Many researchers have given thought to the idea that inflammation leads to degenerative diseases. Inflammation within the body wreaks havoc, whether acute or chronic. It’s a matter of it being detected and managed or reversed as to whether or not we suffer long term effects. Inflammation can surface in a variety of ways: redness, swelling, pain, heat, and reduced mobility. Some people experience digestive woes, others joint pain, or mental sluggishness. And of course, there are many more ways inflammation can be expressed in the body. Sound familiar? Right! All of us can relate in some way at some point in our lives. Sometimes this inflammation is fleeting, and once the problem is healed we return to normal. But sometimes, the symptoms become so continuous that we adjust our view of our own wellbeing to accept this as normal.
What is the point of inflammation? Well, it’s a healing resource in our system. When the body sustains an injury, it sets to work on repairing it immediately. In most cases, it sends the necessary blood cells to the site of the injury. White blood cells are our body’s immune system warriors. Basically they perform a variety of tasks, but mainly they can eradicate or neutralize the cause of injury, stop the spread of injury to surrounding tissues, and set to work on the actual repair process.
What causes inflammation? Think stress. Not just mental or emotional stress, though those are certainly contributors. Bacteria, viruses, fungus and other unwanted microorganisms in the body are another kind of stress. Physical injury is a more obvious form of stress that induces inflammation. Environmental toxins and chemical exposure are risk factors, too. As mentioned previously, mental and emotional stress definitely play a role. For all of these risk factors, it is important to consider the length of exposure. Infections and physical injury, generally considered acute stressors, are usually intense but short lived. The body can often recover and return to homeostasis, a healthy balance of the internal systems. But when the stressors persist and become chronic conditions, the body loses it’s ability to return to homeostasis. All of these stressors translate to injury in the body.
It may help to think of it as this: the body is very efficient and hard working. When it becomes aware of an injury, it sets out full speed and strength to get the job done. Under proper working conditions, this is usually achievable. But we are rarely operating under proper conditions these days. Our exposure to stress of all types is at an all time high. Our mental and emotional wellbeing is continually strained by long working days, ever increasing work and personal demands, and increased societal pressures and worries. Add to that our living environments have become inundated with chemicals and toxins, increased air pollution, even noise pollution. Now finally consider that our food sources are so far below the level of quality they should be. We are under constant external stress, so that when our body comes in contact with internal stress, it has a much bigger battle to fight. You see, it has to do all of the things it has always had to do, only now it needs to do it with less than optimal functioning capacity. Try winning a fight with your hands tied behind your back and you will understand what your body is facing.
Since homeostasis is what our body wants, and seeing how we are decreasing the odds of our body returning there post injury, we are tolerating a situation where our body’s can only operate at partial capacity. This in turn wears our body down, lowering the effectiveness of not only the injured system or site, but the entire network of systems within the body. Why? Because the body is a whole entity. It is not one body made of individual systems working independently. It is one system composed of intricate cogs and gears that only work when working together. It is synergistic, whole, complete. You cannot take it apart and expect each system to act on it’s own. No, it works because it is beautifully orchestrated to work in harmony. Remove one component, or even just reduce it’s ability to function, and you will effectively cause the rest of the body to respond in discord. It may take time to see or feel the discord, but I guarantee you it exists all the same.
Over time, the body suffering from reduced functioning becomes tired. You may or may not feel the effects, but the tiredness can be reflected within. It just can’t fight all of it’s battles, which leaves the body’s organs open to further invasion from harmful agents. Enter degenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, cancer, dementia, metabolic disease… and on and on and on. So, by now you can see that inflammation is a real problem in our lives. And the answer is obvious, isn’t it? We need to reduce and eliminate the inflammation where ever we can.
In the next few posts, I will cover ways to reduce this inflammation and attain recovery. For now, it is important to consider how you experience inflammation in your life. Identifying your symptoms will be important in what approaches may be helpful for you to reduce the inflammation. And more than anything, just know that we always have a say in our lives about the state of our health. We just need to have some ideas about where to start!