The immune system’s first response to any sort of body-damaging trigger is inflammation. When our body detects an attack on cells and tissue, a complex chain of events takes place to protect us from invading pathogens, disease, and harmful bacteria.
Essentially, inflammation is experienced as a swelling reaction - a mechanism that concentrates blood and the body’s defence resources to the affected area. It can also be felt as pain, heat and reddening of specific areas of the body. There are many causes of this natural and complex chain of processes and usually, inflammation falls into two classifications: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is the immediate response from the body – mainly triggered by tissue damage and bacteria. Chronic or prolonged inflammation can be caused by non-degradable pathogens, autoimmune reactions and viruses.
When the immune system registers damage to cells and tissue, blood is sent to the site to deliver white blood cells. The molecules that tell our body to trigger inflammation and all the restorative processes that go with it are eicosanoids and cytokines. These two signalling molecules are the first in a chain of defence that fights infection and harmful bacteria, and begins the healing process. However, in the case of chronic inflammation, the autoimmune response can attack healthy tissue. In this case, the body has trouble differentiating harmful entities from its own and must be addressed to minimise damage.
Covering a wide range indeed – cause of inflammation can be varied and underlie a range of diseases and conditions. The immune system is a complex mechanism and as inflammation is a part of this process, disorders can take many forms. Anything from common allergies like hay fever, asthma and certain food allergies are all implicated.
Other diseases linked to chronic inflammation include rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, TB (tuberculosis), hepatitis, etc., indeed many conditions can result in this prolonged physiological response. It’s found that prolonged inflammation can actually cause a variety of serious and fatal conditions like some cancers, or atherosclerosis among many other conditions.
As acute inflammation is immediate and usually over in a matter of days, chronic inflammation brings in different cells that cause disease and cell damage. This means it needs to be treated as soon as possible. Getting to the source of inflammation will flag up an underlying medical problem and enable the condition or disease to be tackled straight away.
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are sometimes given to alleviate chronic inflammation and the associated pain. We can feel inflammation on our insides near organs were nerve endings are being pressed upon, or any other part of the body. There are natural ways to reduce chronic inflammation and acute inflammation too – drinking green tea, eating Omega 3 supplements or foods high in this fish oil, even getting adequate sleep and a balanced diet help are simple ways we can minimise the effects of inflammation.
If we experience inflammation that lasts for more than a few days it’s always necessary to talk to our doctor.
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