By Ann Carey Tobin, MD
Inflammation has become a dirty word. What most people do not know, though, is acute inflammation is a protective immune response that initiates the healing process. In response to a stressful event, such as infection, toxin exposure, injury, or poor dietary choices, biochemical messengers are released (lipid mediators, cytokines and chemokines) to promote a familiar cascade of events. White blood cells rush in, and blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow. Healing is the objective, but it is often accompanied with the unpleasant side effects of swelling, redness, warmth, fever and/or pain. This is an adaptive response that, despite the potential for discomfort, actually serves us well in confronting acute assaults to our health.
Acute inflammation is an effective self-healing modality that ideally curbs its own process through release of anti-inflammatory messenger molecules. The trouble begins when the process becomes a chronic, low-grade inflammatory response that continually floods the body with inflammatory chemicals. The result can be obvious damage to cells, tissues and organs, as seen in the swollen and painful joints of arthritis, the diarrhea and bleeding of inflammatory bowel disease, the persistent dysfunction of injury, or asthma’s inflamed and constricted airways. A more “silent” inflammatory process, however, may play a significant role in such chronic conditions as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, autoimmune conditions, periodontal disease, macular degeneration, osteoporosis, cancer and obesity.
When acute inflammation resolves on schedule tissue repair occurs and the body returns to a state of homeostasis—internal stability. Until relatively recently this process was felt to occur passively, that is, the insult is eradicated and the pro-inflammatory signals dissipate on their own. Within the past decade research has delineated two distinct phases of the inflammatory process that need to be in sync to expedite the return to homeostasis. The initiation phase is the call to arms just described……..
Source: Times Union