#2 in a 4-part series of discussions, Bodies Out of Balance - Chronic Inflammation, we will look at when there is no balance and our bodies move from health to chronic inflammation.
In the first part of this discussion "A question of Balance - Healthy and Unhealthy Inflammation" we talked about healthy inflammation. The cascading series of steps our bodies take to protect and heal. A rapid automatic and amazingly complex set of reactions designed to find and eliminate the infection or damage that our body has suffered. Lasting from a few hours to several days the results can be unpleasant. It is a fast-paced battle. The enemy (infection or damage) must be dealt with quickly before it overwhelms us. The end result though is a body ready again for activity.
In the second in the series we will look at "Bodies Out of Balance - Chronic Inflammation."
Sometimes the battle does not end. The signals and chemical messages that trigger our inflammatory response do not reduce. The result is chronic or long-term inflammation. Inflammatory disease that in and of itself is debilitating, but also has cascading impacts as the byproduct of these chemical reactions leave our bodies awash in free radicals and toxic wastes. These chemical wastes of the battle further stress our liver and kidneys and cause cascading chain reactions of pain and loss of life quality. So what went wrong with our beautiful and oh so finely tuned defenses?
We can look at three broad categories of the cause of inflammation:
- Autoimmune diseases
A group of diseases where our own immune system triggers and begins to see our health bodies as the target for destruction. The widespread attack on our bodies causes painful chronic inflammation as a byproduct of the disease.There are unfortunately over 80 documented autoimmune diseases that affect some 50+ million people in the US alone. Just a few of these diseases include:
One of the most troubling aspects of autoimmune diseases is that the exact triggers and causes are often little understood. Bacterial and Viral Disease, prolonged stress, environmental toxin exposure all have been linked. Often developing later in life and often running in families these are debilitating diseases.
- A breakdown of our natural response systems
Our bodies natural defensive response can become unregulated or damaged. A most common example are those who suffer from seasonal allergies. Responding to the presence of dust, mold, pollen and spores, our bodies see these mostly neutral substances as invaders and launch a full-scale response with the result of watering eyes, sinus pain and endless sneezing. Medications, foods, environmental toxins can all trigger these overreactions. In some they become chronic.
- Repetitive damage
Runners, tennis players, hikers, factory workers, chefs, moms, truck drivers, the obese all suffer from the repetitive use of specific parts of their bodies. Repeated wear and tear and damage to muscles and joints trigger repeated responses.
Each in their own way have the end result of chronic and often system-wide inflammation and its downstream problems. It feels like we are all doomed, but our bodies have amazing powers of healing and are full of redundant backup systems. Look just at the soldiers in the battle, our white blood cells. An array of specialized warriors, with lives from hours to years, each with a targeted purpose rapidly replaced in our lymphatic and bone marrow systems.
We truly are the amazing assembly of biological systems. Our complexity, that so often leads to disease, can also be harnessed to heal.
Medical science has developed a wide array of chemical treatments, never without their own side effects, often unwanted and damaging. Nevertheless these treatments are a miracle to those suffering chronic pain.
The real question to be asked is not "how do we treat these diseases," but "how do we help our bodies heal from and minimize the impact of these diseases."
As you read the literature, the answers have always been with us. Each one by itself is never a complete solution, and often they are so obvious they are often overlooked and dismissed. They form the foundation of strong disease resistant, faster recovering bodies, with healthy well regulated natural inflammatory responses.
Think long-term prevention. Have a long-term plan. Most times our chronic inflammation results from years of accumulated events, and we will not solve it overnight with one pill.
Remember we "carry our scars," we accumulate the good and bad in our lives. Focus on prevention. Include foods and supplements rich in phytochemicals and polyphenols that help naturally regulate our body's healthy inflammatory responses and soak up the free radicals and help our livers and kidneys quickly and completely tag and eliminate foreign substances that do damage. Turmeric, ginger, red grapes, cabbage, green tea, carrots and a wide range of spices, legumes, nuts and colored vegetables are all part of our long-term battle plan.
The added benefit is that these products, part of our diet for thousands of years, are not only healthful but delicious and bring us the joy of great food and the happiness of friends to enjoy it with.