Inflammation, short term friend or long term foe?
Posted on 9th September 2020 at 07:36
If you’ve ever been stung by an insect – a Wasp, Bee or, if you’re really unlucky, Hornet – or wrenched a muscle, you’ll know just how painful inflammation can be. Or, put more accurately, the Inflammatory Response. With its telltale redness, swelling, heat and pain. And how quickly it occurs.
It’s part of our basic Immune System response to ANY tissue damage, which can occur in a multitude of different ways. The most common, as we’ve already mentioned, are from trauma or injury. However, there are many others including infections, toxins and heat; to name a few. There’s also a “catch all” category which always makes us smile. Irritants. Which, if you stop and think about it for a moment, includes a great many other things…
Inflammation is usually thought of as a short term – or Acute – response, lasting only a few hours or days. It’s triggered by the damaged tissues releasing chemicals – such as Histamines, Bradykinins and Prostaglandins – which increase blood flow to the area. Fluid then passes from the blood vessels into the damaged tissues causing the telltale redness, heat and swelling. Not only does this help isolate the area from the rest of the body – stopping damage from spreading any further – but also helps to immobilise it – so preventing any additional damage.
The increased blood flow also brings White Blood Cells, known as Phagocytes, to the area. Their job is to break down and remove the dead and damaged tissue, which prevents sepsis and allows healing to occur.
As an aside, do you know what pus is made up of? It’s an unappetising combination of dead tissue, dead pathogens and phagocytes, both alive and dead. And if that doesn’t make you squirm, nothing will!
But what about the pain? Well, that comes from nerve endings in the area being stimulated. As with all pain, it makes you leave the area well alone – and still – to help prevent any further damage.
Since Acute inflammation will usually resolve itself within a short period of time – and without any medical intervention being necessary – the well known RICE protocol is often all that’s needed to resolve the situation. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. If you need a quick reminder, click here for our post on Strains and Sprains which looked at how the RICE protocol works in practice.
However, increasingly, inflammation is becoming more of an ongoing process. No longer an Acute short term response; but a Chronic ongoing one. Affecting the body as a whole, rather than a specific location(s). Even worse, it’s very “expensive” in terms of the body’s energy levels and resources, so indirectly affecting overall levels of health and quality of life. And, then there’s the end result of tissue damage and scarring.
It’s also being linked to a number of long term Chronic health conditions. Many of these come under the “Lifestyle Diseases and Conditions” heading which, as already mentioned, can greatly affect the quality of a person’s life. Auto immune Diseases. Asthma. Arthritis. Diabetes. Obesity. Cancer. Heart Disease. High Blood Pressure. Cholesterol. IBS / Colitis. And many more…
Why is this?
Well, the clue is in the last of the inflammation triggers referred to at the beginning of this post. Irritation. And, if this sounds like a “catch all” category, it definitely is. More worryingly, it’s growing every day.
Put simply, it’s anything our bodies aren’t equipped to deal with. Outside the original design parameters, if you like. And, if you’re thinking that you’ve heard this before, you’d be right. Sadly, it comes up in all too many of our posts and conversations we have with Clients.
It also includes all the things we do – or come into contact with – each day, usually without ever thinking about their long term consequences:
• Poor / unhealthy diet, dehydration.
• Smoking. And this includes e cigarettes too (!).
• Excessive alcohol consumption.
• Pollution, particularly air and drinking water pollution.
• Chemicals, in every form. Those put directly on the skin, such as cosmetics or beauty / body products. Or taken internally, such as medicines. Around us in the home or at work. In the environment around us as we go around our day.
While the list may be getting longer every day the end result, so far as our bodies are concerned, is the same. Irritation leading to an Immune response, inflammation and, when repeated over a period of time, scarring and tissue damage.
So, what’s the answer?
Well, the good news – yes there is some good news (!) – is that the majority of the triggers are under our control. In other words, they’re the things we do every day, usually without ever thinking about them. Or the potential long term risks.
And, even with those that are outside our direct control – such as air pollution – there’s still a lot we can do to mitigate any risk or damage. But, as so often is the case, we can’t do anything until we’re aware that something needs to be done…
It’s down to the things we talk about regularly in this blog coupled with a little forethought and common sense. And, for those who point to people who’ve done the “wrong” things all their lives without appearing to suffer any ill effects, please remember there are ALWAYS consequences. You just never know what they will be FOR YOU or WHEN THEY’LL APPEAR… And, if nothing else, soaring rates of all the Lifestyle Diseases – and affecting younger people – really should be enough of a wake up call.
Oh, and one last thought before we finish for this week. It’s especially aimed at those who’ve been glued to the mainstream media – print and TV – in recent months. Lifestyle Diseases have also been linked to an increased risk of contracting COVID in particular and Colds / Flu in general; as well as what’s rather euphemistically called “less favourable outcomes.” We’ll be looking at why this is the case in a couple of weeks’ time, when we take our usual look at what you can do to help avoid ALL the winter bugs.
As always, the choice is yours.
Photo by unknown author
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