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What is Inflammation and Why You Should Know - Longevity Blog

Inflammation is an essential and complex biological response against harmful stimuli. It is an intelligent process used by the body to address a perceived problem, such as an injury or flu. Inflammation enables the body to protect itself against infection from foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses.

In acute inflammation, the body’s immune system sends white cells to surround and protect the injured or infected area, resulting in redness, swelling and warmth as part of the body’s attempt to heal itself and repair damaged tissue. Acute inflammation is brief and lasts only a few days: it disappears when the injury, infection or illness is gone. In this manner, inflammation is healthy and vital for healing.

This process works to heal wounds or infection, and it also plays a role in chronic inflammation.  When the threats are stress, sugar foods, toxic chemicals, fat cells or an autoimmune condition, the body will perceive danger and immune cells overreact in an attempt to respond to these unwanted substances. In the case of ongoing emotional stress, for example, inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein or CRP) get released into the blood in a continuous stream travelling to all areas in the body as there isn’t a specific location of threat. Since pain or other symptoms are not manifested immediately in this type of inflammation, it can lead to high levels of CRP and the development of chronic diseases.

CRP is produced by the liver and it is used as a biomarker for inflammation in the body measured in blood tests. Elevated levels indicate presence of inflammation in the body which has been linked to serious chronic illnesses affecting the gut, joints, lungs, heart, bones, mouth, skin and other areas. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, heart disease, depression, dementia, celiac disease, psoriasis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and cancer. According to Bogdan Fedeles, a research associate in the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT, “the presence of a foreign pathogen activates the immune response, which tries to fight off the bacteria, but in this process it also damages some of the normal cells.” Scientists believe that chronic inflammation drives a lot of cancers due to higher risk of mutations generated by chemicals that damage DNA.

The effects of chronic inflammation in the human body can be even more dramatic as inflammation and DNA damage go on silently for many years. We can’t live without inflammation but it can turn against us in dangerous ways.

 

 

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