What Causes Inflammation?

by Jackie Wicks

A Comprehensive Look At The Causes and Effects Of Inflammation

Originally posted April 5th, 2012

Both the causes of inflammation, and the specific dangers of inflammation have been poorly understood from a scientific perspective. But this is changing.

Inflammation is now understood as playing a crucial role in moderating many chronic diseases of lifestyle. Despite this, there is a lot of confusion as to exactly what causes inflammation, and what we can do to reduce it.

This article will discuss the latest science and research, and also provide some practical advice that you can put to immediate use!

Inflammation is very well-defined by specific factors, and if you understand what these factors are and, more importantly, why they are associated with inflammation, then you are better equipped to make choices which reduce inflammation.

Inflammation is not a catch-all phrase for a lack of health, nor is it a result of unknown factors–there are very specific reasons why the actions we make in our daily lives lead to a state of chronic inflammation, just as there are specific mechanisms by which we may reduce inflammation.

What Causes Inflammation?

The first thing which must be addressed is why we get inflammation at all, and how short-term acute inflammation differs from chronic inflammation.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. Although the symptoms of acute inflammation are unpleasant, they are necessary for the healing processes the body goes through. The characteristic symptoms are pain, redness, heat, swelling, and loss of mobility.

If an ailment ends with the suffix “itis”, it is a form of inflammation. For example, arthritis comes from arthro, meaning joint, and itis, meaning inflammation. Thus, arthritis is inflammation of the joints.

What Is Acute Inflammation?

Acute inflammation is a short-term process, only 24-48 hours in length, and it is characterized by increased neutrophil (a type of white blood cell) activity. The basic idea behind inflammation is that our body increases blood flow to the injured area (increasing redness and heat) and increases permeability of our blood vessels so our immune system may enter the damaged tissue (which also allows plasma in, causing swelling).

The compound which helps our body increase blood flow and permeability, called bradykinin, also binds to our pain receptors, letting us know the area is injured. Our immune system goes to work, destroying any invading pathogens and removing debris. When finished it departs, taking the inflammation with it.

What Is Chronic Inflammation?

When inflammation doesn’t go away, it is known as chronic or systemic inflammation, and it is no longer a pro-healing response, but rather a symptom that something has gone wrong. It can be hard to diagnose chronic inflammation because it doesn’t usually affect parts of our body we can see or feel.

While the overt symptoms may be missing, it is still characterized by the same general immune response, but one which has gone overboard and is no longer healing the body. Whereas acute inflammation is characterized by neutrophils, chronic inflammation is characterized by two other types of white blood cells: monocytes and macrophages.

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