We are all familiar with acute inflammation. The swelling as a result of a fall or the itching and burning after a bee sting or the blocked nose and congested chest after a cold or the flu, is a great example. Even though acute and Systemic Chronic Inflammation ("SCI") share some mechanisms , they are very different.
Chronic Inflammation & Metabolic Disease go hand in glove.
Lifestyle and Environmental Triggers cause a low grade, persistent inflammation that, over time, causes a cascade of damage that ultimately results in conditions that are now responsible for more than 70% of all deaths globally, with metabolic diseases like Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Neurodegenerative Disease, right at the top of the list.
Inflammation is not always bad & man flu is an actual thing.
Inflammation is an evolutionarily process that protects us from bacteria, viruses, toxins and infections, by eliminating pathogens and promoting tissue repair and recovery. Our normal response also includes a range of energy saving behaviors and physiological changes eg. sadness, anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure), fatigue, reduced libido and food intake, altered sleep, social-behavioral withdrawal, increased blood pressure. *
If this sounds like man flu you are correct. (note to all male readers - you are welcome)
What are the causes of chronic systemic inflammation?
The good news is that there are only a few causes and every one of them is preventable or at the very least manageable so that we mitigate the risks associated with them.
Chronic infections present a persistent threat to the body, causing the immune system to remain in a state of high alert. In some cases, the immune system may overreact to the presence of chronic infections, leading to an excessive inflammatory response. Normally, once an infection or injury has been dealt with, the inflammatory response should resolve.
However, in the case of chronic infections, the threat is not completely eliminated, preventing the inflammation from resolving.
Physical Inactivity & Obesity
Sedentary behavior presents a persistent low-level stress to the body, causing the immune system to remain in a state of mild activation.
This results in a continuous release of inflammatory substances. Sedentary behavior also causes or is partly responsible for obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and hyperglycemia, collectively known as the metabolic syndrome. These conditions are linked to increased levels of systemic inflammation.
Disruption of the gut barrier, often referred to as ‘leaky gut’, can lead to the release of bacterial metabolites and endotoxins into the circulation. This condition, mainly caused by bacterial infections, oxidative stress, high-fat diet and/or exposure to alcohol or chronic allergens, is highly connected with the development and/or progression of metabolic disease. Dysbiosis directly impacts the Immune system.
Gut microbes control crucial immune functions which means if your gut is unhealthy your likelihood of chronic systemic inflammation is high.
Diets that are high in processed foods, low in fibre, low in fruits and vegetables, and high in ultra-processed high-calorie foods, often referred to as Western dietary patterns, are associated with increased levels of inflammation.
Consumption of red meat and dairy has a significant impact on CSI.
Isolation & Chronic Stress
Chronic stress and isolation present a persistent low-level stress to the body, causing the immune system to remain in a state of mild activation.
This results in a continuous release of inflammatory substances.
Disturbed sleep can activate pro-inflammatory processes in the body by increasing the levels of cytokines, interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, and other inflammatory molecules.
Disturbed sleep can also affect the blood pressure and the blood vessels, which are important for regulating inflammation, can interfere with the brain’s housecleaning system, called the glymphatic system, which is responsible for clearing away the waste products and toxins from the brain during deep sleep, creating a fertile breeding ground for Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Dementia.
Functional Medicine has the answers.
Functional medicine is a holistic and personalized approach to health care that focuses on identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic diseases, rather than just treating the symptoms.
Performing comprehensive and individualized testing to assess the level and source of inflammation in the body, such as measuring inflammatory markers in the blood, stool, or urine, or testing for chronic infections, environmental toxins, or genetic factors that may influence inflammation.
A functional medicine practitioner may also use advanced testing methods, such as genomics, metabolomics, or microbiome analysis, to gain a deeper understanding of the person’s unique biochemistry and inflammatory profile.
Designing a personalized and integrative treatment plan that addresses the underlying causes of inflammation and restores the balance and function of the body’s systems, such as the digestive, immune, endocrine, nervous, and cardiovascular systems.
A functional medicine practitioner may use a combination of natural and conventional therapies.
Eating a balanced and anti-inflammatory diet that avoids foods that trigger inflammation, such as refined carbohydrates, sugar, processed meats, and trans fats, and includes foods that reduce inflammation, such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, fatty fish, and olive oil.
A functional medicine practitioner may also recommend specific dietary interventions, such as an elimination diet, to identify and eliminate food sensitivities that may contribute to inflammation.
Correctly Prescribed Supplements
Taking supplements that support the immune system and modulate inflammation, such as omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, quercetin, vitamin D, zinc, and probiotics.
A functional medicine practitioner may also test for and correct any nutritional deficiencies that may impair the body’s ability to regulate inflammation.
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits that lower stress, improve sleep, and increase physical activity, which can all help to reduce inflammation and enhance well-being.