INFLAMMATION – Beyond Anti-inflammatories!
Are we over using anti-inflammatory drugs? Whilst I am not suggesting for a moment that we should be putting up with pain, us humans are pleasure seekers and pain avoiders, so that would go against our very nature! But maybe we need to take more time and effort to explore the cause of our inflammation. If we pay more attention here and make decent attempts to remove the cause, our immune system will control the inflammatory response itself.
What is Inflammation?
Not sure what inflammation actually is? Well inflammation is the body’s non specific defence mechanism and a reaction to pathogens, irritants and damaged cells. Its characterised by – pain, swelling, redness and heat. Its the way the immune system repairs the damaged cells, blood vessels dilate which allows increased blood flow for our white blood cells (mast cells, basophils, macrophages and neutrophils) and platlets to infiltrate the injured site, providing nutrition, destroying pathogens and clearing out necrotic cells. During inflammatory states there is a redistribution of certain nutrients, in particular vitamin A, zinc and iron, they are made inaccessible to the body for use.
TOO MUCH OR NOT ENOUGH!
Inflammation is a protective response, so not enough inflammation can lead to tissue destruction by either noninfectious or infectious stimuli, and too much leads to chronic inflammation, which has been implicated in many chronic diseases, including cancer. The immune system can mistakenly trigger inflammatory responses when there is no threat present, leading to allergies and autoimmunity – restoring gut health, particularly our microflora is extremely important in helping restore immune integrity.
Working With Your Immune System Rather Than Against!
The way nature intended our immune system to work was for it to regulate inflammation itself, either up or down as required in response to infection or injury. Ideally we give it the tools it needs be able to do the job in resolving things itself. Factors that help support your immune system, include – adequate sleep, adequate nutrition (particularly vitamins A, zinc and amino acids), hydration, foods that feed and support microflora in our gut (your gut flora status can be tested), sun exposure for vitamin D and avoiding over responding to situations which trigger the stress response. When you do feel unwell, REST, REST, REST is a must, this downtime allows the immune system to get to work and avoids the body having to go into, a forced “shut down”, to restore and repair. Most of the aspects that our immune systems need to run adequately can be measured, beyond just a simple white cell count.
Possible CAUSES of Inflammation
Most causes of inflammation have their roots in the gut, so it makes sense wherever there is chronic inflammation to start with a thorough investigation here, whilst a biopsy and colonoscopy can determine what is happening structurally in some parts of the gut, a thorough functional assessment is needed to determine, gut parasites, pathogens, bacterial overgrowth, including Helicobacter pylori, food intolerance’s and allergies (Immunoglobulin E elevation can be tested). Holding excess weight can cause inflammation and pressure from the gut can often be a cause of back pain.
A list of diseases and their relationship with inflammation taken from www.mercola.com, is below:
Allergy 4 Immune Mediated Types + Sensitivities, all of which cause inflammation Alzheimer’s Chronic inflammation destroys brain cells Anemia Inflammatory cytokines attack erythropoietin production Ankylosing Spondylitis Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against joint surfaces Asthma Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against airway lining Autism Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions in the brain arresting right hemisphere development Arthritis Inflammatory cytokines destroy joint cartilage and synovial fluid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Chronic inflammation causes excessive muscle tension shortening tendons in the forearm and wrist compressing the nerves. Celiac Chronic immune mediated inflammation damages intestinal lining Crohn’s Disease Chronic immune mediated inflammation damages intestinal lining Congestive heart failure Chronic inflammation contributes to heart muscle wasting Eczema Chronic inflammation of the gut and liver with poor detoxification and often antibodies against Transglutaminase-3. Fibromyalgia Inflamed connective tissue often food allergy related and exacerbated by secondary nutritional and neurological imbalances. Fibrosis Inflammatory cytokines attack traumatized tissue Gall Bladder Disease Inflammation of the bile duct or excess cholesterol produced in response to gut inflammation GERD Inflammation of the esophagus and digestive tract nearly always food sensitivity and pH driven Guillain-Barre Autoimmune attack of the nervous system often triggered by autoimmune response to external stressors such as vaccinations. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Autoimmune reaction originating in the gut triggered by antibodies against thyroid enzymes and proteins Heart attack Chronic inflammation contributes to coronary atherosclerosis Kidney failure Inflammatory cytokines restrict circulation and damage nephrons and tubules in the kidneys Lupus Inflammatory cytokines induce an autoimmune attack against connective tissue Multiple Sclerosis Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against myelin Neuropathy Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against myelin and vascular and connective tissues which irritate nerves. Pancreatitis Inflammatory cytokines induce pancreatic cell injury Psoriasis Chronic inflammation of the gut and liver with poor detoxification Polymyalgia Rheumatica Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against muscles and connective tissue Rheumatoid Arthritis Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against joints Scleroderma Inflammatory cytokines induce an autoimmune attack against connective tissue Stroke Chronic inflammation promoted thromboembolic events Surgical complications Inflammatory cytokines (often pre-dating the surgery) slow or prevent healing
If we continually suppress inflammation in the long term, what might we be ignoring? Are we setting ourselves up for future or further tissue damage, and setting the scene for autoimmunity or cancer? Its become common practice that acute and chronic inflammation is suppressed as first line of treatment with pharmaceutical drugs, for children and adults – maybe its time we start rethinking this model, and getting to the root of the problem.
Hassed. C, Phelps. K, 2011. General Practice The Integrative Approach. 1st ed. Chatswood: Elsevier Australia.
Hechtman, L , 2012. Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. 1st ed. Chatswood: Elsevier Australia.