Inflammation… The good and the not so good…
Inflammation, what is it good for?
We very much need inflammation. It is our bodies pure ability and necessity to heal from an injury. It provides heat and fluids to bring blood and healing materials to the affected area, which causes swelling and redness. It also causes pain, which is nature’s way of telling us to limit movement and use in order to help that area to heal by having us not asking too much of that area during a certain amount of time.
It’s a beautiful system, you twist your ankle, it gets swollen and sore, you limit use, it heals while you rest, and the healing materials brought in slowly dissipate, and you are back to yourself. Simple and effective! That is inflammation in its original and proper use.
What about when inflammation lasts far too long and/or is not caused by an actual injury?
There is a dark side of inflammation. The side where there is no real injury, and that non-injury doesn’t ever go away. Why would that happen? We will get to the reasons below.
This dark side is called chronic inflammation and it can affect pretty much any area of the body. If you have health issue with the last name of “itis”, chronic inflammation is at the root of it. Arthritis (joints), gastritis (gut), dermatitis (skin), tendonitis (tendons), bursitis (bursa), bronchitis (lungs), you get the idea.
However, even issues not associated with an “itis” can have inflammation as a root cause. Depression, anxiety, heart disease, migraines, and cancer, just to name a few. Also, inflammation is a significant stress on the body. The nervous system is alerted that there is an imminent threat, even if no threat, or if it is just a perceived threat, one that is not real. These are more about worry or fear not what is truly happening in the current environment. This is just a way we live right now. More on that later, as that is a whole other topic.
How do we know if we have inflammation happening?
There are ways to check on our inflammatory levels with blood tests. One main way is CRP - C-Reactive Protein, which is one of the tests done in blood labs. However, if you feel pain, for no real reason, or a sensation of heat, redness or swelling/tightness, you can almost be sure that inflammation is happening.
Why is it important to notice these symptoms?
There can be a few issues with having chronic inflammation that does not resolve. The inflammatory response to an internal threat, when no threat exists, causes the natural and normally helpful body chemicals that come to help the “injury”. If not injury exists, then these chemicals don’t have a job to do and they don’t get cleaned up, as they normally should. So those chemicals hand around and cause prolonged symptoms of pain, swelling, etc, not nice side effects.
What can you do to help resolve chronic inflammation?
First, if you have significant concerns, you can see your health care practitioner to rule out anything big that may need medical attention.
As for self care, there are many things you can do to tame chronic inflammation yourself.
Food is a big one, so I will save that info for next week. However, one big helper is to make sure you are drinking enough water. That one change alone can make a huge difference as it helps flush out the inflammatory byproducts causing symptoms.
Sleep! Getting enough sleep is critical as sleep is when your body does it’s clean up. Having extra water to help flush out inflammatory chemicals will be a powerful force in doing a full body cleanup while sleeping.
Breathe! Deep breathing a few times a day helps to take the nervous system from a stressed to relaxed state. This allows your body to focus on cleaning up and rest and digest processes that support an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Next week the focus here will be on the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effect of foods.
Have a great week!