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Inflammation – friend or foe?

We hear a lot of talk about inflammation. But what is it, exactly? Does inflammation help or harm you – and how can you manage it appropriately?

In broad terms, inflammation is the immune system’s response to an irritant. The irritant might be a bacteria, virus or fungi, but it could also be a foreign object, such as a splinter in your finger.

This means that inflammation doesn’t wait to kick in until a wound has already been infected by bacteria, is oozing pus or healing poorly. The process begins when the instant that your body starts to react to any harmful irritant. So inflammation is a primary major weapon in the defence arsenal of your immune system. 1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/

Inflammation is the main driver behind many diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, Parkinson’s, IBD, heart disease, MS, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

Inflammation may affect different areas of the body in different ways. It might impact the central nervous system in MS, the GI tract in Crohn’s, or synovial joints (joints in which the ends of bones are encased in smooth cartilage) in Rheumatoid Arthritis. All these diseases may seem unconnected but they all have one thing in common: inflammation.

Diseases or medical conditions that cause inflammation often have a name ending in “-itis.” For example:

  • Cystitis: an inflammation of the bladder
  • Bronchitis: an inflammation of the bronchi
  • Otitis media: an inflammation of the middle ear
  • Dermatitis: a disease where the skin is inflamed

What causes inflammation?

  • Pathogens (germs) like bacteria viruses or fungi
  • External injuries like scrapes or damage through foreign objects (for example a thorn in your finger)
  • Effects of chemicals or radiation

What are the common signs of acute inflammation?

  • Heat
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Reduced function

Is inflammation always a bad thing?

Interestingly, the answer is no! Inflammation is an important survival mechanism for the human body, in the right place and at the right time. It can provide a protective response to infections, harmful toxins, tissue damage, and injuries. During the inflammation process, a wave of “defence substance” is sent to the site of injury or attack. These substances go to work to kill off pathogens (unwanted invaders), cordon off the area and prevent further injury – so inflammation can actually be protective to your system.

How does acute inflammation become chronic?

Once the acute phase has passed, the body can start to repair itself and return to normal. However, if the inflammatory ‘switch’ is not turned off then the body can remain in a state of chronic inflammation. This can result in long-term health conditions and permanent tissue damage. 2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5805548/ This off-switch is vitally important to restoring a healthy body – what goes up, must come down!

How does the gut influence inflammation?

Inflammation occurs when inflammatory chemicals are deployed as part of an immune response to an invasion or injury to the body. Over 70% of immune cells are located in the gut, which is why it’s essential to address your gut microbiome when trying to reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions.

What can you do to manage inflammation?

As a first step, consider taking a microbiome test. Our microbiome test examines how well your gut microbiome is functioning by examining bacterial diversity, probiotics, pathogens, fibre synthesis and butyrate production. It also tests specifically for your anti-inflammatory potential. The data provided by the test enable our Nutritional Therapists to give you a specific, evidence-based plan to improve your gut health and reduce inflammation.

Kefir is also known to be immunomodulatory. This means that it “modulates” the immune system, helping it respond more appropriately to any situation, turning on or off when needed. This helps to avoid chronic inflammation. 3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854945/

Consider taking Boswellia – known as ‘nature’s steroid’, because of its powerful effect on pain and inflammation, Boswellia serrata may help you work with conditions such as IBD, Crohn’s, Colitis, asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

To find out about adopting an anti-inflammatory diet read What is a gut-healthy diet?

Contact one of our Nutritional Therapists via live chat, weekdays from 8 am to 8 pm, for bespoke advice on gut wellness.


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