INFLAMMATION: THE ROOT CAUSE OF DISEASE

Updated: May 4, 2021

Inflammation is the body’s natural, protective response that is ignited when there is injury, infection, trauma, acute illness or physical stress. It helps to bring clotting factors, blood and immune cells to the affected area so that pathogens can be obliterated, and injury alleviated. This is generally a short lived and self-convalescing auto-response; however, certain chronic diseases can cause substantial and sustained inflammation, or can begin when chronic inflammation is present.

Chronic inflammation caused by a sustained release of pro-inflammatory mediators and immune cells, can damage tissues, impair immune function and precipitate disease manifestation both chronic and even infectious. In fact, there are many chronic disease states associated with inflammation including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal disease, Inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and even cancer, among other documented diseases.


CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE AND DIABETES

Sustained and chronically high levels of “bad” or LDL cholesterol can deposit cholesterol into the intimal linings of blood vessels. These become oxidized and attract immune cells, which can cause inflammation and clots to form in the vasculature. This inflammation can prompt a cascade effect that furthers the oxidative and inflammatory damage in the heart and vessels.

Diabetes and hyperglycemia or high blood sugar, can also cause this kind of inflammation and damage to organs and the vasculature (kidneys, retina, extremities etc.). Diabetes also contributes to the development of bad cholesterol and is intricately linked to the progression of heart disease (Mahan et al. 2012) & (Franz. 2014) & (Minihane et al., 2015).


OBESITY

Adipose or fat tissue is a metabolically active organ that produces hormones, growth factors, cytokines (inflammatory mediators), and immune cells and can, itself, promote inflammation. Also, obesity is associated with unhealthy lifestyle patterns, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well, which triggers and exacerbates inflammation (Franz. 2014).


RENAL DISEASE

As with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, all these conditions are tortuously linked to one another. Both conditions can cause hypertension, damage to blood vessels and the diffuse inflammation can cause kidney damage and renal disease. Furthermore, when the kidney is damaged it is unable to filter nitrogenous wastes and excess salts out of the blood. These wastes accumulate in the blood, further increasing blood pressure, inflammation and oxidative damage throughout the body, and causing more physiological perturbations (Mahan et al. 2012) & (Mihai et al. 2017).


INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (IBD)

The gut microbiome plays a pivotal role in keeping the epithelial lining of our gut healthy and resilient against invading pathogens and plays a pivotal role in immunity. When there is local inflammation or dysbiosis (high concentration of harmful bacteria) in the colon, this intestinal barrier becomes disturbed, inflammation sets in, bacteria can invade and translocate through that barrier, and can cause inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Not fun! There is even evidence to suggest this can cause a diffuse inflammatory state that can precipitate autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease (Franz. 2014) & (Belkaid and Hand. 2014) & (Mahan et al. 2012).


CANCER

Inflammation and perturbations in normal innate immune function such as skin or epithelial barriers and abnormal, prolonged recruitment of immune cells, can damage tissues, cellular DNA and can predispose people to malignancies. For instance, people with IBD are at an increased risk of developing colon cancer because of that irritated inflamed colonic tissue. Similarly, people who have Barret’s esophagus where there is chronic inflammation in the esophagus from acid reflux, can cause precancerous and cancerous cells to develop. There are numerous other examples of this occurring in other organs and tissues of the body (Mahan et al. 2012) (Franz. 2014).


REFERENCES

Mahan, L. Kathleen, et al. Krauses Food & the Nutrition Care Process. 13th ed., Elsevier (Singapore) Pte Ltd, 2012.

Franz, Mary. Nutrition, Inflammation, and Disease. 2014, www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/020314p44.shtml.

Minihane, Anne M, et al. “Low-Grade Inflammation, Diet Composition and Health: Current Research Evidence and Its Translation.” The British Journal of Nutrition, Cambridge University Press, 14 Oct. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579563/.

Belkaid, Yasmine, and Timothy W Hand. “Role of the Microbiota in Immunity and Inflammation.” Cell, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 27 Mar. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056765/.

Mihai, Simona, et al. “Inflammation and Chronic Kidney Disease: Current Approaches and Recent Advances.” IntechOpen, IntechOpen, 20 Dec. 2017, www.intechopen.com/books/chronic-kidney-disease-from-pathophysiology-to-clinical-improvements/inflammation-and-chronic-kidney-disease-current-approaches-and-recent-advances.

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