The word inflammation comes from the Latin inflammare: to set on fire. In the context of our immune system, heat, redness, pain, and swelling form as a reaction to either injury or a perceived threat in the body.
The Cause of Inflammation
If you’ve ever hit your thumb with a hammer, you can see how inflammation occurs typically. In terms of illness, such as colds and flu, the swollen glands and puffy eyes and nose that most of us experience in response to those viruses clearly show the immune system at work trying to banish the disease from the body.
However, in some cases, the immune system can get confused. Inflammation can cause the immune system to start attacking various body parts that it sees as a threat. That inflammation can damage and leave you open to more illness and even disability, which may eventually bring you to our functional medicine practice in Tulsa, OK.
Picture what happens when you hit your thumb or get a cold happening all over your body every day. What could the health consequences of persistent chronic inflammation be?
Inflammation has links to many serious illnesses, including:
- Heart disease
- Various forms of cancer
- Arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gout
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Thyroid conditions that can lead to hypothyroidism (slow thyroid) which can make sufferers gain even more weight
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one example of the visible effects of inflammation in the body. With RA, the body attacks the tissue that lines the inside of your joints, known as the synovium. RA causes the synovium to thicken, causing swelling and pain around and inside your joints.
The synovium creates synovial fluid, which helps lubricate your joints and keep them moving like a well-oiled machine. If the synovium is damaged, the joints are not appropriately lubricated, leading to pain, swelling, and friction, leading to more pain. Due to the friction, the cartilage and bones can even become damaged if you don’t treat RA effectively. If you’ve ever seen someone with gnarled and twisted-looking fingers and hands, you can see the effects of RA on the body.
In Multiple Sclerosis (MS), the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths that protect our nerves. If these get damaged, it leads to a range of symptoms all over the body, including:
- Blurred or double vision
Lack of coordination and muscle strength
Loss of balance
Numbness or tingling in a foot, arm, or leg
RA and MS are just two examples of the effects of inflammation. As we have said, most forms of arthritis, heart-related illness, and cancers are inflammation-related. There are many more illnesses in which researchers have found that inflammation has been discovered and play a key role.
Our immune system is therefore a delicately balanced system with inflammation being a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be helpful in keeping germs under control so we do not get sick. On the other hand, if the immune system gets confused, inflammation will increase as the body starts to attack itself. Studies have shown that inflammation can affect almost every system in the body.
Fortunately, with the help of our functional nutritionists in Tulsa, OK, you can reduce inflammation by avoiding foods that trigger inflammation, steering clear of harsh chemicals, reducing your stress, stopping smoking, and exercising more. Focus on reducing inflammation and see what a difference it can make to your health.