Monday, November 3, 2014

The Dangers of Inflammation

Death by Inflammation


Some of the worst symptoms are created in chronic illness by our body trying to help us.  A good example of this is inflammation.


The inflammatory response is a good example of this.  We have all experience inflammation.  Usually we experience inflammation as pain.  It could be a toothache, a migraine, all types of stomach aches, knees, hips, ankles and arches.  Where there is chronic pain there is inflammation.


Why does our body do such a good job of beating us up with inflammation?  The only reason that I have ever seen explained through research for inflammation to exist is to provide a defense against bacteria.


When we are injured, or the body thinks we are injured, its biggest concern is infection.  Inflammation is the way that the body gets all of the germ fighting white blood cells to where they are needed.


Inflammation is the body turning itself inside out.  It is working to get all of those defensive cells out of the body to where it thinks they are needed.  The problem is that there are so many signals that the body can get that trigger this infection response.  Most of them don’t even involve infection.


The messengers that signal inflammation are called cytokines.  Cytokines can be released due to physical stresses, the main physical stress is eating a food we are allergic to.  Eating foreign substances such as genetically modified foods can also trigger inflammation. There are other factors in the environment such as various toxic substances which we are exposed to at home and work.  There is the presence of auto-immune antibodies in our system that can create a chronic inflammatory response.


These inflammatory chemicals cause inflammation throughout the body, not just in on area.  Once place that is especially sensitive to this inflammation is the brain.  These chemicals can activate different parts of the brain that cause different emotions.  Usually these emotions are not ones that create positive experiences in our life.  The parts of the brain that are most sensitive to inflammatory cytokines are the ones that cause feelings of anger, irritability, depression and even despair.


Because these inflammatory parts of the brain are activated it is very hard to think clearly.  It definitely makes it much more difficult to think at our best.  And how are we going to do out best navigation through the challenges of life if out brain is not working for us.  Not to mention actually getting to the place that we want to get to in our work, our relationships and our artistic pursuits and other endeavors.


Because these chemicals released by our body can be so irritating to our brains it is not uncommon for people to self medicate through over the counter drugs, legal drugs like alcohol, or other prescription or other street drugs.  It is no surprise that the person most likely to use drugs is the least happy person.  Sure there are factors in life that can influence this choice, but one factor that has been consistent in most people with an addiction history that I have worked with is the presence of food allergens creating a chronic state of inflammation in the brain.

Over a long period the parts of the body that are designed to slow down the inflammatory process wear out.  It is like you are driving a car with the gas pedal pushed down to the floor on full power all the time.  Then trying to control the speed of that car with the break pedal.  Eventually the brakes would wear out and the car would go speeding out of control.


In the same way when our body is in the inflammatory state over a long time we wear our our ability to stop the inflammation.  For some people this may happen as a young child but depending on our body we may loose our ability to control inflammation in our twenties, in our thirties, or later.  Some people are surprised when the brakes of their body give out and they start with inflammation that they can’t seem to control.  Prescription drugs may help this temporarily, but as long as the body is getting inflammatory signals from the environment then stronger and stronger drugs will be needed.


The problem with stronger and stronger prescriptions medicines is that they have a suppressive effect on our entire immune system.  The just don’t suppress the part of the immune system that is giving us our chronic inflammation but they suppress the parts that do protect us from things like infections and cancer.


So of course the key to treating all kinds of pain from chronic inflammation is not to just look at the inflammation as the whole problem.  It also helps to do a bit of detective work and try and figure out what is causing the inflammation in your body.  Personally I think testing is better than guessing.  I like to test the two long term allergy systems in our body for reactions to foods that may be hidden from us.  That is often one solution to inflammation.