Inflammation can be too much of a good thing |

Inflammation can be too much of a good thing

Rosemary Manning
Special to the Tribune

Recently, I was reading an article about immune diseases in the Costco business magazine and saw that many immune diseases are caused by inflammation. Trying to understand this physical process and what it can do to our bodies is the focus for this month’s health article. The first thing I needed to do was to expand my definition of inflammation.

According to Wikipedia, the term “inflammation” comes from the Latin, inflammare, meaning to “set on fire,” which fits with a limited definition. When inflammation is acute, it is a short term, complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as trauma, infection or allergy. It is our protective attempt to remove injurious stimuli and begin the healing process. An article in the November-December 2008 issue of IDEA Fitness Journa explains that inflammation occurs at the peak of the immune response when the body increases blood flow and brings in specialized immune cells to repair and remove damaged tissues. Without inflammation, wounds and infections would never heal. Inflammation is the basis of a healthy immune system.

But what happens when the inflammation response moves from to acute to chronic?

Marcelle Pick gives an interesting analogy to explain chronic inflammation.

“Like an unattended fire, chronic inflammation can slowly spread and lead to serious metabolic breakdown, with vast implications for your long term health,” Pick wrote on

Chronic inflammation happens when the healthy inflammation response does not completely get turned off or extinguished. Then this slow-burning fire continues to stimulate inflammatory immune cells, even when they might not be needed.

Pick further explains that having a constant, low-grade flow of inflammatory chemicals in the blood stream upsets the body’s internal balance, which often results in a comprised immune system. Harvard Medical School research supports the connection between an out of balanced immune system and disease. It is now believed that nearly every modern disease is a result of chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation can result in diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, arthritis or gluten intolerance. The good news is that there many things that we can do to turn off this chronic inflammation and return to good health.

Here are some ideas to consider;

Lower your sugar intake. A study published in April 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who consume excess sugar are prone to chronic inflammation.

Eat a healthy diet. Author, Andrew Weil, M.D. writes “a healthy diet is still the single best way to influence the inflammatory response and optimize health”, which includes omega-3s and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.

Get a good night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep, seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep, is another important anti-inflammatory option

It is good news that we can make choices every day that limit the fuel for the fire and lessen our chances of disease.

– Rosemary Manning is a mind-body therapist in South Lake Tahoe and can be reached at

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