Inflammation

The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.
Therefore, the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.

                                                                                       — Paracelsus 

We keep hearing the term ‘Inflammation’ a lot, with regard to health. Each one of us has his/her own understanding & definition of the term. But I’m sure that most of us do not understand the complexities of inflammation – it’s nature, process & damage. External inflammation is easy to deal with (in normal cases), it is the internal inflammation that we are concerned with here. It goes unnoticed, is more dangerous and is very difficult to control. Let’s first understand what inflammation is.

Inflammation is the first response by the immune system to infection or irritation. It presents itself with the cardinal signs of redness ( Latin: rubor), heat (calor), swelling (tumor), pain (dolor), and dysfunction of the organs involved. Acute inflammation is needed to help heal acute trauma, abrasions, broken bones, or acute invasion of a foreign substance such as bee venom from a bee sting. The body reacts immediately to acute trauma by increasing substances in the body that stimulate swelling, redness, pain, and heat. These responses are important because they keep the body from doing further damage to the injury or wound by promoting pain and swelling all around the injured area. This causes an individual to be more cautious when moving the affected part. For example, if you break your wrist, the pain and inflammation will force you to protect the wrist from further damage that could occur if you used it or moved it too often or too quickly.

However, chronic inflammation is an ongoing, low level of inflammation, invisible to the human eye that usually occurs as a response to prolonged or repetitive injuries. We are now also finding that chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases. The key words here are “chronic & low level”. Externally, a good example to understand, would be the way in which most of us get a pinch from new shoes. We continue to bear it, and ignore it, and soon the body gets accustomed to it. The blister so formed behind our heel turns into hardened skin and it soon becomes a part and parcel of our life. Forgotten.

Internally, similar things can happen with bad dietary choices. One may experience heart burn, gurgling, burning, stomach upsets, flatulence and other such effects. But with repetitive bad dietary choices our systems start to tolerate these effects more and more and we neglect & ignore these signs and get used to them.

Once the core nutritive components enter into our blood stream some may start to exercise their damage on our vascular system and that damage goes largely unnoticed. Over years it can result in serious consequences. I’ve been repeatedly mentioning in several posts that insulin is a “pro-inflammatory” hormone. In excessive quantities it promotes inflammation. And what causes a surge in our insulin productivity & secretion. Short & sweet answer – Glucose, or in other words, carbohydrates.    

Normally, atoms have paired (even numbered) electrons, but atoms or groups of atoms with unpaired (single or odd numbered) electrons are known as free radicals. Free radicals are formed usually when Oxygen interacts with molecules. Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, like dominoes. Their chief danger comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. Cells may function poorly or die if this occurs. To prevent free radical damage the body has a defense system of antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that scavenge and neutralize free radicals, the principle micronutrient antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. 

In the delivery of our nutrients, within our body, many of the delivery molecules become free radicals. Since most of our diet now does not contain natural or real foods our bodies lack the amount of antioxidants required to neutralize the free radicals, thereby allowing the chain reactions (as explained above) to grow unabated. Thus starts the oxidation of the cells which is known as oxidative damage. This gives rise to inflammation.

The standard diet today contains its own set of pro-inflammatory agents. This is so because most of our food comes either in box, packet, jar or bottle. And to deliver it to the consumer in a ready to consume state 4 to 6 months after production (manufacture) a lot of preservatives (chemicals), flavours (chemicals), colors (chemicals), stabilizers (chemicals) and emulsifiers (chemicals) have to be added. Even if these were absent, the very process of industrial manufacture involving so many mechanical processes like peeling, slicing, cutting, blending, mixing, squeezing, shredding cause the natural death of the good stuff.

The answer may lie not just in consuming fresh & real foods, but also in restricting our dependence on carbs. That should eliminate the need to secrete a lot of insulin and keep our vascular integrity intact. Healthy endothelial cells in a vessel are able to resist the interactions of free radicals and do not get compromised ensuring sound overall function.  


No comments:

Post a comment