Our cells are on fire: Inflammation

Inflammation is literally the body “on fire” and is a primary immune mechanism response of the body to a range of noxious stimuli.  This can include infectious agents, such as bacteria or virus, oxidation or acidosis, damaged or diseased tissues; however, the inflammatory response can also occur in response to other external or internal cues 1. Inflammation is essentially the body’s first line of defence in common acute conditions 2.

The main function of inflammation is a short term response to resolve infection and to repair the damage in order to achieve homeostasis equilibrium balance back to the body. The ideal inflammatory response is therefore rapid and destructive, yet specific and very limited. The release of inflammatory mediators, predominantly from activated leukocytes that migrate into the target area and proteins called cytokines attack the threatening germ and repair damaged tissues. This is the reddening and swelling you see around any infected or injured area. most of us are familiar with: redness, heat, swelling, and pain associated with inflammation. These symptoms are created by the activity of immune cells working to break down injured and dying tissues so that new, healthy ones can replace them.

Unfortunately, we have created a situation in our lives where we now suffer from chronic low level inflammation over decades of our lives as a result of our unhealthy and unbalanced lifestyles and diet. Chronic inflammation is being shown to be involved in the onset and the development of most if not all chronic illness that are now at epidemic proportions in our society. These include atherosclerosis (damaged and blocked arteries), heart disease, stroke, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons Disease, thyroid disorders, diabetes, asthma, autism, arthritis, celiac disease, eczema, psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, lupus, migraines, periodontal disease, sleep apnoea, chronic kidney failure and cancer. It is a long list but it is only the main ones I have mentioned.

Even though chronic inflammation in the body is hard to detect there are some common symptoms to look out for. These include the following:

Chronic pain in the joints and/ or muscles

Allergies or asthma

Elevated blood pressure

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels

Gut issues (constipation or diarrhoea)

Fatigue

To judge the level of inflammation in individuals, a number of markers have been identified that are directly associated with inflammatory processes 3.4.5. C‑reactive protein (CRP), interleukin‑6 (IL‑6), fibrinogen, and tumor necrosis factor‑alpha (TNF‑a) are the most common markers that the medical system uses, with CRP leading in terms of assessing risk. Each marker has a different role in the inflammatory process and the development of chronic illness and are also often linked to each other. For example, IL6 plays a central part in the inflammatory process and is known to be linked to the production of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the liver.  CRP is commonly used to monitor inflammatory states as it is secreted by the liver in response to a variety of inflammation, trauma and infection and decreases rapidly with the resolution of the condition. If the person has high C reactive protein and does not have an infection of some sort, then they probably have chronic inflammation. It is like the body is trying to fight off an illness all the time rather than just short term acute situations. It becomes exhausting for the body and is also likely to result in some long term damage.

The inflammatory process is driven by the immune system in your body. Therefore, in order to reduce the incidence of disease you must reduce inflammation, and to reduce inflammation you must identify and eliminate the immune system trigger(s). The typical approach of allopathic medicine is to treat the symptoms of the disease itself or the immune system (immune-suppressive drugs) or inflammation (anti-inflammatory drugs) directly without addressing the underlying cause of the disease. But not dealing with the underlying causes. Sustainable health looks at identifying and eliminating the sources of the inflammation to address the situation at its cause. While I will leave much more of the detail to the next months edition some good examples of anti inflammatory nutrients include turmeric, probiotics, vitamin C and D and Magnesium. While physical activity, meditation and strategies to de stress are all anti inflammatory. Get the idea.

  1. Shelton and Miller: 2010
  2. Schwarzenberg and Sinaiko: 2006
  3. Taubes 2002
  4. Ridker et al. 1997
  5. Ridker et al. 2000
  6. Dixon et al. 2009
  7. Loppnow et al. 2008
  8. Packard and Libby 2008
  9. Sukhanov et al. 2007
  10. Tracy 2003
  11. Guigliano et al 2006
  12. Vakkila and Lotze
  13. Liu, et al. 2010
  14. Pierce, et al. 2009
  15. Schacter, 2002,
  16. Lin and Karin, 2007
  17. Bunt et at, 2006
  18. Chekhun, 2009
  19. 2004 Prof. Houghton et al
  20. Smith R Cytokines and Depression
  21. Miller et al, 2009,
  22. Berk et al 4
  23. Brydon et al, 2008
  24. Dantzer et al, 2008, p.48
  25. Khandaker et al, 2014

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