We have all experienced inflammation. It is essential to life and an integral part of our body’s normal defense and repair system. Following injury we experience swelling, heat, redness and pain, and if all systems are working correctly, healing. But inflammation also contributes to arthritis, thyroid disorders, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, and even unexplained fatigue. How can it be that a normally beneficial physiologic system can be the root cause of such chronic, progressive disorders?
Inflammation is normally a coordinated and contained process. Many of us have experienced firsthand the healing aspects of inflammation following surgery to repair a torn ACL or rotator cuff. Our immune system is responsible for producing the swelling, redness, and heat that characterize inflammation. But there are a number of things that can cause the immune system to be activated without obvious injury or the typical signs.
Many of us have experienced “silent” inflammation, too. Silent inflammation is uncoordinated and generalized. It is an indication that the immune system is out of balance.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to look at someone and see the usual signs of redness, swelling, and heat. The feelings of stiffness or aching joints or fatigue or sleep disturbances could be warning signs that you have silent inflammation.
If your performance seems to be slipping, don’t be so quick to chalk it up to being another year older. You could be experiencing the generalized effect of silent inflammation.
Causes of Silent inflammation
- A poor diet
That is, food that is low in nutrient content. The body requires specific nutrients to function normally. If it doesn’t get them the immune system signals can be disrupted or abnormal and unable to coordinate the complex processes. Healing will be prolonged and inadequate. When the immune system is confused, chronic, generalized, insidious and harmful inflammation can result.
- Lack of exercise
Lack of exercise is an independent risk for heart disease. It is a bit of a simplification but when we boil it down, vascular disease is a result of inflammation in the blood vessels.
- Poorly managed stress responses
Not all stress is bad, but research shows that chronic, unaddressed mental and emotional stress leads to a number of endocrine changes and a confused and dysfunctional immune system.
- Unrecognized allergens
During our lifetime our bodies are exposed to an amazing number of potential allergens. The greatest number is in food and symptoms are not always related to our stomachs. Asthma, hair loss, arthritis, hyperactivity, restless leg syndrome and others have been associated with eating foods that cause silent inflammation. Unfortunately, the diagnosis is treated but the cause is not addressed and continues to produce more damage.During the last 30 years the foods we consume have been manipulated and altered in ways that are unprecedented. Cow products and wheat, corn and soy products are all genetically manipulated. The incidence of food related sensitivities is increasing. In other words, the incidence of immune imbalance disorders is increasing.
- Unrecognized infections. Have you ever ignored an annoying but bearable toothache? Or had abdominal pain or loose bowel movements that didn’t seem bad enough to seek medical attention? Unexplained fatigue, depression or anxiety can be a result of an infection that can been contained but not eliminated by an imbalanced immune system.
Inflammation is a normal part of healing and also the root cause of chronic, insidious and/or debilitating diseases. Listen to your body and be aware of your physical responses. Consider seeking medical attention if you feel that you could have “silent” inflammation.
A Vail Vitality Center professional, Lisa Muncy-Pietrzak, MD, ABIHM is board certified in Internal Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine. Dr. Muncy uses advanced testing and an integrative scientific approach to evaluate and treat health problems. Her practice, Vibrant Health of Vail, is located at Vail Vitality Center at Vail Mountain Lodge. Call 970.479.7801 for more information.