Inflammation is a normal response to an injury, allergy or infection. It is the body’s way of dealing with trauma or a threat such as an infection. As part of the inflammatory response the body releases pro-inflammatory chemicals that deal with the problem. When the threat has been dealt with, these same processes release anti-inflammatory chemicals to return things to normal for healing to begin at the affected site. In order for this mechanism to work properly the body must be able to distinguish between ‘self-cells’ and ‘non-self cells’, so it does not mount an attack on itself. However, if our immune system is in some way unbalanced, there is a risk of chronic inflammation developing somewhere in the body. Chronic inflammation arises when the immune response has not completely turned off and remains active in the background, like slow-burning embers. These pro-inflammatory cells circulating in the body have the potential to damage body parts such as the mucous membrane of the gut, various organs, or the delicate lining of blood vessels. Various foods or substances may fan these embers from time to time and provoke a more acute inflammatory response. Bowel and skin disorders are good examples of this pattern. There is a growing understanding within medical circles that inflammation lies at the root of many conditions and in fact, most chronic ailments are underpinned by inflammation.
Signs and symptoms that indicate active inflammation include
- Aches, pains and stiffness in the joints or muscles.
Conditions such as arthritis, polymyalgia, fibromyalgia and ankylosing spondylitis are common examples of how the musculo-skeletal system is affected by inflammation.
- Bowel problems (including Chron’s and Ulcerative colitis)
- Skin rashes
Certain herbs act to reduce inflammation in a safe way, hence their value in treating a wide range of disorders. However, in many cases of chronic inflammation, dietary changes are also necessary as some foods may be causing an inflammatory reaction in the gut. You will see that our immune system and our digestive system are very interlinked and both have a role to play in the inflammation process.
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