What exactly is inflammation? Are there any favorable benefits to inflammation, and if so, what are they?
Inflammation is fundamentally a protective process. It is critical to our survival, as it aids in our body’s ability to rid itself of damaged or dead tissue and foreign invaders, such as microbes. Without inflammation, nasty wounds would go unchecked, maybe even never heal, and injured tissue could become permanent festering sores.
Clinically, we categorize inflammation into acute or chronic. These two distinctions are based on onset of symptoms, types of white blood cells present on lab findings, extent of tissue injury, and local vs systemic involvement. Acute inflammation is usually due to recent onset, the extent of the injury is usually localized, as are the symptoms. Chronic inflammation starts as acute inflammation, that has usually gone on longer than a few months, presents with different white blood cells markers than acute inflammation, and symptoms can become systemic over time.
The basic symptoms of a non-specific immune response to infection or injury are, redness, heat, swelling, and pain. The redness occurs due to increased blood flow to the area delivering nutrients and immune cells. The heat is also due to increased blood flow. The swelling occurs as a result of immune cells rushing to the area, in which water and nutrients are also delivered, and pain is experienced due to body chemicals triggering nerve endings. Pain is the body’s way of altering us that something is wrong.
The concern with inflammation that lasts longer than a few months, is the possibility that over time the immune system can become over-stressed and consequently impede’s the body’s ability to heal itself. As more inflammation occurs, the risk for additional disease presentations is greater.
The factors that contribute to chronic inflammation are
- Ongoing exposure to toxins or allergens (mold, trees, grasses, pollens, gluten, etc.)
- Chronic or frequent exposure to infections
- Elevated cholesterol (especially, LDL-cholesterol)
When our immune system become bogged down by chronic inflammation your risks for developing the following diseases becomes even greater:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Esophageal cancer
Fortunately, many, if not all these aforementioned disease can be treated successfully. If you are currently wrestling with inflammation, or want to minimize the risk of chronic inflammation, schedule your appointment today. You would be amazed at how modifications in diet, lifestyle, physical activity, sleep, and stress management can provide tremendous relief!