What is Inflammation?
Everywhere you turn, inflammation is cited as the cause of another serious health condition or a factor that needs addressing to obtain great health. But, what exactly is inflammation, you may be wondering?
Inflammation is the body’s means of self-protection, whether it be from harmful microbes like bacteria, fungi or viruses, toxic exposures in our food, water, air, pharmaceutical drugs or street drugs, or free radicals and the damaged cells they cause. Regardless of the cause, the body’s immune system tries to minimize the damage through killing the microbes, removing the toxins or damaged cells, or neutralizing the free radicals before they can cause further damage.
While it may seem harmful, and indeed is linked to many illnesses and disease, the reality is that inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself and preventing further damage—essentially the healing process. Without inflammation our bodies would not heal from wounds, infections or other injuries or illness. We need inflammation to survive. However, it can become a problem when it cannot be controlled by the immune system or the damaged cells and tissues are unable to recover from it.
The word inflammation comes from the Latin word “inflammo” meaning “I set alight, I ignite.” So from that you can probably deduct that redness, swelling and heat are signs or symptoms of inflammation.
SIGNS OF INFLAMMATION
Most health professionals look for the 5 main signs of acute inflammation. They include: pain, redness, immobility, swelling and heat, or PRISH, for short. However, these symptoms may only occur in areas near the surface of the body. Not all of these signs may be detectable when the inflammation occurs deep within the body, such as in asthma.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING INFLAMMATION?
During inflammation, several things happen.
First, blood vessels in the damaged or irritated area dilate, which results in increased blood flow to the area. Then, the capillaries in the area become more permeable to allow fluid and blood proteins to move into the spaces between the cells. Then, white blood cells known as neutrophils (and sometimes other ones known as macrophages, which are larger, hence the “macro” part of the name) move into the spaces between the cells to digest and neutralize any foreign particles or matter. That can include bacteria, viruses, or other microbes or toxins, among other things. As a result of the increased fluid and white blood cells in the spaces between cells, the area may appear swollen.
2 TYPES OF INFLAMMATION
There are 2 main types of inflammation, including acute and chronic.
Acute Inflammation—This type of inflammation comes on quickly and tends to become severe just as fast. Some of the conditions linked to acute inflammation include: acute bronchitis (as opposed to chronic bronchitis, which is long-term), a sore throat from an infection, an ingrown nail, a scratch or cut, muscle damage from excessive exercise or acute tonsillitis.
Chronic Inflammation—This type of inflammation is long-term and can last for months or even years. Chronic inflammation is linked to dozens of serious health conditions, including: allergies, arthritis, asthma, cancer, colitis, diabetes and heart disease.