Inflammation has been found to be an underlying cause in a number of chronic diseases including diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer. It’s been demonized and is typically thought of as a harmful process. However, it can be a lifesaver. In fact, that’s actually what its intended purpose is. Think of inflammation as the body’s natural way to protect itself from harm. It’s hard to say if we as a species would have ever made it this far without inflammation. It’s part of the bodies response to infection and tissue damage; it’s our immune and repair system and that’s why it’s absolutely crucial to the healing process. However, when inflammation becomes chronic and persistent is when it becomes a problem that leads to different ailments.

How inflammation protects the body.

Inflammation is a crucial aspect of the body’s immune system. Its process works by triggering our bodies’ white blood cells to release into the blood as an action to protect us from infection of damaged cells caused by foreign organisms. Damaged cells release chemicals including histamine which causes the symptoms of inflammation like redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. There are two types: acute and chronic. Typically acute inflammation is healing for the body and chronic inflammation is what leads to dysfunction in the bodies natural healing mechanisms.

 

...and when it starts to become a problem.

 

While the inflammatory response is intended to be a defense mechanism for our body, in some diseases, take rheumatoid arthritis, for example, our body’s immune system triggers an inflammatory response when there are actually no foreign organisms to protect itself from. This is the case in autoimmune disorders where the body’s protective systems cause damage to its own tissues leading the body to respond as if normal tissues are infected. In cases where an autoimmune disease is present, the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissues instead of infected ones.

As we mention frequently, we live in a fast-paced society where we are constantly introducing our bodies to inflammatory catalysts. Since our body is never able to escape inflammatory catalysts, we end up with immune fatigue or inflammation fatigue which is very similar to stress response on adrenal glands. When the immune system becomes constantly fatigued, the body will end up with immunomodulatory issues. It is then that prolonged or unnecessary inflammation becomes a more severe health risk.

Take TBI (traumatic brain injury) for example. TBI usually results after an object penetrates brain tissue causing inflammation. When TBI occurs, it triggers inflammation of the nervous system or neuroinflammation and chronic neuroinflammation results in cell loss, swelling, tissue breakdown as well as high risk for development of neurodegenerative disorders. This is just one example of an illness where inflammation can negatively affect us. Since inflammation is triggered by a ton of physical reactions triggered by the immune system, it plays such a vital role in our health by either implicating us or healing us. Therefore, it’s critical to remember that our inflammatory response is a healing mechanism, but it’s also important to keep unwanted levels balanced in order to maintain homeostasis and a strong immune system.

June 28, 2019 — allyson tovar

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