Inflammation – Could Inflammation Be the Underlying Cause of Many Major Diseases?
We all know the obvious signs of inflammation. For example, when we cut ourselves or scratch our finger in the kitchen or garden, we experience:
Inflammation is a good thing, but only if it’s at the right level for the right amount of time. It is simply the body’s initial healing response to infection or damaged tissue.
Inflammation can be caused by:
- Physical reasons such as injuries, burns, insect bites, frostbite or radiation
- Chemicals such as pesticides, toxic fumes and particles and hydrochloric acid*
- Microbes such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi
- Antigens to which the body is sensitive and cause an immune response (for example, milk protein casein or peanuts)
What exactly is inflammation?
As mentioned above, inflammation is the body’s response to damaged tissue or infection.
Here is what happens in the body:
- The blood vessels leading to the site of injury or infection widen, so more blood can reach the area.
- During this time, blood vessels moving away from the site constrict, so more blood is available to go to the site. More blood brings more oxygen for healing.
- Pain receptors in the nerves are activated by chemicals such as substance P. The important, albeit unpleasant, purpose of pain is to alert you to a problem and warns you to rest that area of the body.
- Ships become more airtight, allowing easier entry of the following:
– Leukocytes (neutrophils and macrophages) – these render unwanted pathogens harmless.
– Excess fluid, to dilute toxins and help eliminate them from the body.
– Large protein molecules, such as antibodies and fibrinogen. Antibodies “eat” unwanted pathogens, such as bacteria or allergens, while fibrinogen helps seal the inflamed area to help prevent the spread of toxins.
So you see that short-term inflammation, lasting only a few hours or days, is a good protective response. Problems arise, however, when short-term “acute” inflammation becomes long-term “chronic” inflammation. Chronic inflammation is now known to be implicated in many of our major diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease.
This will be covered in the next article – Chronic Inflammation – Consequences of a Good Response Gone Wrong.
*Hydrochloric acid is the stomach acid needed to help digest protein, absorb calcium, and fight off parasites in food or drink. It is vital for our health, and the stomach is normally protected by a layer of mucus, so that the stomach lining is not damaged. However, if acid leaves the stomach (eg, acid reflux), it will cause inflammation in areas not protected by mucus, such as the esophagus.