What is Inflammation?

Jan 4, 2018 | Health and Diet | 0 comments

The Dirt:
Are you inflamed? Chronic inflammation is believed to be the underlying cause of many long-term illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and even brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. What is chronic inflammation, how is it caused, and how do we protect ourselves against it?
At D2D we have written about several diets and new eating trends and the science has shown us that many are ‘fads’. Inflammation seems to be the starting point of many diseases. Is it the result of an unhealthy diet? How can we pro-actively stay healthy? What is the effect of inflammation on our health? Here is what we found out….

Inflammation is the immune system’s protective response to injury, disease or irritation of the tissues.

Everything is arguably related to inflammation. It can cause cancer, skin conditions, allergies, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches and painful menstruation. So what exactly is inflammation? It’s a combination of heat, pain, redness and swelling that happens externally or inside the body. (Dr. David Samadi, Lenox Hill Hospital)

Inflammation is your body’s mechanism to protect itself and heal damaged cells or tissue. This damage can be caused by either a wound, toxins or pathogens which may be in the form of sickness, excessive alcohol, chemicals, stress, unhealthy diet or lack of sleep. When your cells are in distress, they call out for help, and your immune system is full of front line soldiers who are programmed to attack and dispose of them. Inflammation is classified as either acute or chronic.

Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation

Acute inflammation occurs in the short-term and is responsible for getting rid of infection, helping clean a wound, and repairing your tissue. Examples may include cutting yourself while shaving, breaking a bone, or spraining your ankle. The inflammation that occurs is a healthy reaction to repair the injured tissue. An army of white blood cells are the first responders that essentially ingest and dispose of the damaged cells, pathogens, or irritants that may have entered your body.
On average, as long as you don’t re-injure yourself, an acute inflammatory response should only last a few days or weeks. Your body knows to trigger acute inflammation in order to get rid of things that are harming you.
Here’s the problem: if you don’t take care of that wound, or if your body is inundated with a constant invasion of pathogens or toxins, your cells continually call for help from your immune system, and your body is on high alert at all times. This prolonged “state of emergency” can cause lasting damage and is called chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can last from several months to years. The onset of chronic inflammation can be delayed, and signs of chronic inflammation are difficult to detect. In fact, it can be incredibly difficult to identify the part of your body that becomes inflamed when the problem is chronic.
We were curious as to exactly which parts of our body are affected by inflammation. Dr. Brant Larsen, Forest Lake, MN, had a great video which paralleled cells to car engines. Very simply put, in order to run properly, a car engine needs fuel, air intake and a spark plug to ignite the fuel, which creates the energy to turn the driveshaft. This reaction lets the wheels take you to the grocery store. The excess fuel mixture is burned off and turns into exhaust.
All of our human life happens inside our very tiny human cells. Each cell wall consists of a membrane made of fatty tissue. The food we eat gives the cells the fuel – in the form of sugars, glucose and fats. We breathe air to give the cells oxygen.  The spark – which are the electrical impulses from our nervous system – create the energy we need. Through the membrane, our cells eliminate the burned fuel, metabolic waste, and any toxins that have entered the cell through the membrane.

Chronic inflammation is more common than we think.

If the cell membrane gets inflamed, then nutrients can’t get in and metabolic waste can’t get out. More importantly, cells cannot get enough energy to make L-Glutathione, our number one antioxidant. In addition, our ATP— which is our energy production made of mitochondria— also goes down. At the end of the day, we have less antioxidants and less energy, creating the perfect storm for diseases.

How do you know if you are chronically “inflamed”?

You may not be able to see the inflammation, but there are signs that indicate its presence. If you are regularly experiencing any of these symptoms, it is best to call your doctor.

Chronic inflammation can manifest itself in many ways, including digestive issues and skin problems, exhaustion, and recurring infections.

Genetics play a role in inflammatory responses.

While chronic inflammation is believed to be the underlying cause of many long-term illnesses like cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and even brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, your genetics play a role in determining the areas of your body that are more susceptible to inflammation. For example, if you have a family history of heart disease, your heart might be predisposed to inflammatory markers. If you are a smoker, the toxins you ingest from smoking could cause an inflammatory response in your heart as opposed to your lungs.

Triggers for chronic inflammation.

To better understand the primary reasons our body could have chronic, low-grade inflammation, we spoke to Dr. Peter Bongiorno of Inner Source Health. He discussed three primary triggers for chronic inflammation: Digestive, Obesity, and Toxins.
Digestive: Since the majority of your immune system is located inside your digestive tract, it is important to keep this healthy. Eating nutrient-dense, whole foods will encourage good digestive enzymes and healthy microbiota and enable your digestive system to process your food and effectively eliminate waste. A poor diet high in many processed foods, including hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, high in sugar and white flour causes your immune system to respond with an inflammatory response to protect its healthy cells. If you have been tested by your doctor and suffer from specific food allergens, like gluten or dairy for example, these foods can also trigger an inflammatory response.
Researchers today are working hard to understand how much of the immune system is located inside your digestive tract. It is believed that it is a significant source for inflammation triggers.  infographic: Huffington Post
Obesity: Having excess body fat, especially visceral fat around the hips and abdomen, contributes to chronic, low-grade inflammation, which can cause DNA damage and an increase in risk factors for certain types of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, obesity is linked to at least 13 different cancers. However, half of all cancer cases could be avoided using the information we already know (i.e. keep a healthy diet, don’t smoke, and get good amounts of sleep and exercise).
Fat tissue will create inflammation that uses up nutrients and makes it more challenging for your body to clear toxins. It also switches how cells grow and use energy. -Dr. Bongiorno

Obesity is a leading cause of chronic illness and is attributed to many types of cancer.
Toxins: As we discussed in “Nix the Toxins,” if you are inhaling or ingesting large amounts of toxic substances, they can be stored in fatty tissue and then eventually your healthy cells. While our bodies can handle a certain amount, an overload can cause healthy tissue and cell membranes to become inflamed and damaged. Additionally, processed foods and an unhealthy gut will negatively affect your body’s ability to process exposure to toxic substances. If you are exposing yourself to more toxins than your body is eliminating, this may create inflammation.
If you are exposing yourself to more toxicants than your body is eliminating this may create inflammation.

How should we fight chronic inflammation?

Keep a healthy diet. You can avoid certain foods that are known to trigger inflammation. These include sugars and overly-processed foods – otherwise known as “junk food.” Additionally, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption should be curbed.
A healthy diet helps fight inflammation.
Foods to eat include plenty of colorful vegetables and greens, and healthy fatty acids, such as those found in nuts and avocados. Additionally, drink plenty of clean water so your cells stay hydrated and can perform at their optimal level!
Regular exercise is also an important part of fighting inflammation. A recent study performed by Mark Hamer, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University College London, examined the long-term effects of exercise with regard to inflammation. The study lasted for 10 years and included 4,000 middle-aged men and women.
Regular exercise helps fight inflammation.
Ultimately, Dr. Hamer found that subjects who completed approximately 2.5 hours of “moderate” exercise per week – or at least 30 minutes a day – reduced their inflammation markers by a minimum of 12%. Additionally, some study participants began exercising midway through the study period and were able to significantly lower their inflammation levels as well— meaning it is never too late for the benefit of working out!
Get enough sleep and reduce stress. Poor sleep and stress are known triggers of inflammation. According to a study performed by Emory University and presented at the 2010 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, getting less than six hours of sleep per night is associated with higher levels of inflammation. This is also linked with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Reducing stress and getting enough sleep helps fight inflammation.
In addition to lack of sleep, excessive levels of long-term stress can cause your gut to shut down and compromise the production of enzymes that aid in the digestive process. For your best performance, it is optimal to get 8 hours each night, with at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Modern day life is stressful on our biology. Yes, our bodies are very resilient but we need to give our body restorative rest. Today, there are more electronics than ever before, our diets are less nourishing, we certainly sleep less, and we work more than ever. If your body is on high alert your immune system is always working to protect you. Therefore, you can run down your immune system. It is so helpful to protect your sleep and have restorative sleep in order to keep your body functioning at an optimal level.  Sophia Ruan Gushee, A-Z of D Toxing

The Bottom Line:

Research continues to support how chronic inflammation is rooted in the development of many diseases and various types of cancer. Genetic risk factors and a compromised immune system play a big role in the onset of chronic inflammation. Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, staying physically active, monitoring your genetic risk factors and staying on top of treating acute inflammation are steps to take to prevent an onset of chronic inflammation.


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