Inflammation is the body’s response to protect and heal itself. The main aim is to remove the stimuli such as damaged cells, irritants and pathogens so that they do not damage the healthy cells and tissues further.

There are 2 types of inflammations:

Acute inflammation

It starts rapidly and becomes severe. Signs of acute inflammation include pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function at the area of attack. Examples are sore throat, flu and cut.

Chronic inflammation

When the body fails to eliminate the stimuli, that is, normally low intensity irritants, it is a progressive shift to destruction of cells and tissues leading to chronic diseases. Examples are asthma, Crohn’s Disease and sinusitis.

While the acute inflammation is important to our body, we do not need chronic inflammation at all because it is the precursor to most diseases.

What cause inflammation?

1) Diet

What we eat plays a big part in the trigger of inflammation in our body. A diet high in refined sugar, trans fat and processed food contribute to high level of inflammatory messengers in the blood.

For digestive problems such as Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease and lactose intolerance, certain specific foods such as wheat and gluten or any other foods can trigger inflammation in these diseases.

2) Obesity and overweight

Hotamisligil et al was the first to show the positive correlation between fat tissues and the expression of inflammatory messenger. People who are overweight or obese are found to have elevated level of inflammatory messenger.

3) Smoking

Smoking introduces a lot of toxins and irritants into the body, which will certainly trigger inflammatory response in the body.

In PLoS Medicine Journal, Arvind Bakhru and Thomas Erlinger investigated the association between smoking and smoking cessation and the level of inflammatory messengers. A study done on 15 489 US adults out of which, 7665 never smoke, 3459 were former smokers and 4365 were current smokers. It was found that inflammatory markers reduce as smoking cease.

4) Stress

Chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response and this lead to high level of inflammatory messengers in the body.

What are the chronic diseases linked to inflammation?

1) Heart diseases

C Reactive Protein ( CRP) is one of the protein produced during inflammation process. It binds to dead cells and send signal for the dead cells to be removed from the body. It is a normal marker for inflammation in the body.

In chronic inflammation of the blood vessel, the lining of the blood vessel is damaged leading to the formation of plaque. This triggers elevated level of CRP indicating the risk of coronary heart disease.

2) Diabetes

Hai Yan Xu reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in December 2003 issue link how obesity and overweight people develop diabetes and insulin resistance. Fat cells send signals increasing inflammation and also increasing the expression of several signally proteins that suppress the insulin pathway. As a result the body become less responsive to insulin and develop insulin resistance and eventual diabetes.

3) Autoimmune disorders

People with rheumatoid arthritis, Systemic Lupus, Irritable Bowel Syndrom and Crohn’s disease are found to have high level of inflammatory protein signalers.

4) Cancer

Cancer is not triggered by inflammation. But inflammation greatly accelerates the development of tumor cells, which may lead to the spread to other organs.

5) Alzheimer’s disease

A new hypothesis proposed by scientist from The Scripps Research Institute that inflammation may be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s disease are found to have protein plaque in the brain called amyloid beta protein.

The new hypothesis proposed that inflammation cause the formation of abnormal metabolites in the brain which modify the amyloid beta protein in the brain cells, leading to mis-folding and death of brain cells.

Now that you know inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, it is important that we take steps to prevent or reduce chronic inflammation from happening. In my next post, I will cover ways to prevent inflammation.

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