In today’s health-information environment, the word inflammation is cringe-inducing. It seems as though more and more illness is being attributed to inflammation, and more and more effort (and money!) is being spent on combating it.
So what’s the big deal? Is inflammation really as big of a problem as people make it out to be? And even so, what causes it?!
The question we need to start with is this: what purpose does inflammation serve?
When we understand what original purpose it serves, it gives insight into its root cause(s). Let’s dive in.
In a nutshell, inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury, infection, or insult. It is important to note that this is not, in fact, a bad thing. Quite the opposite, actually. The body is engineered with various self-healing mechanisms that are activated when a foreign agent is detected. This could be as simple as a wooden splinter in the palm of your hand, or as serious as something like meningitis.
Two forms of inflammation plague the body. Acute, localized inflammation and chronic, systemic inflammation. Acute, localized inflammation most often has a short-term duration, and is set in motion to help the body heal from an injury like a cut or an ankle sprain. Chronic, systemic inflammation oftentimes has a much longer duration, is deeper-rooted physiologically, and can lead to serious downstream health concerns if not corrected.
As inflammation is such a broad topic, it can be expected that there is a vast array of causes. Because of this, it is important to pay attention to possible triggers and the resulting symptoms in order to properly identify and eliminate the cause. Chronic inflammation has been linked to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, and many autoimmune diseases.
Before we move on, let’s get back to our initial question. Understanding purpose when it comes to any health concern is extremely important. What may seem on the surface to be a negative symptom may actually turn out to be an important response by the body. If a pathogen gains entry into the body, an inflammatory response is necessary to initiate the ‘attack’ and mobilize the immune system to eliminate it before it is able to cause destruction of critical tissue.
This concept is very important, so let’s keep it in mind as we look at some specific causes.
Identifying Your Specific Causes
All inflammation is triggered by a stimulus. This means that inflammation happens for a reason. With this as our starting point, the path to health changes from reducing inflammation to reducing the cause of inflammation.
At Hill Functional Wellness we approach every patient with an unassuming nuance. The presenting symptoms of chronic, systemic inflammation can vary from person to person, but the underlying physiological markers of inflammation tell us much, much more. By collecting the right information and analyzing it through this lens, we can begin to reduce and remove those causes and, in turn, their effect on the body.
Testing in our office most commonly involves a comprehensive baseline set of blood, hair, urine, and/or stool tests that give you a broad view of overall health which includes insight into specific inflammatory markers. This panel will be tailored to the patient’s presenting issues, and will be analyzed in a way that emphasizes how to help your body function more efficiently through diet and lifestyle changes instead of resorting to controlling it through the use of medication.
We have found that this is often one of the most satisfying perspectives for our patients. Not only do they get to learn about what the root cause of their inflammatory condition is, but they get to take action in a way that reduces their need for us or other doctors.
Possible Causes of Systemic Inflammation
- Poor Diet (Processed, Sugary Foods)
- Chronic Stress
- Environment Factors (Chemicals, Heavy Metals, Pollutants)
- Excess Weight
- Alcohol and Tobacco Use
Allostatic Load, What’s That?
Allostatic load refers to the long-term effects of stressors on the body. An easy way to think about this term is the “wear and tear” delivered by everyday life through work, environment, and personal life. As the body is tasked with maintaining a state of homeostasis, allostatic overload can offset the body’s status quo and lead to the development of inflammation and disease.
The negative effect of allostatic overload comes into play when more energy output is required of the body during times of chronic stress and inflammation. This forces the body to alter its processes to compensate, and can lead to inflammation and issues such as loss in critical brain tissues, high oxidized cholesterol levels, heart disease, and more.
The long-term buildup of allostatic load can also negatively impact DNA itself, which also can stimulate severe diseases later in life. Therefore, learning how to process and manage stress in a healthy way is very beneficial, especially when used alongside a personalized Functional Wellness plan.
Reduce Your Triggers and Inflammation
If you are concerned that you may be struggling with inflammation, or just have questions about your current health status, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at our Tempe, Arizona office, and get on the path to gaining the health independence you deserve.