What is Inflammation?


Many diseases, including osteoarthritis (“arthritis”), have their origins in the inflammatory process.  But what is inflammation, and what exactly causes it?

The process of inflammation is an important one that helps keep us protected from trauma and pathogens (bacteria) that might seriously harm us.

Problems begin to occur when inflammation is not a temporary response to imminent danger, but an ongoing condition precipitated by some form of toxicity. These toxicities can come from lifestyle factors such as a poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, or mismanaged stress, or they can be the result of something less manageable such as repetitive stress injury or cartilage breakdown (arthritis).

Let’s take a look at how and why inflammation takes place.

We’ll assume that you have cut your finger while cleaning a dirty countertop. This sets in motion a series of events called the inflammatory response. First, the blood flow to the injured area increases, bringing with it components of the immune system that fight invading bacteria. Due to this increased blood flow, and the release of histamines from the immune system’s mast cells and basophils, the tissues become warm and red and begin to swell. The swelling presses against nerve endings, causing the pain we associate with inflammation.

Once the invading pathogens have been eradicated, the immune response discontinues and all returns to normal.

When the inflammatory response is ongoing, as with arthritis and various other degenerative conditions, the status quo is never resumed. As part of the inflammatory cascade, free radicals are generated. These damage nearby tissues and, when inflammation is short-lived, the tissues have time to repair themselves. However, when inflammation is ongoing, the tissues are subjected to a continual onslaught of oxidative damage. Over time, this can cause further degeneration of the tissues and give rise to the diseases we associate with aging.


Feeling the Heat? Here’s what you need to know about inflammation and your gut …

As far as buzzwords go, inflammation is pretty hot – literally. When you cut yourself in the kitchen, that redness, warmth and swelling is evidence of inflammation at work. It’s the first line of defence your immune system uses to protect you from infection and repair the damage that weakened your defences in the first place.

So why would inflammation be a problem? Because, in our crazy world, the balance your immune system has between tolerance and action can be lost. This happens for a whole bunch of reasons:

– The chronic stress of the daily grind: deadlines, bills and family life

– Sitting too much and skipping the gym

– Choosing mac and cheese and burgers over kale salads and oatmeal

The battle zone where the inflammation war occurs most often? Your gut. Your gut is a crucial barrier between you and the outside world. It absorbs all of your nutrients while it tries to keep out harmful germs and toxic substances. For that reason, roughly 80% of your immunity is centred there…meaning that when things go awry, the immune system may call inflammation to the front lines.

The nutrition prescription is deceptively simple: eat more plants. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans are high in fibre that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. They also help keep blood sugars stable and provide anti-inflammatory compounds that help to douse the flames of inflammation.

A potent probiotic can really help too. The reason for this is that inflammation fosters the growth of bacterial strains that love to live in the heat…but your friendly strains have a hard time managing the tropical weather. A quality probiotic such as Bio-K+ can help fight off the strains that keep the fires of inflammation burning so that the thermostat reaches a more comfortable level.

Staying healthy and feeling energized means living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Eat well, move your body and take your beneficial bacteria!

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