On The Importance of Inflammation
Inflammation is a good thing for our bodies. It helps heal wounds and kills viruses. It’s the body’s response to outside threats like infection, toxic chemicals and stress. When the immune system senses danger, it responds by the activation of proteins. Their job is to protect the cells and tissues of the body. It’s when the immune cells start to overreact that we are in danger. It’s when it becomes a low grade, chronic background noise.
Things like viruses, bacteria and autoimmune diseases can affect our health. Sugary, fatty foods and stress can also have a detrimental affect. Both in the short and long term.
You may have noticed an inflammation response when you’ve had a cut on your finger. It becomes red, swollen, and warm to the touch. This is the body’s repair mechanism at work. White blood cells, immune cell-stimulating growth factors, and nutrients attend the affected area. Inflammation is a healthy and necessary function of the healing process. But, it is only helpful when it is temporary! When the wound, or the illness is gone, the inflammation should also go.
Here are some things that affect inflammation and what that means for you:
Emotional stress can cause an inflammatory response. The body’s response to danger, stress and even a bad break-up can be inflammation. Inflammatory markers, called C-reactive proteins, release into the blood stream. They travel throughout the body. The response floods you with adrenaline. This can be helpful if you need to escape a life-threatening situation. But, not when we over think and stress over a long period of time. For example, dwelling on past stressful events. This can cause C-reactive proteins levels to remain elevated. This, in turn, can be a factor in many chronic health conditions.
Most of the body’s immune cells cluster around the intestines. Most of the time, those immune cells ignore the trillions of healthy bacteria that live in the gut. For some people, that tolerance seems impaired. Their immune cells begin to react to the bacteria, creating chronic inflammation.
People with high inflammation have a higher risk of heart disease. Regardless of weight or eating habits. When the arteries suffer damage, fatty plaque will form to cover the tears. This in turn attracts white blood cells to the spot. This, coupled with the inflammation response, causes the blockages to become big problems. Only lowering inflammation can help lower risk of heart attack or stroke.
Studies have linked Chronic inflammation to some cancers. Lung, esophagus, cervix, and digestive tract cancers among others. A 2014 Harvard University study for example. It found that obese teenagers with high levels of inflammation had elevated risk. Some 63% of them had increased risk of developing bowel cancer during adulthood. Obesity, chronic infection, chemical irritant all have shown increased risk. As have other chronic conditions. When the immune cells begin to produce inflammation, immune regulation deteriorates. This creates the optimal environment for cancer cells to grow.
Consider a 2009 study done at Case Western Reserve University. They found a correlation between sleeping times and inflammation. Sleeping less or more than average correlated with higher levels of inflammation. This was in comparison to an average of 7.6 hours of sleep a night. There is only a correlation, not a cause and effect. Thus, we cannot be sure what triggers what. Does the inflammation trigger the change in sleep cycle? Or, does the short or long sleeping duration trigger inflammation? Other studies show that shift work increases inflammation in the body.
6) Weight Loss
Obesity is a major cause of inflammation in the body and losing weight is one of the most effective ways to fight it. That is easier said than done. Elevated levels of inflammation related proteins can make weight loss more difficult. Chronic inflammation can influence hunger signals, slowing down metabolism. So, you’ll eat more and burn less calories.
Inflammation in the brain may have a link to depression, according to a 2015 study. It found that inflammation may be responsible for depressive symptoms. For example, low mood, lack of appetite, and poor sleep. Previous studies found that people with depression have higher levels of inflammation markers.