Inflammation is a word that gets thrown around more and more often, taking the blame for all kinds of bodily woes, from weight gain to illness to neurological conditions like ADHD. The term inflammation refers to the body’s immune response to an irritation or offense. It serves a very important purpose, but can often leave the sufferer with a diminished quality of life, as well as confusion as to why it’s happening.
There are various means by which inflammation can make its way into your life, including injury, infection, dietary issues, illness, and age. It can be a sign of healing, but chronic inflammation spells trouble for your future self. In this article, we will explore exactly what is happening when you experience inflammation, and what you can do to improve the condition.
When Is Inflammation A Good Thing?
The body’s relationship with inflammation can be a bit confusing to the layperson. Inflammation that is short-lived is sometimes a good thing. For example, in the hours or days after a good workout, your body will often experience soreness as a symptom of acute inflammation. When you exercise, your body breaks down muscle fibers and then rebuilds them to better adapt to the stress placed upon it. This activity results in inflammation that then heals. Exercise over the long-term is actually anti-inflammatory and confers benefits all over the body.
Some inflammation bestows the body with what is known as a “hormetic” benefit. This is a term that explains physiological enhancement as a result of stress that does not exceed the body’s tolerance threshold. Benefits of hormetic stress are demonstrated in exercise models, but also in less expected instances, like radon exposure. Another example includes sauna use, in which the body derives benefits from periodic exposure to increased temperatures.
Exceeding The Threshold
The inflammation that gets a bad name is that which overstays its welcome as a result of too much of a physiological stress burden. This is exemplified by smokers, who burden their body with an exorbitant amount of toxic material on a regular and unceasing basis. In this case, the body is simply unable to ameliorate the amount of damage being inflicted upon it, and serious long-term diseases result.
Chronic inflammation can be thought of as “running the engine too hot”. It irritates the body’s immune system causing it to overreact and prevents it from healing damage effectively. This process increases wear-and-tear, and contributes in part to what we call “aging”. This is why smokers often appear far older than their non-smoking contemporaries.
Symptoms Of Inflammation
Swelling and/or redness are common hallmarks of inflammation. They are a signal to you that the body is reacting to some type of breach to its normal function. Inflammation within the circulatory system is especially worthy of attention and care since diminished function in this area can potentially lead to serious complications.
For certain types of swelling, such as that caused by May-Thurner syndrome, using a stent to alleviate vein compression might be a good option. This will restore proper blood flow and give the body a chance to reduce the swelling.
Painful or otherwise irritated joints are also a common symptom of inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which the immune system behaves erratically and attacks the tissues within the joint. While the extent to which genetics are to blame for this is currently undetermined, it seems likely that lifestyle factors play a significant role. For example, smoking and vitamin D deficiency increase rheumatoid arthritis incidence.
Other Ways of Combating Inflammation
It’s important to understand that traditional medical establishments have an incentive to prolong your illness indefinitely since you cease to be a source of money once you are cured. For this reason, they will often illustrate the situation as though autoimmune conditions are incurable, and that your only option is to take pharmaceuticals for the rest of your life. In reality, changes to diet and lifestyle have a strong implication in how your body functions or dysfunctions.
Many people are surprised to hear that the majority of the human immune system is localized within the gut. It makes sense, since eating food necessarily entails a high likelihood of bodily contact with pathogenic matter. Thus, it is only logical for the body to have its biological security squad on-hand at the point of contact.
Food that you eat can either induce inflammatory or anti-inflammatory activity. Diets high in processed foods are often difficult for the body to recognize, and thus elicit a heightened immune response. They also bear a heavier metabolic burden than plant foods.
Likewise, fruits and vegetables are easily assimilated by the body without excessive immune system activation. They are high in nutrients, but also have a low caloric value, which offers a twofold benefit to your metabolism.