub-optimal immune systems, medical professionals have traditionally used antibiotics. For autoimmune conditions, glucocorticoids or steroid hormones are typically part of the treatment program.

Traditional Medicine and Their Side Effects

These medications, indeed, reduce inflammation. However, they are very taxing on the liver. Studies show drug-induced live injury is a growing concern for individuals on long-term doses of antibiotics as well as drugs that treat inflammation in autoimmune diseases—glucocorticoids.

How Diet Influences Inflammation—and Cures It

Some foods are pro-inflammatory, and some reduce inflammation. The growing population of autoimmune disease patients gives medical researchers a glimpse into how foods influence inflammation. Omega 6 fatty acids are considered pro-inflammatory, and individuals with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are advised to not consume foods—primarily vegetable oils—with high amounts of it.

Grapeseed extract contains powerful compounds called polyphenols that induce cellular death to prostate cancer cells. What other foods produce results like this?

The Takeaway

The next coming weeks, we’ll discuss foods that produce and reduce inflammation. Food is incredibly influential on bodily inflammation. Stay in touch next week for our next article in the Diet and Inflammation series.