The processes of inflammation are a potent source of age-related cellular damage, as this first article reminds us:

Chronic inflammation spurred by an immune system run amok appears to play a role in medical evils from arthritis to Alzheimer's, diabetes to heart disease. There's no grand proof of this "theory of everything." But doctors say it's compelling enough that we should act as if it were true -- which means eating an "anti-inflammatory diet," getting lots of physical activity, and losing the dangerous, internal belly fat that pumps out the chemicals that drive inflammation


Chronic inflammation is so similar in different diseases, Libby said, that when he lectures, he uses many of the same slides, whether he's talking about diseases of the heart, kidneys, joints, lung, or other tissues.

Only a few years ago, heart attacks were explained as a plumbing problem -- blood vessels that became clogged with atherosclerotic plaque as "bad" (LDL) cholesterol was deposited on vessel walls. Now, doctors know that this bad cholesterol gets embedded inside artery walls as well, where the immune system "sees" it as an invader to be attacked. The ongoing inflammation in arteries, essentially a revved up immune response, can eventually damage arteries and cause "vulnerable" plaque to burst. It is because inflammation is now seen as such a hallmark of heart disease that many doctors use a test for inflammation called CRP to help assess a person's cardiac risk.

It's long been known that type 1 diabetes is linked to inflammation -- the body's immune system attacks the cells that make insulin. Now, new research is suggesting that type 2 diabetes, the kind that generally sets in in adulthood, often begins with insulin resistance, in which cells stop responding properly to insulin. Doctors now know that during chronic inflammation, one of the chemicals released is TNF, or tumor necrosis factor, which makes cells more resistant to insulin.

""No one would have thought these things were related," but they are, said Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. The TNF connection also helps explain why obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, leads to diabetes. "Fat cells used to be thought of as storage depots for energy, as metabolically inactive," said Libby. "Now we know that fat cells are little hotbeds of inflammation. Excess fat in the belly is a great source of inflammation."

Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are also believed to be linked to inflammation. In arthritis, for instance, inflammatory cells called cytokines lead to the production of enzymes that break down cartilage in joints.

Inflammation also plays some role in Alzheimer's disease, said Linda Van Eldik, a neurobiologist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Whenever the brain is injured or infected, cells in the brain called glia pump out cytokines. Normally, this response shuts down when the injury or infection is over.

"But in chronic neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, these glial cells are activated too high or too long or both," Van Eldik said. The plaques and tangles in patients' brains attract the attention of glial cells, making them pump out even more cytokines to try to repair this damage and creating chronic inflammation.

Age-related diseases are the final breakdown of a system that has suffered a great deal of cellular, genetic and biochemical damage. Just like any complex machinery, it will break down more rapidly if subject to a higher rate of ongoing wear - such as that provided by inflammatory processes. As scientists uncover and catalogue ever more of our biochemistry, common sense health advice (exercise, stay trim, eat a good diet, take supplements) generally turns out to minimise exposure to chronic inflammation - especially losing the excess fat.

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According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Inflammation is the first response of the immune system to infection or irritation and may be referred to as the innate cascade. Inflammation is characterized by the following quintet: redness (rubor), heat (calor), swelling (tumor), pain (dolor) and dysfunction of the organs involved (functio laesa). The first four characteristics have been known since ancient times and are attributed to Celsus; functio laesa was added to the definition of inflammation by Rudolf Virchow in 1858.

Posted by: Askanio at November 23rd, 2006 1:13 AM

I was so glad to find your article. My husband has about 23 stints in his arteries and is finally doing pretty well with the heart. However, he has bouts of terrible joint swelling and back bending but after a round of prednisone seems fine again. The doctor says his inflammation is very, very high and I thought that the inflammation was thinking the stints were something foreign. Anyway, I now have something to think about.

Posted by: Deloras at July 13th, 2007 3:27 PM

Dear Sir:

I am having trouble understanding what Inflamation is? Nor, can I visualize it.

Can you explain for me in simple terms so I may
build up my understanding of it and its causes?

I am a Personal Trainer, and I wish to advise clients concerning this danger.

And, does Omega 3 supplementation decrease Inflamation?

Posted by: richard Nagel at July 16th, 2007 4:33 PM

This has been an informative read in regards to Alzheimers. Most people have heard of the plaque / protein tangles (I'm more familiar with the protein, is the plaque made of said proteins?) but not of the inflammatory response. I always thought Alzheimers' negative effects were due to direct interference from the tangles, but it seems like this role could also be played by inflammation. This makes me wonder how much of the damage is caused by each, and how much of Alzheimers' symptoms would be decreased by stopping this inflammatory response to the tangles.

This would of course be hard since you would want to make sure it only stopped attacking tangles, and not anywhere else where inflammation would be required to heal the brain or protect seriously damaged stuff.

Another danger is what will happen with the protein snarls if they are not contained by inflammation, if they would then spread and cause as much or more of a problem than they would have without the inflammatory response slowing them.

Posted by: Tyciol at June 15th, 2008 5:23 PM

Well I find this topic about inflammation most interesting. I have a diagonised skin condition called Granuloma Anngulare. This condition is very debilating. I have had it over 10 years now and getting no where but back to square one. I have been to the "world reknown" Johns Hopskins Dermatology Center and have only been heartbroken once again. The end results was....we wish we could help you but currently there is nothing that we know of that resolves your condition. Basically my skin condition is in a continual state of severe inflammation all the time. I have been researching and reading and I also have discovered something that makes the most sense of anything the last 10 years and it just happens to be exactly what this article explains. The only medical choice I have is a grim one....lucky me... I can continue to get "Cortizone," injections in very safe low doses to push the condition down deeper internally in the chance that just maybe it will stay at bay and not ever surface again in my life time. Wonderful, well for 10 yers it has not worked yet but I still have to have hope that something will break loose in the "medical field," that Dr.'s will share with their patients. There are no words to be said to explain to anyone of human understanding how painful this condition is with one exception if you have it also then and only then can you relate to the severe pain and sufferage it causes. When your whole body internally feels as though it is light up like a burning Christmas inside that is almost unbearable pain for any human being. This inflammation pain is with you day and night...amazingly somehow by the grace of God you learn to cope.

During my own reading/reseach I recently discovered 2 weeks ago that your PH Balance has a major play in your general health. (Now mind you this fact is well known to DR.'s but the problem is they do not share the information to help their patients.)This is my summation/theory: If you can keep your diet mostly alakline with a PH balance of a range of about 80%alakline and low acid20% that should have a major affect on the inflammation your own system creates. Well guess what for the last 2 weeks by changing my diet my inflammation and pain is reducing. For the first time in 10 years I am starting to feel and see a difference in my skin and my pain level.

I do not even know how I found this website pape today, but I now feel as though just maybe this is my confirmation to continue with my low acid diet and again by the grace of God I will be forever healed externally and internally. If anyone is listening thanks for the posting article and keep up the research and sharing to the public.

Posted by: judy aley at June 11th, 2011 5:02 AM

I've been interested in the inflammatory process in my body for many years having experienced inflammation in the bowel, arteries and joints.
In 1995 in was given an article in the Sydney Morning Herald (Australi) on the effects of fasting on reducing inflammation.
Having had inflammation and pain in many joints and several gout attacks I was prepared to try this regime that was not going to cost me anything.
Fasting for 18 hours each day, I was told, allowed the body to counter the inflammation, trigger the production of growth hormone and also act as an anti tumor regime.

I have been arthritis free since, except when I go off this regime, just to prove that I am not imagining this.

I have since read research papers of the relationship between tumors/cancer and the inflammatory environment.

I am 65 and continue to enjoy an active life free of pain and thoroughly enjoying my meals in the remaining six hours of each day. Three meals a day may be fine for others but not for me.

I cannot locate the research for this regime but many people to whom I have mentioned this have benefited. I also get compliments on how young I look for my age. I attribute this to the body's production of growth hormone stimulated by not eating for 18 hours. I remember learning in physiology that eating suppressed the production of growth hormone. Maybe this factor is one of the causes of the high incidence of tumors and cancer in our society that is bombarded with foods advertisements and encouraged to celebrate with and indulge in food and beverages at the drop at every opportunity.
Drop me a line if you get results from this regime. Of course it is always good to do it with the support of sympathetic medical practitioner to make sure that nutrient levels are adequate in the food intake in the 6 hours each day.


Posted by: Trevor Edmond at October 6th, 2011 5:37 PM

I have been suffering from joint pain for so long that I just had accepted it as normal but I came across an article about Ph levels in the body and taking baking soda to reduce the level of acidity in the body. The first day I tried it (about a spoonful of baking soda dissolved water before bed) i woke up with less aches and pain than I have had in years. I have been following this regimen for the last two weeks and it truly has a significant impact. I don't know if I had a proliferation of yeast and the baking soda is making the body inhospitable to it, or just simply I the anti acid nature of the baking soda is reducing any possible reflux at night and giving me a better night's sleep, or maybe the ph level is being affected and as a result inflammation is decreased, or some other explanation, all I know is that it is working. I have read about side effects of high blood pressure because baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) has a lot of salt in it (maybe the water retention is keeping joints lubricated and reducing inflammation that way?) so i hope I am not doing any great damage to myself but i feel so much better, my hands do not hurt every day now like before and my knees and legs also don't hurt and have much better color.

Posted by: Marco at March 5th, 2014 10:40 PM
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