#1 in a 4 part-series of discussion on "A Question of Balance - Healthy and Unhealthy Inflammation," See also a presentation by Verdant Kitchen CEO Ross Harding at National Health Policy and Clinical Practices conference March 2016
A few weeks ago I was in Los Angeles and one perfect spring morning I walked the 10 miles from pier to pier and back along Venice beach. I felt great. The next morning my right ankle was a mess. Swollen, hot and sore.
I didn't remember doing anything to it, but my body knew much better. My immune and repair system, a subconscious biochemical wonder of sensors, receptors, transmitters and regulators had gone into action. Overnight, a series of cascading chemical reactions had caused increased blood flow to my ankle, the muscles had become more porous allowing blood to better penetrate the region. Macrophage cells had been called to and concentrated there, pumping out a chemical cocktail of enzymes to dissolve, consume, reform, nourish and repair. The cascade of reactions had continued. An acute inflammatory response, designed to repair damage and neutralize infection.
Over the next week the inflammation reduced, my ankle felt better. My body had healed itself. The soup of breakdown products had been carried away, processed by my liver and expelled into bile and by my kidneys. New nutrients from my diet were used to reassemble and replace the chemicals and cells needed and ready for the next fight while I slept.
A healthy inflammatory response is critical to our wellness. Without it we would die, quickly being overwhelmed by muscle damage and infection.
Our lives are truly in the balance. Unregulated Inflammation is now better understood as perhaps the central problem affecting our quality of life. Once the natural cycle of healing inflammation becomes chronic, long-term damage results. Asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimer's, Crohn's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus. . .all unregulated, out-of-control inflammatory responses. The most common diseases afflicting our societies and robbing people of joyful and productive years include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer; all have unregulated and chronic inflammation at their core. The National Institutes of Health in 2015 identified Inflammation and alleviating chronic pain as a research area of special focus.
The central questions remains. What causes our healthy inflammatory cycle to become chronic and out of control? What can we do?
I remember as an undergraduate, standing in the hall outside my biochemistry lab looking at a portion of the Krebs Cycle (the pathway in our bodies that convert fuel to energy). I was struck then and still am now by the overwhelming complexity of our chemical self. There are hundreds perhaps thousands of complex reactions. Each one with feedback loops, regulating chemicals, chemicals to catalyze reactions, chemicals to mop up, bind to and expel products.
My point is that there is a lot that can go wrong. Each of us share similar chemical pathways but each of us is unique and unique in time. Our chemical self at 20 is different than at 40 and at 60. Stress, lifestyle, environment, diet and environmental exposure can and do affect these delicate cycles and can cause them to go wrong. The cycles can be overwhelmed with reactive (free radical) compounds.
The answer is as simple in concept as it is complex to implement in our modern lives. It is a question of balance.
Reduce the things that cause inflammation and increase the things that help regulate inflammation.
Sounds simple right? Part of the answer is naturally complex nutrition™. There is positive news and there is a great deal that we can do.
We are what we eat and so much more.