You know the basics about inflammation. If you’ve ever been stung by an insect, fallen off your bike as a kid, broken out in hives, or come down with a nasty cold, then you know what acute inflammation is like. And you know that your body responds to this type of an “assault” in the form of bruising, swelling, itching, aches, and pains.
In simplest terms, inflammation is the body’s immediate first-aid reaction to heal itself from some type of damage caused by a virus, bacteria, fungus, environmental toxin, or an injury. Without the crucial process of inflammation, the body cannot restore itself in the face of damage.
Essentially, all inflammation starts in an acute phase. The body becomes damaged in some capacity due to a foreign agent, and it responds immediately to repair the damage. In many cases, this reaction goes undetected, or symptoms are so mild that they are even unnoticeable. Once the threat is gone, the body is able to go back to a non-emergency state—and the inflammation process turns off.
Inflammation becomes chronic when the body has to continuously fight off a repeated offender, such as, for instance, Candida, H.pylori, or heavy metal toxicity. At this point, the body’s inflammation process fails to shut down. When this occurs, the body is weakened over time because it is overstressed.
The inflammation process can be compared to a light bulb. When left on continuously, the light bulb will burn out a lot quicker than if it’s turned off during non-use. When the inflammation process fails to turn off, the immune system becomes compromised because it is simply overworked and overused. Once the immune system is compromised, ALL forms of chronic disease can occur—not just inflammatory diseases. That’s why diseases seemingly unrelated to inflammation occur. These include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- And many others
So, while inflammation may not be the visible, obvious cause of these illnesses, it is the catalyst for chronic disease.
That’s why chronic inflammation is being labeled the 21st century’s silent killer. Unlike its acute form, chronic internal inflammation can occur undetected because it falls just below the radar of pain and visible swelling. You feel nothing, or you may experience vague, unexplained symptoms for which there are no conventional answers. Lab results may continue to come back normal leading you from doctor to doctor in frustration. And while you search for answers or even ignore your symptoms altogether, your body’s inflammation process carries on for weeks, months, or even years—which compromises your immune system.
Wellness is the absence of inflammation, according to Dr. Barry Sears, author of the The Anti Inflammation Zone.1 Simply put by Dr. Sears, if you have inflammation, you cannot be well. Chronic inflammation has become an epidemic in America, and it threatens to overburden the healthcare system and destroy many future lives with the most serious chronic, degenerative diseases.
The key to optimal health and disease prevention is to detect chronic inflammation and treat its root causes promptly and effectively. This may take time, and you and your doctor may have to do a bit of detective work to find out the true culprits of inflammation. You can proactively prolong your health—and your life—by preventing your body from entering into a state of chronic, untreated inflammation.
Testing for Chronic Inflammation
C-reactive protein is a solid indicator for disease potential. Interestingly, research reveals that chronic inflammation increases the level of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. As such, the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) jointly recommend using inflammatory markers such as CRP to assess heart disease and stroke risk.2 Taking it a step further, high C-reactive protein levels may alert you to the potential for other diseases, not just heart disease and stroke.
CRP is a simple blood test. While the CRP test does not specifically diagnose a particular disease, it is a general marker of infection and inflammation that alerts medical professionals that further testing and treatment may be necessary.3 CRP tests can also tell you if you’re getting better, or if medical treatments and therapies are working. For instance, CRP levels decrease when aspirin is administered to cardiac patients.
What Can You Do to Stop Chronic Inflammation?
Protecting yourself against chronic disease requires changing the way you think about your health. Many people sacrifice their long-term health because they simply want their symptoms to go away, so they self-treat with over-the-counter medications from the local drug store instead of dealing with the underlying causes that assault their bodies on a continual basis.
The truth is there is no “overnight fix” for chronic inflammation. In order to effectively put a stop to chronic inflammation and the potential for future disease, you need to find the true, hidden culprits and either control or eradicate them altogether. Some of the culprits of chronic inflammation include:
- Fungi such as Candida. Read more about Candida.
- Bacteria (including but not limited to) H. Pylori (responsible for peptic ulcers) and Borrelia burgdorferi (responsible for Lyme disease).
- Viruses such as Hepatitis AE, Herpes, HIV, and Epstein Barr.
- Heavy Metal Toxicity. Read more about Heavy Metal Toxicity.
- Undiagnosed food allergies. Many people unknowingly suffer from lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance, or may be allergic to corn or soy (common ingredients found in many processed foods). Undiagnosed food allergies have the potential to cause severe, chronic inflammation.
- Environmental molds in the home or workplace. Occult (hidden) mold can trigger the inflammation response in people who are susceptible to the toxins produced by various molds.
Effective therapies to treat the underlying causes of chronic inflammation may take several weeks, months, or even years. While this may seem like “forever,” it is actually only a short period of time when it comes to increasing the quality of your overall health—and your lifespan.
Adequate treatment involves a multi-faceted approach of:
- Eradicating foreign agents (viral, bacterial, fungal, and/or environmental). Therapies include the use of:
Reducing the body’s inflammatory response. Common anti-inflammatory treatments include the use of:
- Antifungal prescription medications such as Amphotericin B, Diflucan®, Lamisil®, Nizoral®, Nystatin®, Sporanox®.
- Broad-spectrum antibiotics.
- Chelation therapy.
Resolving nutrient deficiencies caused by chronic inflammation and a compromised immune system. In particular, it is useful to:
Making dietary adjustments. Chronic inflammation is usually seen in people who have diets with an unbalanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Omega-3 EFAs will actually help to decrease the amount of internal inflammation, thereby helping you to avoid chronic conditions. The Standard American Diet severely lacks omega-3 derived from healthy sources such as fish oil, wild fish, and nuts and seeds. A healthy dietary balance between omega-6 and omega-3 should be 1:1. However, due to our highly processed American diet loaded with bad fats (trans fats), the ratio is 15:1 (and can be as high as 30:1 in some cases). Read more about how to balance your omega-6 and omega-3 ratio.
- Prescription and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Warning: These may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and gastrointestinal bleeding, so discuss these risks with your healthcare professional.
- Systemic enzymes. Read more about systemic enzymes.
1) “Save Yourself from the Hidden Killer, Silent Inflammation,” MSNBC
Accessed Sept. 2005
2) “Inflammation, Heart Disease and Stroke: The Role of C-reactive Protein,” American Heart Association
Accessed Sept. 2005
3) “C-reactive Protein (CRP) WedMdHealth
Accessed Sept. 2005
KAY’S NOTE: A balanced, healthy, whole foods, unprocessed diet (such as The SCD) will keep the immune system strong and healthy and inflammation at bay. If following the SCD for a few months does not improve your health dramatically, you may want to check out the additional treatments listed above.