Inflammation is a vital response of your immune system
Inflammation starts with the best of intentions; it’s your body’s attempt at self-preservation. Inflammation helps your tissues heal when they become damaged by injury or a substance that is foreign to your body. But after the healing, it’s time for your immune system to take a well-deserved break.
The problem comes when the nuisance that triggered your immune system does not back off. Think of your body like a smoldering volcano with its lava slowly simmering below the surface. As the pressures (inflammatory triggers) mount, the lava becomes more volatile. Finally, your body (volcano) cannot withstand the pressures any further, releasing inflammatory cells (lava) that spew and circulate throughout your body and brain, “burning up” your delicate tissues.
This causes further damage, which causes more inflammation, etc., etc. A vicious cycle! The result? Organs that don’t function as well as you’d like – a brain that is fatigued, foggy, and slower to process, organize, and compute.
Let’s zoom in on the two types of inflammation
- Acute (short-term) Inflammation – occurs immediately to defend against foreign invaders, like damaged cells from a cut on the skin, environmental irritants, rashes or viruses, and bacteria. Inflammation does not mean infection, even when triggered by bacteria and viruses. It’s the body’s response to the foreign substance. Acute inflammation is often characterized by redness, swelling, warmth, and sometimes pain that lasts for a few days to a few weeks.
- Chronic (long-term) Inflammation – is sometimes called “persistent or low-grade inflammation“ and happens when your body continues to send an inflammatory response to a threat. Your protective white blood cells swarm – but have no specific target. As the strength of this boosted system continues to build, immune cells release chemicals that eventually injure internal organs or other healthy tissues and cells.
When we think of the word “inflammation,” we commonly picture joint aches or injuries. But…. chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases, including some cancers, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases.
Inflammation has been linked to almost every illness
For example, heart disease is caused by inflammation of blood vessels, arthritis by inflammation of joints, Crohn’s disease by inflammation of intestinal cells, and psoriasis by inflammation of the skin. Modern medicine has been focused on treating symptoms instead of looking for the cause of an illness.
What about your brain?
When your brain becomes inflamed, the effects can be subtle. Your brain doesn’t hurt. Instead, you may experience other symptoms, like depression, difficulty focusing, slow thinking, memory changes, anxiety, and brain fog. Inflammation slows down the communication between your brain cells and the pathways that connect different parts of your brain.
Inflammation in the brain doesn’t have to be permanent. In fact, many of the undesirable symptoms can be fixed through simple lifestyle changes. You just need to recognize why you developed the inflammation. Once you figure that out, you can commit to changing your ways, and you’re well on your way to a more powerful, upgraded brain.
Looking at what causes inflammation has become a hot topic for research.
What causes chronic inflammation?
- The inability to disable triggers that cause acute inflammation, like ongoing infections.
- Foods that cause reactions in your body. Sometimes, the reactions can be subtle, making it difficult for you to identify.
- Environmental toxins like smoke, pollution and mold toxins.
- Unintended ingestion of plastics, herbicides and pesticides.
- Poor lifestyle which includes lack of sleep, lack of exercise and too much
- High insulin levels (insulin resistance) from a diet high in sugars (carbohydrates) and low in nutrients. Studies have found that overweight men have higher levels of white blood cells (inflammatory markers), making them more likely to develop chronic illnesses.
- Genetic make-up which causes turning on and off of genes (due to any of the above factors).
Do any of these make you sit up and take notice?
Putting it together. How inflammation leads to illness.
Inflammation begins when your body is exposed to harmful stressors, like poor diet, poor lifestyle behaviors, infections, toxins, and even medications (1). Your immune system becomes activated and sets the cascade of inflammation in motion (2). Though this is meant to heal, if stressors continue, ongoing inflammation leads to increased body fat and insulin resistance (3). Since high insulin causes inflammation, the immune system becomes even more active, producing inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) (4), which further fuels the inflammation.
The persistent immune cells and cytokines cause damage to organs and tissues, setting you up for many illnesses.
Take a look again at the list of factors above known to cause chronic inflammation. Can you find any that may affect you? Can you find ways to reduce them?