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Inflammation and Chronic Digestive Problems

I’m really intrigued by the recent articles that I have been reading about different kinds of digestive problems. The medical profession generally likes to give labels to different diseases. But, my interest now is what they have in common, rather than what makes them different. In other words, what do Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, Leaky Gut, SIBO and Irritable Bowel Syndrome all have in common?

Now, I understand more about the one thing they do share, that they all have in common. And that’s chronic inflammation. The causes are definitely varied, but the end result of chronic inflammation in the gut happens in all of them.

Sometimes it’s because of exposure to toxins, sometimes it is emotional stress, or even nutritional deficiencies. But, no matter what the cause is, there is a need to pay attention to the ramifications of chronic inflammation when looking at truly repairing the digestive system and the related systems that become affected by it.

Micrograph of the Large intestine of person with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Micrograph of the Large intestine of person with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

I agree with Dr Russell Jaffe MD when he says that the time has come to rethink inflammation. He suggests that we need to think about inflammation based on physiology rather than pathology. What that means is that inflammation is not just a parameter that you see on a blood test, but rather what happens to our bodies when there is inflammation and why is it there.

What happens when the body is inflamed?

The four signs of inflammation are “swelling,” “redness,” “heat,” and “pain.” Later “loss of function,” was added as the fifth result of inflammation. Then aside from physical changes, there are significant important psychological symptoms like loss of appetite, apathy, fatigue and an increasing sensitivity to pain.
When inflammation occurs, the body is unable to repair itself. Let’s say you stub your toe. It swells up, get red and hot and then once the body is able to ‘repair’ the inflammation, it returns to normal. With acute inflammation like this, there is a short-term immune response when there is trauma, infection or allergy. The symptoms happen when the immune defense and repair system uses up and runs out of the essential nutrients that it needs to energize and protect to body.

What is difference when there is Chronic Inflammation?

Swollen Digestive Tract

Comparison of Normal and Swollen Digestive Tract

However, when the inflammation is chronic, there is a cumulative effect. We used to think that we needed to fight the symptoms of inflammation. But, now we know that this isn’t the right approach. The inflammation is not acute, therefore, just reducing the current area of inflammation is not enough. Now, the symptoms of chronic inflammation need to be understood as the body’s cry for help.
It’s not a symptom that you want to suppress but rather an invitation to rehabilitate and repair. And we can do that by giving the body what it needs to do that.

Chronic inflammation is what you’re facing when the body is unable to repair itself, and the ‘first-responder cell team’ can’t complete the repair and the immune system is unable to overcome the symptoms presented.

What are the necessary steps to take when dealing with Chronic Inflammation?

The first concept to embrace is Epigenetics. What is that, you may ask? Epigenetics refers to our quality of life. This includes what we choose to eat, drink, and think. Believe it or not, this determines 92% of our quality of life years, whereas genetics only determines 8%.

And what’s more, if, what we refer to as a ‘repair deficit’ continues in the digestive tract, the gut lining is affected. And what happens is that it no longer protects the digestive system as it usually does. Lactose and gluten intolerance, as well as low mucosal antibody (IgA) and inflammatory bowel diseases, can happen or be exacerbated because of maldigestion, dysbiosis, leaky gut or in other ways that result in the digestive function in the gut being compromised, food not assimilated properly or being eliminated adequately.

Now we know that inflammation becomes chronic when there is an unwanted, yet persistent ‘stimulus’. This stimulus may come from free radicals that invade our bodies every day when we eat foods that are prepared with processed vegetable oils like french fries and fried food. Then there are other culprits like most salad dressings, non-fat dried milk, powdered coffee creamer, and of course crackers, cookies, chips, and many other processed foods.

The stimulus might be an allergy to wheat (gluten) which inflames the gut. It may be because of a low-grade infection from an old injury that never healed. Now, we also know that even heavy metals, pesticides, and chemicals are a great burden on our bodies. It’s possible that a low-grade infection caused by a dental root canal treatment is the underlying ‘stimulus’.

Unfortunately, there are lots of different reasons and factors to consider that constantly irritate the body.

Chronic inflammation falls below the threshold of perceived pain. You don’t think you feel sick, but a fire is quietly smoldering within you, upsetting the delicate balance among all of the major systems: endocrine, central nervous, digestive, and cardiovascular/respiratory.

In a healthy body, these systems communicate with each other. With chronic inflammation, that communication becomes distorted.

Some 20 years after their discovery in 1982, and having endured a storm of criticism from the medical establishment, Warren, 68, and Marshall, 54, found that Helicobacter pylori played a role in gastritis and peptic ulcers. It was only in 2005 that they were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Even then, the idea of chronic inflammation was being suggested.

The Nobel Assembly’s comment was, “This was very much against prevailing knowledge and dogma because it was thought that peptic ulcer disease was the result of stress and lifestyle,” and mentioned that it was chronic inflammation that had a damaging effect on arteries, which could lead to high cholesterol, heart attacks and strokes.

Inflammation in Blood Vessels.

Microorganisms can cause inflammation in the blood vessels. The inside of the arteries come under attack. Immune cells are released to fight the inflammation, and then cholesterol is laid down like a Band-aid over a wound. However, the inflammation is still active under that Band-Aid. Then what happens? What happens in time is that the Band-Aid bulges. Maybe a small part of the blood vessel gives way and a blood clot is needed to stop the problem. Then if the clot breaks loose and travels up to your brain, you have a stroke. If it travels up to your heart it results in a heart attack.

Chronic inflammation is a dangerous condition to deal with.
It affects all parts of the body.

The different aspects of Epigenetics all contribute to encouraging a healthy digestive tract. Here are the ones that I’d like to pay attention to first. I’ll address them one by one in follow up posts:

– poor diet,
– inadequate sleep,
– irregular elimination,
– inactivity, and
– stress.

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