How does inflammation work?

Posted on 11 April 2019

Acute inflammation is a lifesaver: a necessary physiological response that helps you heal. But chronic inflammation is a pervasive cause of poor health and disease that can reduce the ability of your cells to function properly, and lead to cancer and other serious diseases.

WHAT IS INFLAMMATION?

Inflammation is a biological process that functions to alert our immune system to potential problems in specific body tissues. The immune system can then try to get rid of the offender. Acute inflammation is a lifesaver as it’s a necessary response to certain illnesses and injuries. However, chronic inflammation overwhelms the immune system. This prevents it from doing its job properly. Inflammation takes place when tissue inside the body is damaged by bacteria or trauma. Toxins and heat can also trigger inflammation. The affected cells secrete chemicals such as histamine and bradykinin, which results in fluid escaping from the blood vessels into the tissues. The outcome of this process is swelling, which functions to prevent any additional contact between the tissue and the foreign substance. Another role that these chemicals play is to draw in white blood cells, known as phagocytes, to destroy germs as well as dead cells.

HOW TO AVOID CHRONIC INFLAMMATION

Your lifestyle, diet and stress levels all influence the level of inflammation in your body. Toxins are a major cause of inflammation, and our bodies are exposed to toxins such as air pollution on a daily basis. Staying hydrated is vital if you want to decrease the inflammation in your body. Drinking water helps to remove toxins from your body, and helps ensure your cells are functioning properly. Exercise plays an important role in reducing inflammation by increasing circulation, which helps to remove metabolic debris and supply tissue with nutrients. To reduce the build-up of inflammation in your body, watch your diet: high amounts of sugar and processed foods that are difficult to digest can increase inflammation. Getting a good night’s sleep and reducing stress levels are also beneficial.

HOW DOES INFLAMMATION AFFECT YOUR BODY?

Inflammation suppresses the energy output of the cell’s mitochondria, which increases the body’s risk of disease. Redness and swelling are both signs of inflammation. Chronic inflammation increases your risk for cancer and diabetes. It also puts you at risk for coeliac disease and irritable bowel syndrome as well as heart and kidney disease. Chronic inflammation of your gums may result in a loss of tissue and bone, which ultimately puts you at risk for teeth loss. Inflammation of the lungs may increase the risk that you’ll struggle with allergies and asthma.

WORDS JENNA-LEE STRUGNELL

Published in Magazine

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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