Preventing chronic inflammation for a healthier life

We tend to think of inflammation as synonymous with arthritis. However, inflammation can strike anywhere in your body.

by Dr. Vijaya Nair — 

Inflammation is your immune system’s way of protecting your body from physical trauma or foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. It is supposed to be a short and powerful response. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t know how to turn off the inflammation switch and often ends up destroying the very tissues and organs it was meant to protect.

We tend to think of inflammation as synonymous with arthritis. However, inflammation can strike anywhere in your body. It is a major contributor to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and many other life-threatening conditions. To put it simply: if you control inflammation, you control disease.

Inflammation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it protects you. When you get a splinter, inflammation makes sure that immune cells arrive at the scene of the injury to kill any bacteria or viruses that may have entered the broken skin. That’s what the redness, heat, swelling and pain are all about. Your immune system is going to war.

On the other hand, inflammation can kill you. It can cause illnesses like cancer, arthritis, heart disease, digestive tract illnesses, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Inflammation is only supposed to stick around as long as a threat exists. That is why your inflammation levels shoot through the roof if you have a severe bacterial infection, but quickly return to normal once the bacteria are successfully eliminated.

When the body doesn’t turn off the inflammation response — when all those inflammatory chemicals stay in the system for a long time — it ends up destroying the very tissues and organs it was meant to protect. Having high levels of inflammation for short periods of time is helpful, but having low levels of inflammation for long periods of time is deadly.

Research shows that all types of inflammation can cause cancer. Whether the inflammation is caused by an infection (such as hepatitis), a mechanical irritant (such as kidney stones) or a chemical irritant (such as stomach acid), the result is the same. Chronic, low-grade inflammation greatly increases your risk of developing cancer. Arthritis conditions occur when an avalanche of inflammatory chemicals are being released — and those inflammatory chemicals wear away the joint cartilage.

The first step in any program to combat arthritis, therefore, isn’t to stop the pain, but to stop the inflammation. With the development of Alzheimer’s, inflammation plays a role and causes it to progress faster. This is because hallmarks of the disease, the amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, are mechanical irritants to the brain. The inflammation they create causes the release of brain-killing chemicals. From these examples we can see that the root cause of most disease is the body’s inability to control inflammation. This is the first place modern medicine should start looking for treatment, as well as prevention.

 

Dr. Vijaya Nair, M.D., FAMS, M.S., is the author of Prevent Cancer, Strokes, Heart Attacks and Other Deadly Diseases! www.safegoodspub.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 2, Apr/May 2009.

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