There are two types of inflammation: acute and systemic/chronic. Acute inflammation has it’s place and is a natural reaction by our bodies to stress or injury, but when that acute inflammation becomes systemic, we can have major problems with our health.
Acute inflammation is the initial response to a pathogen or an injury. It is usually brief and only lasts a few days. Acute inflammation is usually caused by trauma, infection, burn, chemical irritation, frostbite, cuts, and allergic reactions.
Heat, redness, swelling and pain usually result, but are absolutely critical forms of acute inflammation to get the healing process started:
- Increased blood flow heats up the injury and turns it red. The blood carries leukocytes that clean up pathogens and start healing.
- swollen parts like a swollen ankle is full of plasma and leukocytes that start the healing process.
- Pain is just your body’s way of saying you f**ked up! Don’t do that again!
- Loss of function prevents you from using a broken part, so it can heal.
What about systemic or chronic inflammation? Why is it linked to obesity, heart disease, and depression?
Inflammation becomes chronic once it ceases to be an acute response, and it becomes a constant feature of your physiology that’s always engaged, always fighting what your body sees as a low level, constant threat.
This is how things really get screwed up, because inflammation is supposed to be an acute, short-and-sweet response to injury, and because a big part of inflammation is tissue break-down, targeting pathogens and damaged tissue, a chronic inflammatory response has the potential to really f**k up your body! You can see how things have the ability to get way out of hand.
Now here’s some things that cause chronic inflammation. These are things we see in most developed countries such as ours, and they all lead to a systemic breakdown of the finely tuned and tightly managed inflammatory system. The first two are the most important!
Excessive PUFA intake: Polyunsaturated fats form the precursors for inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response. High omega-6 status (High PUFA status in general) means excessive production of inflammatory eicosanoids and an exaggerated inflammatory response to normal stimuli.
Lack of sleep: Poor sleep is linked to elevated inflammatory markers. Poor sleep is a chronic problem in developed nations. Either we go to bed too late, wake up too early, or we use too many electronics late at night and disrupt the quality of what little sleep we get. Or all three at once. Try a harder mattress, or no mattress. It’s natural!
Lack of movement: People lead sedentary lives, by and large, and a lack of activity is strongly linked to systemic, low-grade inflammation.
Poor recovery: Other people move too much, with too little rest and recovery. Overtraining is a form of chronic inflammation.
Lack of down time: When you’re always on the computer, always checking your email/Facebook/smartphone, you are always “on.” You may think you’re relaxing because your body is stationary, but you’re not relaxing. That’s why I’m going to Cancun in a couple weeks!
Lack of nature time: We spend too much time stuck in cubicles, cars, trains, and cities, away from the forest and soft earth. We evolved from hunter-gatherers, so the wilderness is natually home for us. Plus getting enough sun gives us much needed vitamin D! Going camping certainly has its measured benefits!
Poor gut health: The gut houses the bulk of the human immune system. When it’s unhealthy, so is your inflammatory regulation.
Leads to: depression, illness, weak immune system, poor recovery, and acne.
All that stuff really adds up and sets us up for a lifetime of woe and misery. MAJOR SUCK!! But you don’t have to fit in with the crowd and say “we all get fat and sick with age”. Hell No! Just do your body right and stick to the Paleo way of life, which will keep inflammation in check. ALL RIGHT!
Next up: Controlling our genes with positive hormone expression