Why inflammation matters
Inflammation is important- but can also be harmful. It is a crucial part of our immune systems’ response to local tissue injury. The increase in blood flow, movement of white blood cells to an injured/infected area and production of a range of chemicals starts the process of toxin removal and tissue repair.
Meanwhile, chronic inflammation, even at low levels, is associated with many of the less-desirable aspects of ageing, including a broad range of conditions … such as diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and dementia.
To give you an idea of just how critical a role inflammation has in long-term health, we explore some potentially surprising effects below. Stay tuned next week for a range of available tools that you could use to combat inflammation.
Surprising effects inflammation may have:
1. Reduced bone density
Inflammation can increase the activity of cells that break down bone, contributing to metabolic bone diseases such as osteoporosis
2. Accelerated collagen damage
Inflammation wreaked by the natural ageing process, smoking, diet and UV exposure and other factors can contribute to increased collagen degradation within the skin, and therefore enhance wrinkling.
3. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
The microscopic damage to muscle fibres caused by exercise overload triggers inflammatory cascades in the area, which accounts for the pain and swelling. There are simple ways of managing DOMS, such as massage and stretching.
4. Mitochondrial dysfunction
Free radical production is a natural result of mitochondrial activity, but when unregulated can lead to chronic inflammation and mutations to mitochondrial DNA. Mutations mean that the proteins crucial to producing energy for cells may not work properly.
5. Telomere shortening
There is an association between chronic inflammation and telomere shortening, which can contribute to a wide range of conditions. However, whether there is actually a causative relationship or something more complex is under question.
6. SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)
Inflammation of the lining of the small intestine is a common feature of SIBO. Whether or not it is an initial cause of SIBO, it definitely aggravates the unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms experienced by sufferers.
A cause-effect relationship between inflammation and disease has not generally been established. This is partly because there are a lot of chemicals involved in inflammatory processes throughout the body… but we don’t yet have a consensus regarding which are best used as biomarkers to identify a problem. Furthermore, the concentrations of these are also altered by a number of non-inflammatory factors, so it’s hard to develop standard values for these. ‘Omics’ technologies can capture more comprehensive data on various inflammatory molecules within a network, and therefore may be an accessible way to resolve this problem in future.
Despite the difficulties in establishing or disproving a clear cause-effect relationship, inflammation has a definite association with a diverse range of unwanted states. And since many aspects of modern life can increase inflammation, it would be worth taking steps to moderate this. Next week we look at concrete ways to do so.
What impact do you think inflammation has had on your health?