It is red, warm, swollen and painful. Something must be wrong. Not necessarily
Inflammation is a normal response by the body’s immune system to any invasion, threat or damage. This can include germs (e.g. viruses and fungi), chemical and radiation damage (e.g. sunburn and toxins), foreign objects (e.g. splinters) or overexertion such as a sports injury.
There are two types of inflammation – acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is the inflammatory response to everyday injuries or threats in order to start the healing process.
Chronic inflammation is when the body is in a constant state of emergency – often due to prolonged stress and anxiety. This type of inflammation is the cause of most chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Within the scope of this article, we will focus on acute inflammation only.
There are five classic symptoms of acute inflammation: heat, redness, pain, swelling and loss of function.
Distressing as they are, these symptoms are very intelligently coordinated to form part of the body’s team effort of healing.
The redness and heat indicate increased blood flow to the area, while pain and swelling restrict the use of the limb to allow healing to start. (Pain is often a very useful tool to gauge the body’s limits and limit further damage. However, anti-inflammatory painkillers often inhibit the natural healing process.)
The purpose of inflammation is to remove offending objects (e.g. bacteria, toxins from a bee sting) and clean up damaged and dying cells from the site of inflammation.
Then it starts the process of tissue repair but also prevents further damage to the affected area.
There is indeed a very smart (and complicated) system behind the process of inflammation: firstly, the immune system is triggered. This signals an increase in the size of blood vessels and capillary permeability in the injured area. This allows an increase in blood flow to the injury site and allows protein-rich fluid to seep out into the surrounding tissue – a reason for swelling in sites of inflammation.
The next thing that happens during inflammation is a complicated process – leukocyte extravasation. This is when the immune system’s soldiers – white blood cells – start oozing out of the blood vessels into the inflamed tissue. These white blood cells leave the blood vessels and ‘summon’ more helpers to affected areas via cytokines, chemical signalling proteins. Lastly, serum proteins and phagocytes eat and destroy harmful bacteria and inflammation settles down.
Acute inflammation can be regulated by natural supplements like curcumin, ashwagandha, Boswelia serrata and fulvic acid.
Chronic inflammation, linked to stress and anxiety, can be regulated by deep breathing exercises and meditation, while a healthy diet and reducing stress may reestablish that delicate balance between a healthy immune response and injurious chronic inflammation.
While every effort is taken to ensure information about inflammation is correct, the content on this website is proposed as general information and should not be construed as medical advice.
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