What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s response to toxins, injury, infection, illness, and stress. When the body senses trouble, it activates process that are meant to protect cells that are in danger. “In a healthy situation, inflammation serves as a good friend to our body,” says Mansour Mohamadzadeh, PhD, director of the Center for Inflammation and Mucosal Immunology at the University of Florida, “But if immune cells start to overreact, that inflammation can be totally directed against us.” Chronic inflammation has a number of causes and negative health effects. Below we list the top ways in which inflammation could be prematurely aging you.
1. Chronic Infections
A chronic infection is an infection caused by bacteria, virus, or parasite that lasts more than a couple of weeks. Examples of chronic infections include, but are not limited to: HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Epstein Barr Virus, urinary tract infections, and bladder infections. Chronic infections overburden the immune system, causing chronic inflammation in your body, which can age the skin and increase the risk of mutations that can lead to cancer.
Most people discover they have a chronic infection following a diagnosis from a doctor, but the vast majority of people suffering from chronic infections are unaware because they may show few, if any obvious signs. Symptoms of chronic infection could include:
Fatigue for 3 months or longer
Bursitis (pain in shoulder, hip, elbow, knee, heel and/or toe).
Pain Night Sweats
2. Autoimmune Disorders
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake.” There are more than 80 types of autoimmune disorders. Beyond aging the body by over-taxing the immune system and destroying healthy cells, people who experience chronic inflammation because of an autoimmune disorder appear to have a higher risk of heart disease, regardless of their weight or eating habits.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that appears to have a genetic component, but is also linked to smoking, a lack of vitamin D, and other risk factors. According to a recent Time article, “People with RA experience pain and stiffness in their inflamed joints. But because the immune reaction isn’t limited to the joints, says Denning, they’re also at higher risk for problems with their eyes and other body parts.”
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS) Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (as with inflammatory bowel disease) can be especially detrimental to bone health, because it can prevent absorption of nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, which can lead to osteoporosis.
Lupus is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disorder that may affect the skin, joints, blood cells, and internal organs, especially the kidneys, heart and lungs. Symptoms and signs of lupus are highly variable and include: muscle pain; arthritis-like pain in one or more joints (but no or little joint damage); a red rash particularly one resembling a butterfly across the nose and cheeks; fever, persistent fatigue; sensitivity to ultraviolet light; and hair loss.
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. “It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.” Celiac.org. Watch this video from Gluten Free Gal, Kirsten Berman to learn more about the symptoms of celiac disease and the dangers of letting it go untreated.
4. Heart Disease
The formation of fatty plaque in the arteries can trigger chronic inflammation. The fatty plaques attract white blood cells, grow larger, and can form blood clots, which can cause a heart attack. Deepak Bhatt, M.D, chief of cardiology for the VA Boston Healthcare System and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School says, “The body perceives this plaque as abnormal and foreign — it does not belong in a healthy blood vessel. In response, the body tries to wall off the plaque from the flowing blood. However, under the wrong set of circumstances, that plaque may rupture, and its walled-off contents can come into contact with blood and trigger a blood clot formation.”
Health professionals recommend controlling the risk factors (cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and LDL [bad] cholesterol) that can lead to inflammation and getting your cholesterol tested every 4-6 years. Click here to see the variety of cholesterol tests and current discounts offered by Walk-In Lab.
Toxins are substances that can be found in some metals, plants, animals and bacteria that are poisonous to humans. When toxins are introduced into the body, inflammation, among other possible symptoms, is the result. Chronic toxicity results in chronic inflammation, wearing down the body on the cellular level, clearing the path way for aging and cancer. Examples of common toxic substances are plant, food and pet allergies, COPD, metal toxicity, carbon monoxide poisoning, even stress can be considered a “toxic substance” by the inflammatory response it creates in the body!
Carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and cereal, raise blood sugar and insulin, and in effect, contribute to inflammation – a cause of diseases ranging from obesity to arthritis. Elevated levels of inflammation-related proteins can also make weight loss more difficult than normal by increasing hunger signals and slowing down metabolism, resulting in consuming more calories and burning fewer calories off. Inflammation can also increase insulin resistance (which raises your risk for diabetes) and has been linked with future weight gain. A 2014 Harvard University study found that obese teenagers with high levels of inflammation had a 63% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer during adulthood compared to their thinner peers. The inflammation may be due to obesity, a chronic infection, a chemical irritant, or chronic condition; all have been linked to a higher cancer risk.
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores or cuts
Detecting and treating causes of inflammation will greatly reduce your changes of premature aging. Anti-aging medicine is a specialty founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related diseases. Research into ways to optimize and retard the human aging process is designed to prolong the human life span. Anti-aging medicine is a specialty based on the scientific principles of responsible medical care consistent with those of other healthcare specialties.
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