Inflammation: The Root of Common Disease
By L. Markham McHenry, D.O.
I know this sounds strange coming from a physician, but I’m in awe of inflammation. It’s a fascinating process, because although it’s designed to help your body heal, it can actually cause a lot of harm and do some serious collateral damage along the way.
You’ve probably read about inflammation or anti-inflammatory foods and wondered what exactly it is and if you should be concerned.
And the answer is yes, everybody has some level of inflammation in their body and it’s serious business.
Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases.
Chronic inflammation is the root cause of so many diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, & lupus
- Inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s Disease and Colitis
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Parkinson’s disease
So what is inflammation anyway?
Think back to a time when you burned your hand on the stove or twisted your ankle playing sports or lifting weights at the gym. Remember that swelling, redness, warmth, and pain? I bet you felt pretty miserable but all of those symptoms were actually your body’s way of saying, “I’m injured and I need to be repaired.”
That’s what inflammation is.
Inflammation is ok when it’s acute, or short-term, like when you have a cold or a virus. You get body aches, swollen glands, congestion and a fever. Your immune system is wreaking havoc on your body so that you’ll feel better. It turns on quickly and goes away as soon as the invader leaves your system.
But acute inflammation that occurs and resolves quickly is nothing to worry about. It’s the chronic, or long-term, inflammation that’s really the problem.
Take stress for example. Stress is the panic button for inflammation. Everyone has it, but it’s one of the major causes of chronic inflammation.
There’s no injury per say, but when you’re stressed out all your brain hears is danger, danger! And so inflammation kicks in to save the day.
The problem, however, is that if you’re always stressed out about work, money, and relationships 24/7, your worries cycle like a hamster wheel and you feel like you’re in a constant state of anxiety. And if you never find a way to cope with the stress, inflammation will never end.
What’s more, even though inflammation will do damage control, it doesn’t care what it leaves behind. The result? More health problems, visits to specialists and disease. In fact, a recent study out of Harvard School of Medicine shows that stress can increase white blood cells and inflammation in the arteries which can lead to a heart attack.
Causes of Inflammation
Here are some of the main sources of inflammation, some of which may surprise you:
- Allergies and sensitivities to both food and the environment
- Periodontal disease and gum recession
- Chemicals in cleaning products, plastics, beauty products, food
- Prescription and over the counter medications and supplements
- Environmental toxins
- Injury and trauma
So although we all have some form of inflammation, there’s a lot we can do from a lifestyle perspective to control it so it doesn’t get out of control and make us sick.
When you see an n1Health physician, you can learn about your levels and sources of inflammation, how it’s affecting your health, and most importantly what you can do to resolve it – stat.