Living in a World on Fire
Author: Dustin Moffitt, ND
Imagine sitting in a room as you begin to sweat, feeling your skin get hotter with each passing minute. You look around but see no heat source to extinguish, no quick solution to stop the heat from building up inside of you, nor to prevent the sweat from forming a puddle underneath your chair. Little do you know, the room next door is on fire, scorched in flames, and the fire alarm starts going off. That room has long been cleared out, and the fire department is on its way. You finally understand the reason for the heat, and now the pain.
Now imagine this story is your life, every day, but it is not a story at all. In fact, this is the reality for individuals suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. The heat is caused daily by chronic inflammation within the body, and the fire department is no longer arriving to help extinguish the flame as it once did during acute inflammation.
How did we get here? What in our lives changed so drastically that our bodies stopped coming to the rescue, and how do we get that fire alarm working again?
What is Inflammation?
While many have a negative association with the word “inflammation”, it is actually a very crucial process used daily for our body to heal itself from acute trauma, like stubbing a toe on the couch, hammering our finger instead of a nail, or touching a hot stove. Our inflammatory response also encourages heat production, such as fighting off viruses and recycling damaged cells. It is the major balancer within us that keeps the old, damaged, or infectious components out, and helps encourage the development of new, vibrant, and healthy components. The negative associations are the burden of those who either have such high levels of chronic trauma that the inflammatory response doesn’t get a chance to turn off, or individuals whose body no longer has the appropriate tools necessary to balance the inflammatory response.
Inflammation, in its literal definition, is a local response to cellular injury that is marked by capillary dilatation, leukocytic infiltration, redness, heat, and pain that serve as mechanisms initiating the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue. In our analogy, inflammation is the fire alarm. It is the signal within our body that something is off balance, and in need of repair. Furthermore, it is the golden opportunity to get things moving in the right direction.
Inflammation is the primary activator for two major cellular responses: cellular immune response, and the wound healing cascade. Cellular immune response is the process by which viruses, bacteria and foreign bodies are removed from the body. The wound healing cascade is the process by which inflammation helps to rebuild healthy tissue after an area has experienced trauma. While inflammation may activate these two crucial processes, it cannot complete the process without several key ingredients.
Let’s first take a look at the cellular immune response- the system that is responsible for fighting foreign invaders. When a foreign invader enters the body by way of orifices such as vaginal openings, the skin, and the mouth, it is the macrophages that first respond. They activate the innate, or localized, response to the invader by picking up the antigen and tracking down the T & B Cells. The T & B Cells then activate the specific response, which causes a more total body reaction to the invaders. Combined, this system neutralizes the threat, and removes it from the body.
In the wound healing cascade, the body first enters hemostasis where it blocks any additional blood loss. This includes coagulation (blood clotting) where applicable. The second phase is where inflammation comes in to play- the defensive/inflammatory phase. This phase peaks 24-48 hours after an injury, and is responsible for removing any damaged tissue or debris from the injury. The proliferative phase follows, where the wound is filled with new nutrients and covered with new tissue. This may last up to 24 days in acute injuries. The wound healing cascade completes its cycle with maturation, where the new tissue can gain strength and flexibility from surrounding structures, and new collagen is formed.
If the body naturally has these processes for inflammation, how do we get stuck? Well, each process requires a certain essential combination of nutrients, and when those nutrients do not exist, the body gets “stuck” in a phase. For example, new tissue production requires amino acids, vitamin C, and other nutrients. When the body lacks these nutrients, the process simply cannot be completed. Rather than looking at chronic inflammation as an alert that doesn’t get turned off, think of it as an alert that doesn’t get the attention it needs to be resolved. If we think of our original example, it would be like the fire department showing up without a fire hydrant or fire truck.
A Look at Chronic Inflammation
What does chronic inflammation mean for an individual? It means that the body will be constantly reminded of a long-ago injury that never healed. It may mean pain, inflammation, decreased range of motion, irritability, and lethargy. It can also mean extreme fatigue, headaches, swelling, and sleep disturbances.
Even beyond these primary symptoms, chronic inflammation can be secondary diseases. A secondary disease is one that is caused by a primary disease, in this case- chronic inflammation that typically would not have formed if it were not for the primary disease. For individuals with chronic inflammation, this can mean-
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Thyroid disease
- Auto immune diseases
The Big Question: How Do We Avoid Chronic Inflammation?
- Prevent the trauma and damage that starts the inflammatory cycle
- Make sure the body has the nutrients it needs to complete the cycles if and when they are activated.
Avoiding inflammatory foods such as excessive carbohydrates and fats, meeting exercise recommendations set forth by the American Heart Association, and eating a diet rich in whole foods, is a great place to start.
Comprehensive nutrient panels such as the Real Health Discovery Profile or the Inflammation Profile will help discover pre-existing conditions and nutrient deficiencies before they become problematic.
Furthermore, supporting the body’s natural inflammatory response with herbs such as Turmeric and Boswellia, and supplements such as collagen and fish oil, will help ensure that the body is ready to go in times of need.
Is it Too Late?
Some patients find their physicians saying it is too late when they have been diagnosed with primary inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia, leading to a lifelong journey of pharmaceutical bandages. At the Riordan Clinic we find that removing the toxins, adding the nutrients, and reminding the body of its own innate ability to heal itself is just what our doctors are ordering.
If you are concerned with your primary inflammatory diagnosis, or preventing secondary diseases as mentioned above, we can help. Call us at 800.447.7276 to begin your journey to Real Health.