Inflammation is now recognized as the top villain when it comes to heart disease and a host of other health problems, but is inflammation, the body's natural response to healing, really bad at its core?
I'm more than a little confused about inflammation, and judging by the amount of information on the topic, it appears many more could be, too.
Last year I met Jack Challem and got a copy of The Inflammation Syndrome: Your Nutrition Plan for Great Health, Weight Loss, and Pain-Free Living. In the book he says that diseases are caused or influenced by inflammation in the body, and recommends which foods and supplements to take to decrease inflammation, thereby decreasing the opportunity for disease.
In his introduction he writes: "Inflammation (not cholesterol) is now understood to be the primary determining factor in coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in most developed countries, although many doctors are yet to act on this knowledge."
Heart disease, bad! Therefore, inflammation, bad.
But hearing board-certified dermatologist Howard Murad, MD, known as the "Father of Nutricosmetics" speak two weeks ago in Las Vegas shook up my perception of inflammation. Take a cut on your finger, for example. The cut becomes red and inflamed because cells are sending collagen to heal the abrasion. That red ring around your cut? It doesn't mean infection, necessarily – it's the inflammation, which is the body's ability to heal itself.
"All inflammation is good," Dr. Murad told me, "but when the inflammation gets so high [in the body] it's not good."
Wait a minute, inflammation isn't the enemy, but yet it is?
It's a game of semantics. Inflammation is essential for healing, but when inflammation is chronic inside the body the healing effort becomes dangerous and part of the problem, rather than the solution. Chronic inflammation occurs because the immune system "becomes hyperactive in response to irritants—from smoking, stress or a poor diet—and no longer switches off its efforts to heal the body," reported Delicious Living earlier this year.
All this just to answer the original question: No, inflammation is not at its core the enemy, but it can turn into the enemy when poor health choices keep it active in the body.
How do you know if you have chronic inflammation? Many people go undiagnosed, because unlike a cut's inflamed response, we can't see inside our bodies. To find out, ask your doctor for the hs-CRP blood test and consider these 5 chronic inflammation culprits.