All About Inflammation
Lose It!|Volume 37
It’s the buzzword of the moment and has been linked to every-thing from cardiovascular disease and arthritis to bowel disorders and cancer. But what is it, what causes it, and how can we keep it at bay?
Ruth Marcus
IN essence, inflammation is a defence mechanism. When anything foreign enters the bloodstream, the body detects an ‘intruder’ and launches a biological response to try to remove it. Think of a bee sting: the swelling, redness and pain you feel are all part of the inflammatory process. Known as acute inflammation, symptoms include pain, possible fever and swelling, and can last for anything between two days and a week.

But foreign bodies don’t always come in the form of insects or thorns. Pathogens, including viruses and bacteria, are just as problematic. The type of inflammation these can cause is referred to as ‘chronic’ inflammation because it can linger in the body for months, even years. Experts believe that chronic inflammation may contribute to a wide range of diseases such as metabolic syndrome, which includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

HOW DOES CHRONIC INFLAMMATION IMPACT THE BODY?

When there’s continuous inflammation in the body, healthy cells, tissue, and even organs, become damaged and begin to malfunction. Over time, this can lead to DNA damage, tissue death, and internal scarring. This is often seen in people who suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Excessive fat in the liver can cause inflammation which, in turn, damages the liver and creates scarring. In severe cases, this scarring can lead to liver failure.

IS THERE A LINK BETWEEN CHRONIC INFLAMMATION AND OBESITY?

According to Bente Halvorsen, professor at the Research Institute for Internal Medicine at the University of Oslo in Norway, ‘There is a connection between metabolism, inflammation, heart attack and stroke. Overeating increases the body’s immune response. This increased immune response causes the body to generate excessive inflammation.’

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