By Justinne Lou Go, RND
GETTING a fever or experiencing a burning sensation from a swelling wound are both signs of inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to stimulus—bacteria, stress, physical injury, etc.—as a defense mechanism. However, when this natural reaction is prolonged beyond its need, this becomes harmful to the body.
There are two types of inflammation — acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is usually caused by physical injury or bacterial or fungal infection and is short-term or temporary, expected to subside as soon as the healing process of the body is complete. Chronic inflammation is when this natural defense mechanism of our body is prolonged due to several factors closely linked to one’s lifestyle, which may then progress to a certain chronic disease, hence the term ‘lifestyle disease.’
Although acute inflammation manifesting in redness, heat, swelling, pain and loss of function is what most people may be familiar with, chronic inflammation is particularly significant as this has remarkable effects on one’s health. It is a secret killer.
Inflammation has long been associated with allergic diseases such as asthma, allergies and irritable bowel diseases such as Chron’s disease. Recently, however, chronic inflammation has been found to be closely linked to the onset of several chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
How does this happen? Remember, inflammation is an immune response from our body, thereby involving the body’s defense system. If the body is constantly in battle within itself, the immune system will eventually burn out and an imbalance occurs, rendering the body vulnerable to infection and diseases. Thus, the more appropriate term for a “weak immune system” is actually “an imbalanced immune system.” Inflammation is a welcome natural response, but when this is prolonged due to repeated exposure to triggers (poor diet, environment, poor oral health, etc.), this is when it becomes a problem.
One does not necessarily have to present with abnormal laboratory values when one is suffering from chronic inflammation. This is why the absence of disease does not confirm being in a healthy condition. You may not have any disease that would require you to see a doctor or pop some pills, but you may be suffering from a few or all of these symptoms if you have chronic inflammation:
Body aches and pain
Fatigue (with associated insomnia or poor quality sleep)
Depression and anxiety
Gastrointestinal (stomach) issues
Shortness of breath
As mentioned earlier in this article, chronic inflammation is caused by several factors closely related to one’s lifestyle. You are at a high risk of developing chronic inflammation — and eventually lifestyle diseases — if you have the following habits or are repeatedly exposed to the following:
Excess weight (being overweight or obese)
Poor diet (inflammatory diet, food intolerances)
Lack of exercise
Excessive alcohol consumption
Poor oral health
Diet is definitely the factor that is highly responsible for the condition of one’s health as eating is something we do every day, several times a day. This is both the prevention and cure to chronic inflammation. So, watch for next week’s issue as I go over the foods that can cause and prevent inflammation.