Understanding Inflammation

By Lyne Desforges, Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Culinary Expert

The Body’s Natural Inflammatory Response

Inflammation is a popular word in the wellness industry, however its overuse may have given the wrong impression about its purpose. Being inflamed is not always a bad thing. It can mean that the body is working normally to fight off pathogens and infections. The problem occurs when you are in a constant inflammatory state.

Acute Inflammation

The body has a natural inflammatory response to any injury or trauma.  For example, if you hit your toe, your body will mount an inflammatory response by dilating blood vessels. This enables extra blood to go to the region, which explains the hotness and redness. This blood carries immune system cells (white blood cells) that will help with the healing process. These cells also signal the body to move fluid to the area of the injury, hence the swelling. Your nerves are sending you pain signals so you know to be careful with your toe, possibly resting it so it can heal. This is an acute inflammatory response, the body’s natural response to an injury or a trauma.

Symptoms of an acute inflammatory response:

  • Heat
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Loss of function 

Colds and Flus

Seasonal allergies, or cold and flu symptoms are signs that the body is having an acute inflammatory response to an allergen, a pathogen, a virus, or an infection. Mucous membranes release more fluid when they are inflamed. For example, a stuffy nose is a sign that your body is trying to flush out a pathogen from your nasal passages.

Chronic Inflammation

The problem occurs when your body is in a constant state of inflammation, in response to a recurring trigger. It is like you keep hitting your toe over and over again. This is chronic inflammation. This will translate in symptoms that show up in different ways according to different people, usually a point of weakness often pre-determined by your genetic makeup.

For example, if your point of weakness is in your joints, inflammation will show up as arthritis. If your point of weakness is in your lungs, inflammation will show up as bronchitis. If it in your colon, then you may get colitis. (Note that any condition that ends up in “itis” is an inflammatory condition).

Symptoms of chronic inflammation:

  • Body pain
  • Constant fatigue & insomnia
  • Depression, anxiety and other mood disorder
  • Gastrointestinal issues – constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux
  • Weight gain
  • Frequent infections 

Auto-immune diseases

With chronic inflammation, the inflammatory response is not helping the body heal but causing harm. The immune system is fighting against its own cells  and acting as if regular tissues are infected.  These conditions are referred to as auto-immune diseases . Examples of auto-immune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis & other skin rashes, MS, type 1 diabetes, and pulmonary fibrosis.

Testing For Inflammation

Depending on your condition, your healthcare practitioner will be able to determine if your body is in an inflammatory state or if you have an auto-immune disease.

Some of the tests or tools used can be:

  • Looking at symptoms
  • MRIs and/or X-rays
  • Blood test for these markers: C-reactive protein (CRP), Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and/or Serum protein electrophoresis (SPE).

Conventional vs Alternative Medicine

Conventional medicine tends to treat the symptoms rather than the cause. You have pain, let’s give you painkillers. Don’t get me wrong. There is certainly a place for them when the pain is extreme, but the pain will keep coming back if the trigger is not dealt with.

Alternative medicine will look for the cause of your inflammation and work at reducing or eliminating those triggers. You keep hitting your toe? Maybe you need to move a table out of the way, so you stop hitting it over and over again.

Triggers can be from foods, your environment, your lifestyle, or stress. Working with our naturopath Dr. Sofie, I found out what my triggers were and worked at eliminating those while working on healing and repairing my gut. This is a long process and will take time, but often the body has been inflamed for a long time as well. You need to be patient.

We Can Help You

So, next time you hit your toe, be thankful that your body has a natural inflammatory response. However, if you are in constant pain or have an “itis” condition, consider seeing an naturopathic doctor or alternative medicine healthcare practitioner so you can deal with the root cause and get the problem resolved. At C’est La Vie Wellness, we have many practitioners that can support you as you try to reduce inflammation in your body as I successfully did with the help of Dr. Sofie ND.

 

References

“Autoimmune Diseases.” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/autoimmune/index.cfm

Elmer, Jamie. “Understanding Inflammation: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, M.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 19 Dec. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/inflammation

Szalay, Jessie. “What Is Inflammation?” LiveScience, Purch, 19 Oct. 2018, www.livescience.com/52344-inflammation.html

“What Is an Inflammation?” InformedHealth.org [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Feb. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/

Zelman, David. “Inflammation: Definition, Diseases, Types, and Treatment.” WebMD, WebMD, 13 Sept. 2018, www.webmd.com/arthritis/about-inflammation.