Everyone is talking about inflammation. It seems to be the new 'buzz word' popping up not only in nutritional and medical journals but glossy magazines as well. But what's all the hype about? Is it a good or a bad thing? Well, as it turns out, it's both, good and bad. Cape Town based Dr Kevin Lentin gives us the highs and lows of inflammation.
DID YOU KNOW? The inflammation response is meant to be short and to the point ' rushing in, targeting damaged tissue or invading pathogens and sorting it all out. Because the 'inflammatory brigade' has the ability to break down tissue before building it up, it also has the potential to damage the body. That's why it is normally controlled and regulated very well. If it is continuously on, it tends to become rogue, and undiscerning and can cause harm to the body. Everyone is talking about inflammation. It seems to be the new 'buzz word' popping up not only in nutritional and medical journals but glossy magazines as well. But what's all the hype about? Is it a good or a bad thing? Well, as it turns out, it's both, good and bad. Cape Town based Dr Kevin Lentin gives us the highs and lows of inflammation. Normally, inflammation is an amazing response by the body to fight off and defend itself from infectious, toxic or traumatic stimuli. Something happens, a bacterial invasion, an injury or trauma perhaps, and this triggers the body to mobilise cells and substances to destroy toxic invaders and repair damaged tissues. If the body is continually exposed to triggers alerting it to danger, the body has a permanent inflammatory response going on and that's where the problem arises. In its fit and functioning form, the inflammatory response is a key part of our immune system. It's how the body protects us against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Once triggered, it signals other systems in the body that rush in to help. A whole complex network of biochemical pathways are involved. Participants like mast cells and lymphocytes are all over the body, in the blood, in the organs and under the skin. They're like traffic cops driving around looking out for any potential danger. When they mobilise together it's called the 'inflammatory cascade'. This battalion of healing, or fighting cells will either rush to a particular area or they mobilise throughout your system. If you cut your finger, twist your ankle for instance, they'll rush to finger or ankle. If your throat or chest gets infected they'll arrive at the scene. You might get redness or swelling in the affected area, or heat, fever and pain. These are all signs the body has mounted an immune and inflammatory response. Many other cells are also released into the blood stream, including macrophages, leukocytes, cytokines and fibroblasts. Their primary function is to assist the 'destroy and repair' process. This activation is what essentially allows our bodies to survive the literally thousands of minor invasions and injuries we are subjected to on a daily basis. Without it we would quickly succumb to invasion and damage. So it's a critical process in our ability to survive the multitude of acute or sudden attempts at invasion. Or the times we injure ourselves either by accident, or through sport or other trauma. In these instances, it's a specific stimulus that activates the inflammatory cascade and initiates the healing response, which is often about 3 ' 5 days, until everything settles and you continue as normal. CHRONIC INFLAMMATION Another scenario, the one where the problem arises, is when the inflammatory cascade is excessively stimulated over a long period of time. This is called chronic inflammation. Here, the same cells and processes are activated, but the body can't 'switch off' the process. This over, or excess stimulation is far more common than one might expect. In fact, most people living in the developed world in cities, without being aware of it, have a level of mild to moderate on-going inflammation, and sometimes even severe chronic inflammation. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is usually not diagnosed until a significant health challenge manifests itself. Here are some of the signs of chronic inflammation ' Stiff muscles and joints in the mornings ' Generalized muscular tension and fibromyalgia ' Systems not functioning optimally ' constipation, allergies and food intolerances, weight gain and insulin resistance, excess fat accumulation, recurrent sinus and other infections, headaches, mood disturbance and depression, acne ' All diseases ' heart disease, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, strokes ' Chronic pain ' Constant fatigue ' Arthritis and other auto-immune diseases It's very important then, to know what type of triggers or stimulus stops the inflammatory response from being turned off. They're mostly found in our lifestyle choices and in the environment. Virtually everything we are exposed to through the day carries a type of cellular messaging ability. This cellular messaging affects our cells in one of two ways; pro life i.e. encourages cellular health, or pro death i.e. does the opposite. Here are some of the things pro death cellular messages are triggered by: ' toxicity and chemical exposure ' the body's inability to detoxify ' free radicals, pollution ' trans-fats, acidity ' food allergens (gluten) and genetically modified foods ' smoking, medication, alcohol ' sugar and processed foods ' high fructose corn starch ' food colourants, additives and preservatives ' sleep deprivation, stress Perhaps you can now appreciate why chronic inflammation is so prevalent. It's stimulated by just about everything! When these triggers continually bombard our cells, different immune and inflammatory substances are produced, like cytokines, chemokines, prostaglandins and the like. These also cause cellular messaging processes, which can cause DNA mutations ' the kind of mutations that show up as cancer or other chronic degenerative diseases. Chronic inflammation is a serious side effect of the modern, fast paced and stressful lifestyle many of us live. This is also why inflammation is such a 'hot' topic. It's considered the underlying cause of virtually every one of the chronic degenerative diseases. HOW IS INFLAMMATION DIAGNOSED? Diagnosis is made after careful evaluation of many factors including a full and comprehensive medical history, diet history, physical exam, X-Rays and blood tests. The hs'CRP blood test is a very reliable and simple measure of systemic and chronic inflammation. Other important diagnostic tests include fasting insulin level, fasting glucose level, homocysteine, Vitamin D, thyroid panel and thyroid anti-bodies and iron studies. What can be done to 'turn off' the inflammatory response? If chronic inflammation is the underlying cause of your state of dis'ease or disease, then an anti- inflammatory lifestyle is highly important to stop disease progression, or prevent disease in the first place. You can reduce the inflammatory load by avoiding the triggers that set off the release of the inflammatory cells. Here's a checklist of things to avoid that stimulate inflammation ' processed and refined carbohydrates ' processed foods, fast foods, gluten ' sugar, saturated fats, weight gain ' alcohol, high caffeine intake ' high acid foods ' high fat vs lean body composition ' chemical exposure, especially cigarette smoke ' high stress levels, interrupted sleep patterns Mild to moderate exercise a least 3 times a week helps prevent inflammation build up. Herbs like ginger, turmeric, Boswellia, Capsiacin and Cat's Claw, have an anti inflammatory effect. Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EPA/DHA) and Omega 6 Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) also have a noted anti-inflammatory effect. Unfortunately, the modern lifestyle most of us choose is generally an inflammatory type of lifestyle. That's why many of the chronic degenerative diseases on the increase are directly linked to modern lifestyle choices. It is also widely accepted that many inflammatory triggers are introduced very early on in life. This leaves very young children to manifest conditions associated with chronic inflammation, and effectively sets them up for significant health challenges later in life. It's important to note that some people have a genetic predisposition to inflammation, which means they are more prone to the effects of chronic inflammation. If so, extra care is needed to avoid an inflammatory lifestyle and avoid the early onset of chronic degenerative diseases. About Dr Kevin Lentin Dr Lentin has been in private practice for more than 30 years. While his is core interest revolves around the diagnosis, treatment and management of neuro-musculo-skeletal conditions, his continual search to deepen his understanding of 'wellness' led him to study and practice Functional Medicine. He now focuses his years of study and clinical experience on a more integrated approach to health and wellness, incorporating his skills in the musculo-skeletal (chiropractic), bio-nutritional and functional wellness (Functional Medicine) as well as the psycho-emotional realms to offer patients a holistic approach to health care. 1976 graduated from the University of Natal with a B. Social Science, majoring in Psychology. 1984 graduated Doctor of Chiropractic, Cum Laude, from Life Chiropractic College, in Atlanta, Georgia. 2004 Diploma in Applied Clinical Nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition, in Sydney, Australia 2006 & 2012 Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice' Contact Dr Kevin Lentin at Constantia Chiropractic Clinic, 36 Constantia Road, Wynberg, W Cape Tel: 021 797-8056

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