Inflammation – The silent killer

‘Inflammation’ seems like a fairly innocuous word, really. However, unrestrained inflammation is a huge health concern, and one of the main reasons why chronic disease is so prevalent today.

What is inflammation?

Basically, it’s the result of an immune response. Like most things, inflammation in small amounts is beneficial. When you cut yourself or catch a cold, the body immediately mobilises fluid and blood flow to the area/s concerned to start the clean up process, prevent infection and start healing. This inflammation is fine, it helps us heal and recover. However, chronic inflammation that occurs over months or years is not good, and is very damaging to the human body.

This is most evident in diseases like arthritis (particularly rheumatoid), chronic skin conditions, and gut dysfunction. While controlling inflammation is essential, it’s more important to remove the driver, or the cause of the inflammation. Without doing this, there will not be a solid resolution.

Modern lifestyles cause inflammation, whether we’re aware of it or not.

The problem with inflammation is that it can go unnoticed, often for many years. It simmers away, much like embers in a fire. It’s only once it reaches a tipping point that symptoms become evident. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles are a major contributing factor. Long hours at work spent sitting, poor sleep and diet, lack of exercise, little exposure to sunlight (resulting in Vitamin D deficiency) and high stress levels take a massive toll on our overall wellbeing. How do I know this? Apart from loads of clinical research on this subject, I see it every day in clinic. I see stressed out patients, exhausted from long hours at work and poor sleeping patterns. The body’s attempt to keep us running results in a low-grade inflammatory response that will, over time, create more serious issues.

Chronic inflammation causes cancer

So now we get to the crux of it. All very well to have inflammatory responses initiated, but what does this mean for long-term health? Put simply, genetic responses have to be ‘switched on’ to produce inflammation. If these genes are not ‘switched off’ again, this genetic activation of inflammatory chemical messengers in the  body causes damage to cellular DNA through oxidative stress. I’ll try and cover fully what oxidative stress is and what it does to our cells in a later post.

Excess oxidation damages cells and DNA, causing genetic mutations(1). Not all inflammation causes cancer, other issues like autoimmune disease, obesity, depression, liver disease & diabetes are similarly related conditions (2). Constant immune activation and states of biochemical stress eventually cause disruption in nearly all the body systems.

What can be done?

As I mentioned, finding the cause of inflammation is vital. Assessing diet, sleep, stress levels, lifestyle and exercise patterns are good places to start. Nutritional deficits, more commonly B vitamins, essential fatty acids, magnesium & zinc must be addressed. A diet consistently high in antioxidants (fruit and vegies) can reduce inflammation and oxidation.

In addition to this, a high quality herbal/nutritional antioxidant supplement is a must. This might be one containing Tumeric, coenzyme Q10, green tea, resveratrol, vitamin C or E. One with a combination of a few things is best.

I strongly recommend that everyone should see a natural medicine practitioner if they are concerned about inflammation or chronic disease as they are well qualified to assess risk factors and levels of inflammation.

(1). Il’yasova, D et al. (2005) Circulating levels of inflammatory markers and cancer risk in the health aging and body composition cohort.Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 14(10):2413-8.

(2). Khodabandeloo, H et al. ( 2015). Molecular and cellular mechanisms linking inflammation to insulin resistance and β-cell dysfunction.Transl Res. pii: S1931-5244(15)00297-2.

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