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  • The Inflammation Situation


    A recent study from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, has found that individuals who have an increase in inflammation during midlife – that is maintained into late life – have greater abnormalities in the brain’s white matter, ultimately affecting cognitive function and possibly leading to dementia.

    The study from Johns Hopkins analyzed data from over 1,500 participants over a 21-year period. The team tracked levels of a blood biomarker of inflammation called a “C-reactive protein” and then looked at that biomarker’s relationship with dementia.

    In the study, participants visited researchers five times, an average of every three years. During the final visit, participants had an MRI scan to reveal white matter damage in the brain. Following the first visit, researchers also collected blood samples from each participant to measure levels of inflammation as shown by the C-reactive protein.

    Chronic inflammation can be caused by cardiovascular disease, diabetes, heart failure, hypertension and infectious diseases like hepatitis C and HIV.

    Signs you may have either localized or systemic inflammation are:

    Aches and pains. If you regularly feel achy in your muscles, joints or all over, you can bet your body is inflamed. When your immune cells or fat cells produce inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, you will experience heightened pain sensitivity and stiffness. Fibromyalgia and arthritis are classic symptoms of excess inflammation, but generalized pain when getting out of bed in the morning is another symptom. Pain in the soles of the feet (plantar fasciitis) is another classic sign of inflammation.

    Fatigue. Fatigue can be caused by many different factors but you may not realize it’s a typical sign of inflammation. When your immune cells are continually busy secreting large volumes of inflammatory chemicals or antibodies, fatigue is the natural consequence. Think about the fatigue you experience with the flu. Chronic allergies such as allergic rhinitis also typically results in some degree of fatigue. Any health condition that causes inflammation usually results in fatigue.

    Being overweight. It was once thought that the sole purpose of fat cells was to store excess calories and provide your body with a bit of warmth and padding. We now know that fat cells operate like chemical factories. Fat cells are actually able to produce many of the same chemicals your immune cells make while your immune system is trying to battle with an infection. If you have a lot of fat on your body you’ll produce a lot more of these chemicals 24 hours a day. Unfortunately those inflammatory chemicals tend to create insulin resistance, which makes losing weight extremely difficult. If you want to lose weight it’s important to follow our guidelines for reducing inflammation below.

    Red or itchy skin. Redness and itching are classic signs of inflammation. These symptoms can be caused by allergies or autoimmune disease or be due to an unhappy liver. Itchy skin is very common in people with hepatitis but can occur if the liver is inflamed for a variety of different reasons. An inflamed liver produces greater quantities of an inflammatory chemical called C reactive protein.

    Autoimmune disease. Excessive inflammation is a feature of all autoimmune diseases and is largely responsible for the symptoms common to most autoimmune conditions – pain, fatigue and poor quality sleep. There are 81 different confirmed autoimmune diseases, with another 20 or so suspected to be autoimmune in nature. That means autoimmune disease is incredibly common. You may not realize that your health problems are autoimmune. Common examples of autoimmune conditions are psoriasis, most thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. To understand the treatment of autoimmune conditions please see the book Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation.

    Allergies or infections. If you suffer with allergies, you are definitely inflamed. Allergies tend to produce the most obvious symptoms of inflammation – swelling, redness, itching and pain. The symptoms are the result of your immune response to normally harmless substances such as grass, pollen or foods. Infections are a very common cause of inflammation, particularly chronic infections that linger. Some viruses and bacteria have a habit of lingering in your body for years, chronically stimulating your immune system while also releasing toxins into your bloodstream. Examples include hepatitis, Epstein barr virus, herpes viruses and parasitic gut infections. Chronic infections put an enormous strain on your immune system and liver; therefore it is very important to strengthen your immune system to improve your chances of clearing the infection. See the information in my bird flu book, which provides advice on fighting all types of infections.

    As always, make sure you check with your health care provider if you have concerns or questions.

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