ambulance, the first responder analogy for inflammation

This may come as a surprise, especially when you hear health professionals, myself included, constantly talking about ways to reduce inflammation, but inflammation is actually a GOOD thing.

Yep, you heard me right.

The Heroic First Responder

Inflammation is your immune system’s response to any kind of infection or injury. This quick response (kind of like calling 9-1-1) is called acute inflammation. This only lasts a few days.

Have you ever sprained your ankle? Remember how it swells up, hurts, and even gets hot? That is a good example of acute inflammation from an injury. A little ice and rest—and you are back on top of your game.

Acute inflammation can also come from what I call “foreign invaders.” An example of that is food poisoning. In most cases you’ll likely vomit for a few hours, and while it isn’t fatal, there may be moments when you wish it would be!  Once the initial battle is over you still may have a sensitive gut for a few days, and you’ll probably feel kind of sore. But really, it heals rather quickly and you soon forget you were sick.

The Evil Twin!

evil twin chronic inflammationSo, if inflammation is such a good thing, then why is the news filled with stories about how bad it is?

That’s because of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is kind of like the evil twin who always gets the good twin in trouble, know what I mean?

Chronic inflammation may, or may not, be related to an infection or injury. Yes, it is still an immune response. That’s where the similarity ends. Rather than going away in a matter of days, it continues working in your body for months—or even years!

Sometimes, even with the help of powerful pharmaceutical drugs, it doesn’t go away for any length of time and it can make your life pretty darned miserable. An example of chronic inflammation is with irritable bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease.

While chronic inflammation is an immune response, it is the immune system responding inappropriately. The immune system has gone awry.

There are many diseases associated with chronic inflammation.  Here’s a list of just some of them:

  • Asthma
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • IBD-Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Many auto-immune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • ALS
  • Migraines

That’s a pretty scary list, isn’t it? Makes taking chronic inflammation seriously pretty important, right?

Well, in case that is not enough for you, there’s more! Even the big diseases of our day have inflammation at the roots:

  • Cancer
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • depression
  • Alzheimer’s

Smokey the Bear analogy prevent fire of inflammation

In my next post I will talk about these big diseases and how inflammation plays a very active role in all of them! And then we’ll follow up with how you prevent the fire of inflammation BEFORE it wreaks havoc on your body, and your life. And if you are already experiencing health concerns due to inflammation, we’ll talk about how to put out that fire.