Inflammation is a natural part of life. It?s the body?s first response to injury. In fact it?s the first step in something called the healing cascade? it?s an essential first step in healing from any kind of tissue damage.
However it should be short lived.
If everything works the way it should, the inflammation should resolve in a few days as the body moves on with the next steps of healing and repair.
Yet so often this isn?t what happens.
Inflammation can hang around indefinitely, and it?s now known that this chronic inflammation is a major underlying cause of all sorts of degeneration and disease processes in the body.
Cancer, heart disease and diabetes? all of these involve chronic, unresolved inflammation, just to name a few.
We see it all the time in clinic. Whenever someone comes in and says ?I hurt here, here and here? then I know it?s very likely their body is in an inflammatory state.
So what causes that?
Well, apart from acute injury (like a sprained ankle), there are 2 major sources of inflammation in the body-
The digestive system.
The immune system.
Very often if there?s chronic inflammation (pain that doesn?t go away in a few days, or keeps coming back) then one or both of these systems are likely involved.
Inflammation is one of the major weapons that our immune system uses to kill parasites and invading microbes in our body. Now these might sound like pretty third world types of problems, but the reality is we see them affecting people every day (right here in the Hills!)
In fact, regardless of what specific symptoms people present with in the clinic- pain, tiredness, headaches, hormone troubles, insomnia, concentration problems? in virtually every case underlying gut problems are part of the issue.
Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine, is quoted as saying ?all disease begins in the gut? and in my experience he?s pretty much right.
When we have a gut full of the wrong bugs we not only fail to digest our food properly, we actually convert a bunch of it to toxic waste that the body has to deal with. This often stresses our liver and is a major source of chronic inflammation.
The other thing that causes a lot of inflammatory issues in the gut is reactive foods. Many people have way more of these than they realise.
When you have an acute food allergy it?s fairly obvious- you eat something and then have an immediate reaction. Maybe you feel sick, or break out in a rash. That sends a clear message- stay away from that food.
However when you have a food intolerance it can be much less obvious. Often there are no immediate symptoms to alert you to the problem. Sometimes you will react only once you cross a certain threshold? so eating something once a day may be ok, but twice a day causes issues.
Often the symptoms are there but we don?t connect them to what we ate. Maybe we just feel tired and grumpy the next day.
Maybe our brain gets foggy.
Or maybe we have some kind of chronic skin issue (a common result of undiagnosed food intolerances).
Whatever the symptom, these all begin with an inflammatory response in the gut.
The inflammation causes ?leakiness? of our gut wall, so particles of undigested food and microbes are now able to cross the lining of our digestive system.
The first thing they encounter after crossing this barrier is your immune system- something like 70-80% of your immune cells reside in your gut.
This is where the second major source of inflammation comes into play. Your immune system recognises these foods, microbes and toxins as foreign invaders, so it launches an attack with?
You guessed it? INFLAMMATION!
The problem is that this response isn?t limited to our gut. When it?s bad it can affect our whole body.
That?s when people come into the clinic with a long list of pains, complaints and niggles. When you have an inflammatory flare-up every little issue in your body comes to the surface.
This is why people have good and bad days with their symptoms. Usually their physical problem doesn?t change from day to day. What does change is the level of inflammation present in their body.
Often that goes up or down depending on what they?ve eaten, what toxins they?ve been exposed to and their stress levels.
This is why simply assessing the mechanical cause of a pain or symptom, or just looking at the local area, is always likely to produce limited results.
If the causes of inflammation in your body are not being assessed and addressed then you?re really only dealing with half the picture.