The Internal Fire

The ancient Greeks described inflammation as “the internal fire.”Anyone who has cut, sprained, or burned themselves has experienced pain, heat, redness, and swelling – the sure signs of acute inflammation. Inflammation is one of the body’s natural ways of protecting itself from foreign invaders like viruses, fungi, bacteria, chemicals, toxins, etc. In all these cases, inflammation is a good and natural thing. Without it, wounds would never heal, and germs would win the war. Unfortunately, as with any process in the body, it is possible to have too much of a good thing…Chronic inflammation is very different from acute inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is not the kind you can feel or even something you can see under a microscope. “It’s very subtle,” says Professor Joel Mason, M.D., director of the Vitamins and Carcinogenesis Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts. “It’s inflammation on a biochemical level.”In fact, chronic inflammation is connected to many of the illnesses we see more often as we age. “Inflammation is thought to be an important basis not just for cancer, but for insulin resistance and diabetes and athero-sclerotic disease and any number of other conditions,” Mason says. “There is a lot of research going on into what role inflammation plays in a lot of the chronic degenerative diseases that our society falls prey to.”A number of medical conditions are believed to be linked to chronic inflammation in the body. Some of these include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Lung Diseases (emphysema and bronchitis)
  • Chronic Pain
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Stroke
  • Diseases where the immune system attacks the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma

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