As we gain a greater understanding of human function, it is becoming increasingly clear that inflammation is a determining factor of human health. Inflammation now lies at the forefront of nearly every major disease and disfunction plaguing modern day humans. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, pathogens, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, brain disorders, digestive disorders, allergies, asthma, and on and on and on. The fire burning within our bodies is literally cooking us from the inside out. What starts as low level inflammation soon becomes moderate malfunction and ends up as disease. Bottom line, if you are inflamed, you will get burned.
What is Inflammation?
In the human body, inflammation is simply a biological response to a problem or harmful stimuli. Whether it be damaged cells, pathogens or other irritants, the body reacts to these injurious stimuli with an inflammatory response. Initially a protective process, inflammation is simply the body’s attempt to remove the stimuli and begin the healing process. Without it we could not heal and repair from wounds and infections. However, with too much of it or for too prolonged of a time we usually get in trouble. Thus the difference between acute and chronic inflammation.
Acute inflammation = good, necessary, healing and a sign the body is functioning properly. You get a cut, the area gets red, it repairs the tissue and returns to normal. This is a normal and desired biological response.
Chronic inflammation = bad, unnecessary, destructive and a sign there is dysfunction in the body. You have ongoing stress to the body (e.g. bad food, life stress, bacteria, lack of sleep) and there is a constant state of immune response, wearing the body down day after day. This low level fire burning inside is akin to a high alert status and results in the body overreacting to things it wouldn’t normally be bothered by. Think allergies, headaches, digestive problems and autoimmune conditions, just to name a few.
Obviously, the type of inflammation to be wary of is chronic. Limiting, managing or eliminating chronic inflammation can be one of the best ways to keep healthy throughout your life.
What causes chronic inflammation? Any thing that stresses the body can cause a chronic inflammatory state if it continues to assault the body. The common stresses to the body? Let’s take a look at what I consider the major categories of stress…
External Stress Usually “Known” life and environmental distress.
Mental/Emotional – the “commonly” thought of stress (fear, worry, excitement, anxiety, etc) typically revolving around family, work, finances, politics, religion or existential (purpose/meaning in life).
Neuromuscular/Biomechanial/Trauma – often considered acute but usually chronic in nature (injuries, nerve compression, radiation, pollution, smoke).
Internal Stress – Often “Hidden” inflammatory and pathological
Biochemical/Physiological – pathogens (parasites, bacteria, fungi, viruses), ingested chemicals (food additives, herbicides, metals, alcohol, drugs, antibiotics, exogenous hormones), dietary (poor diet, food allergies/intolerances), hormonal imbalance or deficiency (cortisol, sex hormones, circadian rhythm, sleep deprivation).
The common denominator for all of these stressors is the body’s response to their presence. If a stress is perceived, the body will shunt resources to dealing with it. Resources diverted to stress leaves less for optimal functioning. This is not an ideal state for the body. A body under stress will not repair and regenerate. It will not digest optimally. Immune function will be compromised. If the body is sending immune and reactive resources to deal with an overly irritable diet, the body will react negatively to other stimuli. Ever wonder why things like allergies, headaches or digestion are sometimes a problem and a non issue other times. Most of it comes down to inflammation and stress. When the body is inflamed it reacts severely to allergens, when it is in a state of ease, it acts appropriately to what it encounters.
What’s it mean to you and me? Look for signs of inflammation and then look to why you’re inflamed.
Signs of Inflammation
The Classic Signs:
– Loss of Function
The Common Signs:
– Bloating, belching, passing gas
– Diarrhea or constipation
– Fatigue, sluggishness
– Itchy ears or eyes
– Dark circles or bags under eyes
– Joint pain or stiffness
– Throat tickle, irritation or coughing
– Stuffy noise, sinus trouble, excessive mucus
– Acne, cysts, hives or rashes
– Ruddy, inflamed-looking skin
– Water retention, skin puffiness
– Craving certain foods
– Compulsive or binge eating
(Taken from Mark Hyman via Care2 Make a Difference)
If you experience any of these on a regular basis it’s a pretty good bet you’re dealing with some chronic inflammation.
How do you reduce/stop inflammation?
Live a life that promotes a cool, healthy body. Sleep well, drink water, eat whole, real food, move your body in all its capability, get some sun and fresh air, have fun and manage your stress. In general, take a look at the stressors listed above and see if any of those stick out to you. Chances are you’re being bothered by a lack of sleep, something in your diet, lack of activity or life stress of some kind. If so, address what you can and see if the symptoms improve. If not, look deeper. There are many possibilities and you can investigate any of them deeply and accurately if you put your mind to it. Nearly everything gets better when you become aware and decide to do something about it. We are all going to be inflamed from time to time but no one should be inflamed on a daily basis.
If you need a little help cooling the body while you address the underlying cause, take a look at dietary things like garlic, turmeric, seaweed, green tea and many others. Medications, unless really needed, will usually only mask the problem/symptom and might give you a false sense of security. You want to have a good feel for the real status of your body.
If your body is simmering and hot, you will get burned eventually.
Look to keep cool and the body can manage just about anything.
Thanks for reading, have a cool day!