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Acute Inflammation = Healing
Chronic Inflammation = Ask the question why?
There is a systematic belief in society right now that inflammation is ‘bad’. That it somehow needs to be stopped, reduced or controlled. But did you know that your body’s innate healing response IS the inflammation response? When tissue is injured, it dilates blood vessels and sends immune cells to repair the damage. The response is highly intelligent, ordered and precise. So why did we decide it was a problem that needs to be managed?
What I want to tease apart in this post is the difference between chronic and acute inflammation. Acute inflammation is what happens when you roll an ankle. Immediately after the injury, the tissue swells as cells migrate into the area. The increase in blood flow brings heat and redness. The increase in pressure and the release of certain chemicals stimulates nerve endings to communicate the sensation of pain to your brain. The process of inflammation could be drawn out like a bell curve as it ramps up to a peak and then slowly subsides.
What happens if you block the response using something like NSAIDS? If cells are prevented from reaching the damaged tissues, the time it takes for the bell curve to reach completion is slowed down. Giving NSAIDs after a rolled ankle may decrease the pain and inflammation in the moment, but it slows down the healing response in the long term. This information is well reported in the literature.
A fever is another example of acute inflammation. It arises as an intelligent response to make an environment inhospitable for microorganisms that have infiltrated the system. Blocking this response with NSAIDs is essentially slowing down the body’s ability to remount control of the system. It is literally blocking your body’s healing response from occurring. Why have we been conditioned to do this?
How is chronic inflammation different than acute inflammation? Acute inflammation has a trigger that is momentarily present. The ankle is rolled and then the trauma stops. In the case of a cold, microorganisms infiltrate a compromised system and the body soon responds to remount control. These are short-term stressors to the system.
Chronic inflammation is something that is irritating to the body on an ongoing basis. Maybe it is eating foods that the body reacts to our going to a job that we hate or being in an inflaming relationship or having undiagnosed sleep apnea or living in a moldy apartment. The body is responding day after day to the same environmental stressor.
The inflammation response is the same bell curve whether the stressor is acute or chronic. The problem with chronic inflammation is the bell curve never completes the healing cycle because the stimulus causing the inflammation never leaves. Imagine that you get a scratch that would heal quite quickly on its own, but if every day you woke up and scratched the same tissue, it would never have the opportunity to fully repair. This is chronic inflammation.
Here is the catch. Even in the case of chronic inflammation – Inflammation is NOT the problem. It is your body’s continued response to self-regulate and heal.
Chronic inflammation should stimulate the question WHY. Why is my body inflamed? What am I doing on a day-to-day basis that is eliciting the inflammation response?
Do you see? The response isn’t the problem. The stimulus is the problem.
Are you inflamed? Have you asked the question why? Get curious.
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