The silent foe within: exploring the link between chronic inflammation and disease

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Inflammation, often associated with redness, swelling, and pain, is a fundamental physiological process crucial for healing and defending the body against injury and infection. However, when this natural fire ignites and burns uncontrollably, it can morph into a silent enemy, contributing to the development and progression of various chronic diseases.

From acute to chronic: understanding the inflammatory spectrum

Acute inflammation is a short-lived, localised response characterised by the classic "heat, redness, swelling, and pain." It serves as a first line of defence, recruiting immune cells to the site of injury or infection to initiate healing. However, when the trigger persists or the immune response malfunctions, acute inflammation can transform into long-standing inflammation. This chronic, low-grade fire spreads throughout the body, damaging healthy tissues and organs, creating fertile ground for a multitude of illnesses.

Chronic inflammation: a hidden culprit in disease development

Research increasingly implicates chronic inflammation in the disease process of a variety of illnesses, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease: Chronic inflammation contributes to atherosclerosis, plaque buildup in arteries, ultimately leading to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are associated with neuroinflammation, where inflammation causes the formation of damaging protein build-up on the brain.
  • Autoimmune diseases: In conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, fuelled by chronic inflammation.
  • Cancer: Inflammatory processes can promote tumour growth, invasion, and resistance to treatment.
  • Metabolic disorders: Chronic inflammation is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Ageing and the inflammatory cascade: a double-edged sword

Accelerated ageing is an intricate process caused by long-standing low-grade inflammation termed "inflammageing." This can be attributed to factors like cellular senescence (deterioration of cells), mitochondrial dysfunction (impaired energy production), and altered immune responses. While inflammation plays a role in age-related tissue degeneration and disease susceptibility, it also paradoxically contributes to initiating wound healing and the immune defence in older individuals. This has been called The Duplicitous Nature of Inflammation.

Exploring natural approaches to taming abnormal disease-forming inflammation

While managing chronic inflammation often involves conventional medications, research suggests that incorporating certain natural products into your lifestyle can offer additional benefits:

  • A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, while limiting processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats, can decrease inflammatory markers in the bloodstream. Specific foods like berries, fatty fish, olive oil, and turmeric possess anti-inflammatory properties.
  • The active compound in turmeric, called curcumin, exhibits potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, potentially beneficial for various inflammatory conditions.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish and flaxseeds are essential (your body can’t make them) and are used to minimise inflammation and promote cardiovascular health.
  • Live bacteria, known as probiotics, enhance gut health, which plays a crucial role in regulating inflammation. Choosing fermented foods like yoghurt, kombucha and kefir or considering probiotic supplements can be beneficial.
  • Yoga, meditation, and tai chi can effectively reduce stress. Stress is a major trigger for inflammation.

A new way to target inflammation

Medical science is starting to unravel the intricacies of ageing, inflammation, and the role that the biome plays in regulating inflammatory responses in disease. Regular exercise, drinking clean water (avoid water in plastic bottles as in contains large numbers of cancer-forming microplastics) and avoiding processed foods form the basis of the control of inflammation.

A new and exciting medical development that allows us to target chronic inflammation in wounds or the respiratory system has become available and its effect on inflammation and infection control is being noticed by the medical community. The active ingredient in Trifectiv® Plus Wound & Burn Care and Trifectiv® Plus Nebulising Solution is our non-toxic medical-grade hypochlorous acid, which acts as our body’s first line of defence. In the human body, it is made and kept in our white blood cells and its function is to stop infection and control inflammation. By making this molecule in our laboratory in Stellenbosch, we can apply its anti-inflammatory role in areas where there is excessive inflammation. Examples include the lungs in the case of infection and inflammatory conditions like asthma and pneumonia. Chronic non-healing wounds are also effectively targeted with healing times being less than half when compared to other wound healing products.

Embracing a multifaceted approach

Inflammation, while in small doses an essential defence mechanism, can turn into a potent threat when left unchecked. Understanding its role in disease development and exploring a combination of conventional and natural anti-inflammatory strategies, under the guidance of healthcare professionals, offers a promising approach to promoting overall health and potentially mitigating the risk of chronic illnesses. However, further research is crucial to fully elucidate the complex interplay between chronic inflammation, ageing, and various disease processes. This paves the way for more targeted interventions in the future.

Disclaimer: while specific natural products are mentioned, please remember that consulting a healthcare professional for personalised advice is essential. Remember that this information is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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