Inflammation: The Root of Disease

Inflammation: The Root of Disease
What is Inflammation? How does it affect our overall health? What can be done to repair or avoid it? These were the themes from all the practitioners at the Natural Health Symposium in Boise last month.  Research suggests that chronic inflammation contributes to the development of many diseases and various types of cancer. Genetic risk factors, a compromised immune system, stress, obesity, lack of sleep, and a poor diet all play a role in the onset of chronic inflammation. Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, staying physically active, monitoring your genetic risk factors and staying on top of treating acute inflammation are steps to take to prevent an onset of chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is the immune system’s protective response to injury, disease or irritation of the tissues.
Inflammation may cause cancer, skin conditions, allergies, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches and painful menstruation. So what exactly is inflammation? 
It’s a combination of heat, pain, redness and swelling that happens externally or inside the body. (Dr. David Samadi, Lenox Hill Hospital)

Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation
Acute inflammation occurs in the short-term and is responsible for getting rid of infection, helping clean a wound, and repairing your tissue. Examples may include cutting yourself while shaving, breaking a bone, or spraining your ankle. The inflammation that occurs is a healthy reaction to repair the injured tissue. An army of white blood cells are the first responders that essentially ingest and dispose of the damaged cells, pathogens, or irritants that may have entered your body.
On average, as long as you don’t re-injure yourself, an acute inflammatory response should only last a few days or weeks. Your body knows to trigger acute inflammation in order to get rid of things that are harming you.
Here’s the problem: if you don’t take care of that wound, or if your body is inundated with a constant invasion of pathogens or toxins, your cells continually call for help from your immune system, and your body is on high alert at all times. This prolonged “state of emergency” can cause lasting damage and is called chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can last from several months to years. The onset of chronic inflammation can be delayed, and signs of chronic inflammation are difficult to detect. In fact, it can be incredibly difficult to identify the part of your body that becomes inflamed when the problem is chronic.
We were curious as to exactly which parts of our body are affected by inflammation. Let’s think of inflammation in terms of a car. For example, in order to run properly, a car engine needs fuel, air intake and a spark plug to ignite the fuel, which creates the energy to turn the driveshaft, that turns the qwheels and takes you to the grocery store. And the excess fuel mixture is burned off and turns into exhaust. (Dr. Brant Larsen)

All of our human life happens inside our very tiny human cells. Each cell wall consists of a membrane made of a phospholipid bilayer that functions similarly to soap with a hydrophobic interior and a hydrophilic exterior. The food we eat gives the cells the fuel – in the form of sugars, glucose and fats. We breathe air to give the cells oxygen.  The spark – which are the electrical impulses from our nervous system – create the energy we need. Through the membrane, our cells eliminate the burned fuel, metabolic waste, and any harmful substances that have entered the cell through the membrane.

Chronic inflammation is more common than we think.

If our body is using energy to unnecessarily fight a perceived “invasion”, then it has less energy for normal functions. More importantly, with less energy available, our bodies cannot produce anti-inflammatory compounds such as glutathione, one of our bodies’ major antioxidant. In addition, adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP)— the energy molecule used by our cells is being used to fight a threat that isn’t real. At the end of the day, we have less energy and lower levels of antioxidants creating vulnerability for potentially diseased states.

How do you know if you are chronically “inflamed”?

You may not always be able to visually see the effects of inflammation, but there are signs that indicate its presence. 

Chronic inflammation can manifest itself in many ways, including digestive issues and skin problems, exhaustion, and recurring infections.

Genetics play a role in inflammatory responses.

Chronic inflammation is believed to play a role in the development of several long-term illnesses like cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and even brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

Triggers for chronic inflammation.
To better understand the primary reasons our body could have chronic, low-grade inflammation, we spoke to Dr. Peter Bongiorno of Inner Source Health. He discussed three primary triggers for chronic inflammation: 
Digestive, Obesity, and Toxins.

Digestive: Since the majority of your immune system is located inside your digestive tract, it is important to keep this healthy. Eating nutrient-dense, whole foods will encourage good digestive enzymes and healthy microbiota and enable your digestive system to process your food and effectively eliminate waste. A poor diet high in many processed foods, including hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, high in sugar and white flour causes your immune system to respond with an inflammatory response to protect its healthy cells. If you have been tested by your doctor and suffer from specific food allergens, like gluten or dairy for example, these foods can also trigger an inflammatory response.

Researchers today are working hard to understand how much of the immune system is located inside your digestive tract. It is believed that it is a significant source for inflammation triggers.

Obesity: Having excess body fat, especially visceral fat around the hips and abdomen, contributes to chronic, low-grade inflammation, which can cause DNA damage and an increase in risk factors for certain types of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, obesity is linked to at least 13 different cancers. However, half of all cancer cases could be avoided using the information we already know (i.e. keep a healthy diet, don’t smoke, and get good amounts of sleep and exercise).

Fat tissue will create inflammation that uses up nutrients and makes it more challenging for your body to clear toxic substances. It also switches how cells grow and use energy. Dr. Bongiorno

Obesity is a leading cause of chronic illness and is attributed to many types of cancer.

Toxins: If you are inhaling or ingesting large amounts of toxic substances, they can be stored in fatty tissue and then eventually your healthy cells. While our bodies can handle a certain amount, an overload can cause healthy tissue and cell membranes to become inflamed and damaged. Additionally, processed foods and an unhealthy gut will negatively affect your body’s ability to process exposure to toxic substances. If you are exposing yourself to more toxins than your body is eliminating, this may create inflammation.

If you are exposing yourself to more toxicants than your body is eliminating this may create inflammation.

How should we fight chronic inflammation?
Keep a healthy diet. You can avoid certain foods that are known to trigger inflammation. These include sugars and overly-processed foods – otherwise known as “junk food.” Additionally, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption should be curbed.
  • A healthy diet helps fight inflammation.

Foods to eat include plenty of colorful vegetables and greens, and foods containing healthy fatty acids, such as those found in nuts and avocados. Additionally, drink plenty of clean water so your cells stay hydrated and can perform at their optimal level!

Learn More About Diet: Jennifer Whitney

Regular exercise is also an important part of fighting inflammation. A recent study performed by Mark Hamer, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University College London, examined the long-term effects of exercise with regard to inflammation. The study lasted for 10 years and included 4,000 middle-aged men and women.

Dr Rosie Main has nutrition and exercise plans to support your healing

  • Regular exercise helps fight inflammation.
Ultimately, Dr. Hamer found that subjects who completed approximately 2.5 hours of “moderate” exercise per week – or at least 30 minutes a day – reduced their inflammation markers by a minimum of 12%. Additionally, some study participants began exercising midway through the study period and were able to significantly lower their inflammation levels as well— meaning it is never too late for the benefit of working out!

Get enough sleep and reduce stress. Poor sleep and stress are known triggers of inflammation. According to a study performed by Emory University and presented at the 2010 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, getting less than six hours of sleep per night is associated with higher levels of inflammation. This is also linked with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Reducing stress and getting enough sleep helps fight inflammation.

In addition to lack of sleep, excessive levels of long-term stress can negatively affect your gut and compromise the production of enzymes that aid in the digestive process. For your best performance, it is optimal to get eight hours of sleep each night, with at least five of those hours being continuous or uninterrupted.

Our Local Practitioners All Shared Numerous Ways To Support Your Healing From Inflammation visit their sites to learn more: 

David DeHaas of Living Waters Wellness Center  

Malisa Williams, LMSW, CMSP of Renew Wellness  

Dr. Michael Karlfeldt of The Karlfeldt Center

Tamra Geryk RN of Functional Medicine of Idaho  

Dr. Rosie Main DC of Main Health Solutions  

Jennifer Whitney of Restoring Nutrition  

Lisa Hevern, an Independent DoTerra Wellness Advocate 

Dr. Jon Harmon of Clear Mind Idaho 

Dr. Andrew Rostenberg of Red Mountain Natural Clinic  


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