12

votes

It's Swell... What is inflammation?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 21, 2010 at 10:15 AM

What is inflammation?

I keep seeing that word tossed around - this will give you inflammation, that will give you inflammation. It turned up in the answers to a question I asked about PUFAs and it made me realize that I don't really know what it means. I picture the tiny cells inside my body swelling up, getting all puffy and red and angry. Is that what happens? Why is that bad? Maybe it makes things hard to circulate if everything is all swollen? Why do people say that inflammation causes disease?

I'm sorry that I am asking all of these dumb questions!

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on May 03, 2011
at 12:03 PM

He's got an interview with Jimmy Moore later this month.

6e01c5e248d6a30bb7cb07d536aaf5b6

(193)

on May 03, 2011
at 04:59 AM

What ever happened to Dr. Art Ayers? Haven't seen him around the blogosphere in ages.

77ecc37f89dbe8f783179323916bd8e6

(5002)

on May 03, 2011
at 01:09 AM

Great question! It made me realize that my understanding of what inflammation actually means wasn't as clear I probably thought it was.

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on June 27, 2010
at 06:52 AM

Oops, I should have too, I'll try to remember in future. Ta. In my defence I was in a hurry.. ;p

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on June 22, 2010
at 04:55 PM

This should be its own question. :)

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on June 22, 2010
at 11:03 AM

Not a dumb question at all! :) The most "basic" questions are often the most interesting ones - we need more people questioning the fundamental principles which are often taken for granted or used without proper knowledge of what they mean.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 21, 2010
at 07:11 PM

yes you are right. Inflammation can be generally thought of as parts of your body getting inflammed (swollen) for some reason. Most of us generally associate it with immune system response/autoimmune response/allergic-type reaction.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on June 21, 2010
at 06:09 PM

@Alan -- you should list Wikiepedia as a source and provide a link back as well.

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6 Answers

best answer

10
70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on June 22, 2010
at 11:01 AM

Inflammation is basically an immune response to tissue damage, designed to control or overcome a perceived threat to the body, be it an infection or a toxin. It involves your immune system cells (white blood cells or leucocytes) releasing various chemicals (such as cytokines) that have a number of effects on different tissues:

  • they cause blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow to areas perceived as damaged (and that damage could be anything from a skin cut, to a viral infection, to muscle cells dying because they aren't receiving enough oxygen, etc.)
  • they attract more white blood cells to the area which then release substances that are toxic to bacteria/viruses (but which can also destroy your own tissues, especially when prolonged in time) such as proteases that digest protein
  • they increase the permeability of blood vessels, meaning more cells and molecules can leak from the blood to tissues, including water (which causes tissue swelling as a side-effect), so that more immune cells can reach the affected tissue

Overall, inflammation is a necessary and vital response (without it we would never recover from infectious disease, our bruises would never heal and tissue would never get repaired) but which needs to be controlled and self-limited, rather than going on indefinitely and all over the place.

The idea of avoiding "inflammation" as discussed in the context of diet is to avoid this excess inflammation caused by substances like omega-6 and gluten that cause unnecessary tissue damage and overstimulation of the immune system. For instance, inflammation has been implicated as a basic process implicated in artery plaque buildup, as a natural response to a damaged blood vessel lining (caused by sugar and oxidised fats among other things).

7
5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on June 21, 2010
at 12:26 PM

Inflammation (Latin, inflammare, to set on fire) is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants.[1] Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process. Inflammation is not a synonym for infection. Even in cases where inflammation is caused by infection, the two are not synonymous: infection is caused by an exogenous pathogen, while inflammation is one of the responses of the organism to the pathogen.

Without inflammation, wounds and infections would never heal. Similarly, progressive destruction of the tissue would compromise the survival of the organism. However, chronic inflammation can also lead to a host of diseases, such as hay fever, atherosclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. It is for that reason that inflammation is normally closely regulated by the body.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on June 21, 2010
at 06:09 PM

@Alan -- you should list Wikiepedia as a source and provide a link back as well.

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on June 27, 2010
at 06:52 AM

Oops, I should have too, I'll try to remember in future. Ta. In my defence I was in a hurry.. ;p

4
0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

on June 21, 2010
at 06:57 PM

And a whole fantastic blog about inflammation:

http://coolinginflammation.blogspot.com/

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on May 03, 2011
at 12:03 PM

He's got an interview with Jimmy Moore later this month.

6e01c5e248d6a30bb7cb07d536aaf5b6

(193)

on May 03, 2011
at 04:59 AM

What ever happened to Dr. Art Ayers? Haven't seen him around the blogosphere in ages.

1
93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on June 21, 2010
at 07:21 PM

@Corinne -- the info you are looking for can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-reactive_protein

0
0b1ec80fa938d2946000fd3cb60b5079

on May 03, 2011
at 12:54 AM

Yes, Robb Wolf addressed this in a recent podcast, and Dr. Kurt Harris also talked about it. CRP can be misleading. When you switch to paleo your red blood cells actually live longer and this can change results. Also if you have an ingrown toenail or gingivitis it could go up slightly. There are other more reliable biomarkers of inflammation and autoimmunity. If you feel there could be an issue, reduce omega 6 as much as possible, get some sunshine and/or Vitamin D, and go 100% grain, legume and dairy free for a good 30 days then re-check. Ask your doc to check for things like rheumatic factor, antitransglutaminase....they can do a whole blood panel for autoimmune disease.

0
24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 22, 2010
at 01:54 PM

This might sound stupid, but can you have chronic inflammation but have a normal c-reactive protein level? Also, if the level is low at one draw and high at another draw (but all within range) shoud one be concerned that there is a change, or if things are in range is everything okay? I have other health problems going on that MAY suggest autoimmune issues, but my c-reactive protein level (for now) is in range...but going up. Thank you.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on June 22, 2010
at 04:55 PM

This should be its own question. :)

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