Inflammation – what is it exactly and signals to look out for.
All of us have bumped our knee, cut a finger, sprained an ankle, and so forth, some time or other. Inflammation sets in when the body is facing an assault of harmful stimuli, for example toxins from a cut finger, pathogens like bacteria and viruses when you have a cold or flu, or other irritants such as allergens.
When you hurt yourself or have an allergic reaction, your body and immune system rush in with leukocytes and plasma proteins (antibodies), to fight the infection and repair the damaged cells.
Thus, when you bump your knee or twist your ankle, the injured part swells and/or becomes red. Heat and/or immobility can also be visible. This is the inflammation setting in as a form of protecting and healing the injured part of the body by itself.
Sometimes inflammation can persist longer than usual, which can cause other problems.
Acute inflammation happens when your body triggers an inflammatory response on a short-term basis. This usually lasts for a couple of hours or a few days as the body aims to resolve the issue as fast as possible and allow the tissue to return to normal (homeostasis).
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, happens when the body fails to “turn off” the inflammation signal and, like a slow-burning fire, it keeps stimulating the body’s pro-inflammatory immune cells that can also attack healthy parts of the body.
In the modern world chronic inflammation is stimulated by lifestyle, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress and the quality and quantity of sleep. Due to these factors, our body does not have the ability any longer to turn off the inflammatory response and healthy tissue starts to be attacked as the body is trying to fight off all these unhealthy stimuli that is forced onto it each day.
Due to all of this many people develop autoimmune diseases as the chronic inflammation interferes with the natural anti-inflammatory processes within the body, for example balancing the cortisol-hormone. Cortisol’s function is to reduce inflammation in the body, which supresses the immune system over time. Inflammatory cells are powerful; their job is to attack invaders before they can harm the body and they produce a constant, low-grade flow of strong inflammatory markers into the blood stream that causes damage over time.
Once the body’s balance has been disrupted the immune system’s inflammatory hyperactivity can self-perpetuate and, unchecked, it leads to many illnesses, for example heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Chronic inflammation can manifest in various ways:
Abdominal, chest or joint pain
Rash or skin conditions
Digestive issues for example constipation or diarrhoea
High blood glucose levels
Weight gain, especially around the midriff
Signs of depression or increased anxious behaviour
Increase in allergies and/or food sensitivity
If this rings a bell ask your doctor to measure your C-reactive protein level (a marker for inflammation) and start making the necessary changes today!
By: Ezette Viljoen (Health & Fitness)