A friend just commented: “I don’t really know what inflammation is.” We were talking about the increasing evidence for depression being an issue of inflammation in the brain. But what is inflammation, exactly?
As I spend a lot of time talking about this, I thought I should clarify!
So what is inflammation?
Inflammation = redness, heat, swelling and pain
It’s essentially your tissue’s response to anything that’s not quite right. And part of the process that brings your body’s emergency services to the area to repair any damage. Once that’s done, the inflammation should go down.
So, for example:
- You sprain your ankle.
- Chemical and electrical alarm bells ring (including pain signals).
- Your blood brings healing substances to the area.
- Your ankle swells up and gets hot (inflammation), and your blood vessels dilate so the substances can get to the affected area.
- The damage heals, new tissue cells are created, and white blood cells munch up the debris.
- The inflammation calms down and you are pain-free once more.
You have probably seen inflammation with various bumps and scrapes you’ve had over the years. It can happen pretty much anywhere in your body, and is an amazingly clever process.
- a) there’s a persistent irritant, or
- b) you don’t have enough resources to resolve the initial problem, or
- c) your body is in long term stress and therefore not responding to anti-inflammatory messages,
you can end up with chronic inflammation. This is long-term, often low-grade, inflammation that doesn’t seem to completely go away. Chronic inflammation underpins pretty much every chronic illness you can think of: heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer… and depression. It can be in your gut, your blood vessels, your lungs, your joints, your brain – actually, usually it’s in your gut PLUS one or more other areas.
Dealing with chronic inflammation
So anti-inflammatories – whether drugs, or nutrients such as curcuminoids in turmeric – may only be part of the solution. There may also be persistent irritants to address. You may need to ensure your body has enough of the right nutrients to resolve the situation. And/or you may need to add in nutrients and ways of eating that calm your adrenals and other stress mechanisms. In any case, there is LOTS you can do nutritionally that most people don’t realise.
If you come and see me for a one-to-one consultation, then I’ll take a detailed case history to assess what kind of approach is most suitable for you. Plus put together a tailored nutrition plan that takes into account your lifestyle, likes and dislikes.
More blogs on inflammation
You may be interested in some of the other blogs I have written on inflammation. Some of these describe its effects, and some provide anti-inflammatory recipes.