Aug 23, 2021
The Wide-reaching Effects of Inflammation
We've heard of anti-inflammatory medications and anti-inflammatory diets, but do we really know what inflammation is? In short, it's the body's response to outside threats like stress, infection, or toxic chemicals. When the immune system senses one of these dangers, it responds by activating proteins meant to protect cells and tissues.
In a healthy situation, inflammation serves as a good friend to our body. Inflammation is most visible (and most beneficial) when it's helping to repair a wound or fight off an illness. We've all noticed our body's inflammatory response when we’ve had a fever or a sore throat with swollen glands. Another example of a positive inflammatory response could be an infected cut that has become red and warm to the touch. The swelling, redness, and warmth are signs that our immune system is sending white blood cells, immune cell-stimulating growth factors and nutrients to the affected areas.
In these examples, inflammation is a healthy and necessary function for healing. However, this type of helpful inflammation is only temporary; when the infection or illness is gone, inflammation should go away as well.
The damaging and less healthy type of inflammation is the type that occurs throughout the body in response to chronic conditions and/or long-term emotional stress. This negative inflammation can have overwhelming effects on our ability to be healthy. Some of the areas chronic inflammation can be damaging are:
- It can harm our gut – we have trillions of healthy bacteria in our gut. These bacteria help us digest our food and help to absorb the nutrients from the food. In some people, their immune system turns against these healthy bacteria and begin to attack the bacteria, creating chronic inflammation. The immune cells can attack the digestive tract itself leading to an autoimmune condition known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- It can harm our joints - when inflammation occurs in the joints, it can cause serious damage. Two examples of joint damage caused by inflammation are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis. Both conditions can cause painful, stiff joints and make simple movements very difficult.
- It can harm our heart - any part of our body that's been injured or damaged can trigger inflammation, even the insides of blood vessels. The formation of fatty plaque in the arteries can trigger chronic inflammation. The fatty plaques attract white blood cells, grow larger, and can form blood clots, which can cause a heart attack.
- It can harm our lungs - When inflammation occurs in the lungs, it can cause fluid accumulation and narrowing of the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Infections, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are all characterized by inflammation in the lungs. Smoking, exposure to air pollution or household chemicals, being overweight and even consumption of cured meats have been linked to lung inflammation.
- It makes weight loss more difficult - Obesity is a major cause of inflammation in the body, and losing weight is one of the most effective ways to fight it. But that's sometimes easier said than done, because elevated levels of inflammation-related proteins can also make weight loss more difficult than it should be. For starters, chronic inflammation can influence hunger signals and slow down metabolism, so we eat more and burn fewer calories. Inflammation can also increase insulin resistance (which raises our risk for diabetes) and has been linked with future weight gain.
The good news is there are a lot of positive actions we can take to reduce inflammation throughout our body. Unfortunately, that is a subject for another article. Just to get started though – let’s reduce the amount of fast-food, deep-fried food and sugary food that we eat. Let’s eat more cold-water fish, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, tomatoes, and beets just to name a few. In another article I will go into the positive ways to fight inflammation, trust me. Be Blessed.
Category: Dr. Sterling