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  • Whenever I hear that a new health product claims to reduce inflammation, some red flags go up in my brain.

  • It's one of those words that's gotten more popular in health marketing in the last few decades, and people are willing to pay real money to do something about it.

  • But inflammation is a normal biological process that our bodies use to keep us safe.

  • We don't want to get rid of all inflammation.

  • So today we're going to dig into the inflammatory response and come away understanding why those health claims need a little bit more nuance attached to them.

  • Inflammation itself is an immune response to some kind of problem in the body.

  • That response might be acute, which means it comes and goes quickly, or chronic, it stays around longer.

  • It could be triggered by any kind of infectious or non-infectious problem in the body, anything from bacteria and a dirty cut, to frostbite, to a splinter.

  • Regardless of what initiates it though, the response is similar.

  • From just living and being a human, you're probably familiar with the five signs of inflammation firsthand: heat, redness, swelling, pain and loss of function.

  • And they range from mildly annoying to seriously debilitating, but they actually serve a specific role in protecting you from further harm and kicking off the healing process

  • Contrary to what some may think, the increased heat is not there to try to bake the infectious agent.

  • It's there because the blood vessels around the inflamed body part expanded, bringing more blood to that area.

  • That's also why the area gets more red.

  • You are passing more red blood cells through the inflamed tissue, just like how your cheeks get warm and red when you blush.

  • Our blood is warm, and with more blood flow, we feel more heat.

  • Along with more blood, the vessels that transport that blood expand and become more permeable, which fills that area with fluid and shows up externally as swelling.

  • Pain comes from the stimulation of pain receptors from the initial injury, or from the inflammatory response itself.

  • Finally, the loss of function could come from either increased swelling, which reduces mobility, or from healthy tissue being replaced with less flexible scar tissue over time.

  • And that's only what we see from the outside.

  • Our immune systems orchestrate all these different chemical messengers called cytokines. "Cyto" for cell, "kine" for movement.

  • They're chemicals that get cells to move to the inflamed area.

  • You may have heard about cytokines in the context of a cytokine storm before, when these messenger molecules recruit more immune cells, which release more cytokines, which recruit more immune cells...

  • And you get this feedback loop that can cause sepsis or death.

  • And during the normal acute inflammatory response, they're recruiting mostly white blood cells to the area to attack any pathogens.

  • And all of this is a thing so that your body can stomp out whatever trying to hurt it, whether it's a bacterial infection or a sprained ankle.

  • But sometimes this process takes a little bit longer.

  • Our bodies continue to ship chemical messengers and white blood cells to the site, and if that creeps into the multiple weeklong territory, it's classified as chronic inflammation.

  • You don't always need an acute inflammatory response to develop chronic inflammation though, like rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints.

  • There was never one big injury that kicked it off.

  • Either way, chronic inflammation is where this whole inflammatory response gets more problematic.

  • For instance, patients with atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries around the heart that predisposes folks to heart attacks, will have elevated cytokines and inflammatory proteins in their blood.

  • Because of that, health care providers might look for inflammatory markers in your blood as a way of predicting your risk of heart disease.

  • If your liver experiences too much inflammation, you can permanently damage the hepatocytes, cells that play a big role in metabolism and immune function.

  • Your lungs are in the same camp.

  • One of the reasons that cigarette smoking is so lethal is because it causes a constant inflammatory response in the lungs.

  • That can narrow and stiffen the tiny airways in your lungs, making it harder for air to pass through.

  • So in the case of livers and lungs, chronic inflammation literally leads to worse organ function.

  • With that in mind, you can see why people would want to reduce inflammation, and certain drugs do that but through different mechanisms.

  • Like if you've gotten injured, you might have taken ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug ,or NSAID, for the pain.

  • It works by inhibiting certain enzymes in your stomach that make compounds called prostaglandins.

  • Those prostaglandins keep the inflammation process going, so by inhibiting the enzyme that makes them, ibuprofen reduces inflammation.

  • Or people with rheumatoid arthritis might take a drug that reduces inflammation by inhibiting one of those chemical messengers called tumor necrosis factor alpha.

  • Both drugs results in a reduced inflammatory response, but take different paths to get there.

  • Knowing all that, we can't say that inflammation is clearly bad or clearly good.

  • We need this process in order to survive, but too much for too long can be harmful.

  • Thanks for joining us for season two of Seeker Human!

  • I had so much fun with season one, and I'm stoked to bring you more videos on this channel.

  • Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos like this one, and follow us on all the social media. We're @seeker on everything.

Whenever I hear that a new health product claims to reduce inflammation, some red flags go up in my brain.

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B2 inflammation inflammatory blood response chronic immune

How Does Inflammation Work in Your Body?

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/10/16
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