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by Krystle Orlando October 12, 2020 9 min read

If you've been suffering from a chronic health condition, then you have probably heard about inflammation. You may even be on medication currently that reduces the amount of inflammation in your body. 90% of all disease in the body increases inflammation in one way or another.

But what is inflammation exactly, and why does it occur? Understanding the role of inflammation in your overall health is key to taking back control of your life. The truth is, inflammation is never the root cause of your condition. In order to restore your body to wellness, we must understand what is creating excess inflammation. Then, you can properly address that issue and ultimately reach your health and wellness goals.

Healthy Inflammation

Some of you may read healthy inflammation and think this is an oxymoron. How could inflammation possibly be healthy? But the truth is, a healthy body will become inflamed. Inflammation is an immune response in the body. Inflammation develops when the immune system sends white blood cells to an area in the body that needs assistance to heal.

Inflammation will occur when the body detects foreign bodies in the bloodstream, when you experience an injury, or when you have become sick with a virus or bacteria. The inflammation is symptomatic of the immune system working hard to clean the body up, remove excess toxins, and/or restore tissues back to health.

For example, if you twist your ankle, you will most likely experience pain, swelling, soreness, and even heat coming off of the injury. All of these symptoms are what happens when there is inflammation in the area. There are some negative symptoms associated with this inflammation--namely the pain and the swelling. But this also indicates that your immune system is working to restore your muscles and joints back to health after the injury.

In this sense, inflammation is a healthy response. But what happens when there are numerous areas in the body that need the attention of your immune system? Or when you have an ongoing issue in the body that requires constant immune system response? This is when healthy inflammation can become problematic.

Inflammation and Your Body

It is clear that inflammation is occurring when you have a physical injury like an ankle sprain or a laceration. But when you become sick because of bacterial infections, viral infections, parasites, or overloaded with toxins from the environment, inflammation also occurs--it just isn't always visible.

When you have imbalances within the body that exacerbate inflammation and they continue over a long period of time, you can ultimately end up with very high levels of inflammatory response that are very damaging to your health. And, because inflammation is a signal of immune response in the body, all autoimmune disorders are co-indicated by high levels of inflammation. Again, though, these autoimmune disorders are not caused by inflammation, or inflammation is not a cause in and of itself. There is always a reason that inflammation has been triggered. The key is determining what it is.

Each system and organ in the body has different reactions when you have ongoing inflammatory issues. When you can recognize the symptoms of when various organs are suffering from inflammation, then you can begin to heal.

Inflammation & the Liver

One of the organs in the body that suffers the most when you have high levels of inflammation is the liver. That is because the liver plays such a key role in detoxifying the blood. It is the central place in your body where your bloodstream is filtered and cleaned up.

Any homeowner knows how important it is to clean out your air conditioner's filter in order to keep the air in your home clean and fresh. The liver needs regular cleaning in this way as well, and your immune system, when it is functioning properly, will perform this function. A well balanced immune system will regularly send white blood cells to the liver to detoxify its tissues so it can continue to function properly.

But when your immune system is in overdrive and you have high levels of inflammation in the body, it does not have the capacity necessary to properly detoxify the liver. This can lead to toxic build up in the liver, which in turn creates high level of toxicity in the blood. This toxicity sends further stress signals to the brain and the nervous system, increasing inflammation, and the cycle only continues.

When your liver is malfunctioning, there are many potential symptoms to watch out for. A wide variety of skin conditions, from sun spots to wrinkles to acne, can indicate that your liver is not functioning properly.

Inflammation, the Brain, and the Gut

Numerous troubling brain conditions, including migraines, Alzheimer's and dementia, have been shown to be concurrent with high levels of inflammation. Even mood disorders like depression and anxiety have been connected to high levels of inflammation. Research has also shown that there is a direct connection between brain functioning and gut health.

Again, to understand how to get to the root cause of these symptoms and diseases, it is not enough to simply reduce the inflammation in the body. We must understand what is causing the inflammation in the first place. If you have brain symptoms like brain fog or issues with your mood and motivation, it is always worthwhile to consider whether you may have issues with your gut health.

If there are bacterial overgrowths, viral conditions, parasites, or toxins coming into your stomach, a huge proportion of your immune system will become focused on fighting off these foreign invaders from your body. This can make it impossible for your body to replenish the cells in your brain and nervous system, as well as cause your bloodstream to have high levels of toxicity. This ultimately leads to challenging neurological symptoms, and will be indicated by inflammation.

Inflammation & Heart Health

Most individuals who suffer from heart conditions already know that high levels of cholesterol can clog the arteries and increase the likelihood of a stroke. But only 50% of individuals with heart based issues have high cholesterol. This means that 50% of heart attack sufferers do not have high cholesterol.

So what's causing their issues? Inflammation could be the culprit. When the body is full of inflammation, it causes the arteries to constrict. This constriction makes it more difficult for blood to flow, especially if there is any plaque buildup in the artery or vein. Arteries can begin to stiffen or even become hardened, ultimately leading to a wide variety of cardiovascular conditions.

Inflammation and Muscular and Skeletal System

In a healthy body, your muscles and bones are consistently being regenerated through the functioning of your immune system. When you have high levels of inflammation, though, this process becomes disrupted.

This leads to conditions like osteoporosis, which is caused when inflammation breaks down the structure of the bones and is not able to properly rebuild the tissues.

Inflammation and Hormones

There is a direct connection between our hormonal levels and cycles and the amount of inflammation we experience inside of the body. This is because of the connection between cortisol and the body's immune response.

When your body is under stress, i.e. when it detects a foreign body, bacterial or viral infection, injury, etc, a signal is sent to the endocrine system to increase the production of cortisol. When cortisol is increased, inflammation also increases, as the body is being told to go to work to clean up the stress within the body.

Ultimately, this can create a negative cycle that continually increases inflammation. After all, increased inflammation also increases negative symptoms that cause stress. This stress signals the production of cortisol, which in turn increases inflammation, starting the cycle again.

Other hormones ultimately become out of balance when cortisol is being produced so regularly, including thyroid, estrogen, and adrenaline. These hormonal imbalances can lead to a whole host of other symptoms and issues, and can sometimes be difficult to detect unless you take the right laboratory tests.

Anti-Inflammatory Treatments

If you're suffering from an autoimmune disorder or other chronic pain condition, there's a good chance that your doctor has encouraged you to lower your inflammation. This makes sense, because the inflammation in your body is what causes aches, pains, soreness, and many other difficult symptoms.

When you're just beginning to tackle your health issues, taking supplements and even prescription medications that lower your inflammation can be a necessary step to feeling well. For some, immunosuppressants, which lower the activity of the immune system, are vital when the immune system has gone into overdrive and are actively damaging your body.

But to resolve these issues for good, it's important that you find the root cause of your inflammation. Again, inflammation is never a root cause. It indicates that there is something your body is trying to fight off, and if the inflammation persists over long periods of time, indicates that your body is losing that battle. When you can properly identify the root cause of your inflammation, and address that issue, then your need for all of the anti-inflammatory medication will be reduced.

Where Did the Inflammation Come From?

It's not always easy to determine what the root cause of your inflammation issues are. But if you are just beginning your journey of understanding your health, examining your gut is the first place we recommend you start.

Why? For one, the vast majority of your immune system is located within your digestive system, as it is used to prevent things that you ingest from poisoning the body or making you sick. Since high levels of inflammation indicate your immune system is in overdrive, examining the gut is a good place to start.

The best diagnostic test we have to offer in terms of deeply understanding what is going wrong with your gut a Functional Medicine lab called an Organic Acids Test. This at-home test will provide you with detailed information about the makeup of your stomach and how well it is functioning. From the test, you can determine whether you have bacterial overgrowths, issues with yeast overgrowth, or some other gut-based issue.

Another great way to determine what your inflammation levels are and how to treat them is by taking an Omega-3 test. This type of test compares your Omega-3 levels to your Omega-6 levels, which can be crucial to your heart health. In fact, if you have a 9% or greater saturation rate in your blood of Omega-3s, then you're 90% less likely to die from sudden cardiac death.

The reason why this statistic exists is because plaque or cholesterol does not tell the whole picture. And that's because if your arteries can't expand due to inflammation (too much Omega-6s) then you're far more likely to have a cardiovascular event. So, by increasing your Omega-3 levels to balance your Omega-6s your overall cardiovascular and health profile should improve. This same test can be used to help inflammatory muscle/joint pain, skin, nervous system issues, energy, mood, and much more.

Inflammation Is NOT a Root Cause

The most crucial thing to understand about inflammation is that it is never the root cause of your health conditions. Because of this, eliminating or decreasing your inflammation alone is not going to heal your condition or stop your symptoms in the long term.

In fact, medication that reduces inflammation can actually serve to simply mask your symptoms over time. Ultimately, certain life triggers like severely stressful work conditions or a dramatic change in a living situation can cause you to face serious health consequences. Consequences that may have been prevented if you'd gotten to the root cause of your inflammation years earlier.

Case Study: The Marathoner

Brian was a 42 year old father of two who was a partner at a law firm. He was also an avid runner, completing four marathons in the past six years. That was why it was all the more stunning when he began suffering from the symptoms of a heart attack after taking a sauna at his local gym.

Even though Brian's cholesterol levels were low, his doctors told him that his arteries had begun to constrict and harden. It was hard for Brian to find answers as to why he was experiencing these symptoms. Soon, he recognized that there was probably a link between his heart condition and high levels of inflammation. He ordered a variety of tests, including an Organic Acids Test, to get to the bottom of his condition.

Once he received his results, Brian recognized that he needed to eat a more balanced diet and work on his poor sleeping habits. He began taking supplements to retain the nutrients his body needed to destress and restore itself. He even recognized that some of his exercise habits were actually contributing to his inflammation, and he learned to enjoy lower-impact sports.

Today he's happy to report that he is receiving positive recovery signs in his cardiovascular tests. By taking a many-pronged approach, Brian is back on the road to health.