The verb inflammare (to set on fire) is, in fact, the root.
Acute inflammation includes the onset of redness and swelling around an injury, as well as the more intricate immune responses to infection. Without a speedy and efficient immune response, the simplest injury or weakest infection could become devastating. Those of us old enough to have seen legions of previously vibrant people develop full-blown AIDS have the importance of the immune system indelibly etched into our psyches.
Chronic inflammation, however, is quite another story.
The immune system functions like a superbly run military force. Following injury or infection, the injured tissue sends up a chemical distress flair. Immune system cells respond by essentially launching a military campaign bent on the annihilation of the problem.
Granted, this is a gross oversimplification of a multilayered and sublimely elegant set of processes, but the result is a temporarily war-torn landscape.
When the job is done, the immune system is designed to quiet itself and stand down. When it doesn’t, another set of problems present.
A chronic response
Chronic inflammation sets in when the immune response continues in the absence of infection or injury. Unlike acute inflammation, the signs of a chronic process are insidious and can manifest gradually over time.
According to internal medicine physician Ketan Amin of Novant Health, patients “may not even realize they have an inflammatory condition, because it’s a subtle change that occurs over weeks, months and even years, so they’re just dealing with the symptoms, like fatigue, every day. And, day after day, it gets a little bit worse.”
Left untreated, chronic inflammation can promote the development of serious diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
Dr. Deepak Chopra, a pioneer proponent of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), believes that inflammation is the No. 1 pandemic of our times right now.
“Stress, inflammation, depression, anxiety and chronic disease go together. Inflammation is the culprit in all these diseases,” he says.
Chopra believes that trauma plays a pivotal role.
“The rise in mental health problems and chronic stress is related to the body’s response to trauma, which can stem from generational trauma, isolation or the stress of the news cycle.”
A very daunting task
According to Chopra, attempting to untie these threads is “a very daunting task.” But he offers some practical suggestions to promote a healthy lifestyle and reduce inflammation:
Sleep. Most adults require seven to nine hours to function optimally.
De-stress. Meditation, exercise, art, a hobby, and even the practice of Gratitude can bring down stress levels and calm the mind and body.
Remain emotionally connected to others. Isolation and loneliness are significant risk factors for many health conditions. Volunteering, community engagement and making time to be of even minimal service is tremendously beneficial.
Seek out moments of joy. Sights, songs, people, animals, food – anything constructive that feeds the spirit and delights the heart.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. There are many from which to choose. While plant-based is my recommendation, that is often easier said than done. The Cleveland Clinic is an excellent resource to introduce the options.
Please send comments and question to Nathalie Montijo at email@example.com.
Nathalie Raven Archangel-Montijo holds a rather interesting array of degrees and certifications, including master’s in nursing and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). She has post-master certification as an adult geriatric primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) and a license to practice acupuncture in California (L.Ac). To round all that out, she is certified in infection prevention and control (CIC) and as an advanced certified Hospice and palliative care nurse (ACHPN).
She also performs in the outlaw country band, Nineteen Hand Horse.