Acute and Chronic Inflammation
It is important to know how short-term acute inflammation differs from long-term chronic inflammation.
As we’ve said in other articles, inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. The usual symptoms are pain, redness, heat, swelling, and loss of mobility. These symptoms may be unpleasant, but they are necessary for the healing processes of the body.
It is also fun to know that, if an ailment ends with the suffix “itis”, it is a form of inflammation. For example, arthritis comes from arthro, meaning joint, and itis, meaning inflammation. Thus, arthritis is inflammation of the joints.
Acute inflammation is a short-term healing process, usually only 24-48 hours in length. It is characterized by increased neutrophil (a type of white blood cell) activity. The goal of inflammation is to increase blood flow to the injured area. The increased redness and heat allows our blood vessels to flow better. This helps our immune defensive cells to enter the damaged tissue (which also causes swelling).
The peptide, bradykinin, causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and permeability. It also binds to our pain receptors, letting us know the area is injured (it is often important to know about an injury). Our immune system then goes to work, destroying any invading pathogens and removing debris. When finished it is supposed to leave, with inflammation also leaving with it.
When this inflammation process doesn’t die down, it is known as chronic or systemic inflammation. Now, it is no longer a good healing response. Instead of neutrophils, chronic inflammation is involved with two other types of white blood cells: monocytes and macrophages (below).
Also, when inflammation stays at a high level, it is usually very noticeable and dealt with on a medical level. However, the bigger problem is when the inflammation stays at a lower level. Then, it can be hard to diagnose because it doesn’t usually affect our organs and body in a way we can see or feel. However, it is the same general immune response, but is no longer healing the body. It is now slowly destroying the body!
Good Inflammation at Work
It helps to understand the key roles four proteins play in our immune response. While not fully understood, they are known to act as bio-markers and lead to a chronically inflamed state. (Rigby-Wicks, of PEER training, use a helpful illustration to help us understand these key proteins.)
1. TNFa – Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha, (+ ‘Neutrophils’)
TNFa is a cytokine messenger that signals the body where the most immediate damage is and the type of attack. It tells the immune system where to send the neutrophil white blood cells.
TNFa is like a “first responder” to a freeway accident calling in emergency help for fast and appropriate response. The neutrophils act like the EMTs and firemen to clear the wreckage in order to reach the injured and immediately treat them. The most important work is done by the neutrophils.
2. NFkB – Nuclear Factor kappa B
The NFkB acts like a switch to turn on certain genes – which allow the cells to proliferate and avoid cell death. This allows white blood cells to duplicate and clean up the infected or injured area.
When NFkB is turned on, the EMTs, police, and firemen will continue to flock to the scene of the accident. When NFkB gets turned off, they stop coming and start to leave.
3. IL-6 – Interleukin-6, (+ monocytes & macrophages)
As the healing process progresses, IL-6 (another cytokine) now tells the neutrophils to destroy themselves and draws monocytes, another type of white blood cell, to the area. The monocytes create macrophages to get rid of the debris.
IL-6 then tells the liver to produce CRP…
4. CRP – C-Reactive Protein
CRP levels spike when inflammation is at hand – up to 50,000-fold. CRP binds to the surface of dead and dying cells and certain forms of bacteria and marks them. Now, the macrophages, created by the monocytes above, eat the dead cells and other particles marked by CRP. Thus, CRP decides the ultimate clearing of debris during inflammation.
CRP acts like the paint a logger marks trees to say which tree is okay and which one to remove. Without CRP, it would take our body a lot longer to figure out what it ought to remove and what it ought not.
Final Step(essential): As the road gets closer to being completely clear, IL-6 sends the cleaners, police, and anyone left at the scene of the accident away. It then declares the road open once again. This is how acute inflammation works. It is a fast, efficient process which repairs and cleans damaged areas and then leaves.
The Chronic Inflammation Story
This is a different story from the good things that happened above. Imagine the same road – but there isn’t any accident. The first responders were called to the scene but they can’t find any wreckage or injured people.
The signal keeps going out so IL-6 calls in the road crew to clear away the nonexistent debris. CRP is also called and tries to locate and mark debris to be cleaned up and removed. CRP has a half-life of 18 hours, peaking at around 48 hours is supposed to decline pretty quickly thereafter. If not, CRP can actually start tagging healthy cells to be removed.
Even though there is no accident, the road starts to function less well. As the road crew grows more numerous, and the signals keep going out, the road becomes progressively more clogged. Eventually, the road starts to be damaged by the very presence of the first-responders and road crew!
Chronic Inflammation has set in!
The best way to get rid of this chronic inflammation is to give your body the tools it needs. It has to remove the unnecessary first-responders, road crew, and other excess responses. Without reducing the levels of TNFa, NFkB, IL-6, and CRP, the road stays “dys-regulated” and “dys-functional”.
That is why we have designed the best herbal / nutrient blend of proven inflammation reducers available with our Infla-Mazing Plus relief formula.