INFLAMMATION: MY ATTEMPT OF AN EXPLANATION

The word inflammation is increasingly on everyone's lips, even though hardly anyone seems to know what it really means.

Since it tends to be a lesser-known quantity, even in the scientific community – and the medical world in particular – I want to briefly describe here how I view inflammation. Unfortunately I can't come and pick you up, since I don't know where each of you stands on the subject. So it makes more sense for you to come along with me for the ride. I invite you to have a look at the world of inflammation through my eyes if you think the diversion is worthwhile. I hope this brief introduction piques your curiosity.

For some people, the pathway to death is a disease process, while for others it is an aging process. The aim should be for us to die of old age.

A clear definition exists for acute inflammation, but sadly there is not one for chronic inflammation. It can be a latent condition we may not detect within the body for a long period of time. It is not until a diagnosis comes of something sinister like cancer, allergy, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatism, chronic inflammatory bowel disorder, irritable bowel syndrome or burnout that our attention is suddenly drawn to the issue of inflammation. This is then quickly followed by a sense of helplessness, as medication to cure these diseases has yet to be found.

 

However, a whole series of indirect signs pointing to chronic inflammation in the body are detectable. When we learn to interpret the signs our body sends us, we can do much to avoid or at least postpone the catastrophic effect of the diagnosis.

There exists a clear definition for the acute inflammatory process. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the chronic inflammation. This condition exists in the organism for a long time, before it becomes apparent and we start to realise that somehting is wrong. Ony if we receive the diagnosis like cancer, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, multiple sclerosis, chronic inflammatory or irritable bowel syndrome, burnout etc. the inflammation suddenly turns into a matter of concern. The helplessness is then great, as medical treatment for this illnesses has not yet been found. 

 

There are, however, a number of indirect signs, which indicate a chronic inflammation within the body.  If we learn to interpret the signals our body sends out, then we can do a lot to avoid or at least to postpone the catastrophe of the diagnosis. 

Communication processes control the inflammation. Do they run smoothly like in a flock of birds, then we feel perfectly well. Compared to our communication systems, which are a lot more interference-prone, the communication within the flock is robust.

This is why this book places great emphasis on increasing your own awareness of how your body feels and what your body is telling you. It contains a series of tables and scales to help you train your own self-awareness so you can detect the indirect signs of chronic inflammation at an early stage and ward if off by changing your lifestyle. The indirect parameters are sleep, appetite, body weight, temperature perception, motivation, mood, to mention but a few of the factors. You will learn more about this if you journey with me through the book.

In the following chapters you will learn much about stress and the stress system. This is because it is the system that causes, monitors and controls inflammation. The stress system consists of the nervous system, the immune system and the hormone or endocrine system. Much has been said and written about the immune system in the context of illness, which is why I have added a chapter here on that subject.

In my writing, I avoid dissecting these systems and breaking them down into their individual parts. For I find that it makes much more sense to view these regulatory systems in their entirety. They basically consist of cells and factors such as hormones or messenger molecules which release the cells so they can communicate with one another. One sure sign of chronic inflammation is an increasing tendency for that communication process to break down.

When we feel really healthy, the inflammation within our body is a well-controlled process and communication flows effortlessly between the various systems. The body is in balance. This generates the inner warmth that all biochemical processes in the body need in order to function without a hitch.

When it comes to chronic inflammation, the first parameters we can measure are: C-reactive protein (CRP, a very sensitive inflammation parameter), interleukin 6 and interleukin 1, tumour necrosis factor alpha. A blood count may also point to chronic inflammation. But by then the inflammation process will be so far advanced that an urgent review and radical change in lifestyle will be required. It is therefore much better to become aware of your own body and take preventive action, so that we never have to deal with those laboratory parameters and isolated clinical findings. This is what this site is about.

 

To know how to interpret the signs our body is sending out may spare us many a doctor visit.

Stress System

Inflammation