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How much do you know about inflammation?


Your body is a miraculous thing if you think about it for a minute. It's a self-healing miracle. When you suffer a cut or bruise, or if a disease, allergen, or virus finds it's way to you - your immune system goes to work, sending specialized white blood cells to the affected area. These unique white blood cells can repair the damage, stop the spread of infection or illness, and from time to time, eradicate the intruder. This response is called 'inflammation.

"Inflammation is the activation of cells that have the job of fighting invasions, and in some cases just sponging up or clearing out damaged cells."

Your body transports its immune cells principally through your blood. And as blood races to the site of an injury or problem, that blood can generate heat, swelling, and redness—all of which are indications of inflammation.

Without inflammation, your body would be mostly unprotected when faced with injury or illness. But not all inflammation is helpful. Everything in moderation, as they say, even our immunity.

It's counter-intuitive perhaps, that exercise is widely regarded (and rightfully so) as being beneficial to everyone, but overexertion may lead to inflammation, in the form of joint, bone, or muscle injuries. E.g acute inflammation, which can lead, in the longterm to chronic inflammation. 

Elite athletes face a greater chance of developing osteoarthritis than the general population, and there is some evidence that during times of intense training or athletic performance, athletes are more susceptible to infection. 

In disease states, the good inflammation becomes chronic, or at least dysfunctional. Inflammation either sticks around when it should disappear, or the immune system focuses inflammation at something that's not really a threat.

For example, inflammation can worsen the stiffening of arteries and increase plaque accumulation in some people with high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and other risk factors for heart disease. 

Various gut disorders are also linked to inflammation overload. With Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which are inflammatory bowel diseases, the immune system is primed, and inflammation is switched on inappropriately. This can damage the lining of the intestine, and that damage can allow gut bacteria to penetrate, which leads to more inflammation.

Runaway inflammation has also been implicated in the formation of Alzheimer's disease. And there's sufficient data that stress-related hormones—namely cortisol—can further spur inflammation and fuel some of these chronic conditions. Some research has also linked inflammation to mental health disorders like depression.

The good news is, anti-inflammation diets may help. Research has revealed certain foods—namely those high in sugar and saturated fat—can produce inflammation. In contrast, others, like turmeric, fish, leafy greens, and hemp oil, can help calm inflammation naturally.