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Body Talks: the Blazing Fire of Inflammation

Body Talks: the Blazing Fire of Inflammation 1024 531 BodyWHealth

Excessive inflammation ravages our bodies, burning its way towards degeneration and decay, destroying our youth, health and happiness. As with household fires, prevention remains the best strategy.

Listen to your body when it whispers so you don’t have to hear it scream.”

(Author Unknown)

“How do I know when my body is overloaded with inflammation?”

This was an excellent question. I was discussing physical wellbeing with a client, explaining the important role that lifestyle plays in preventing so many of the dreadful medical conditions that plague modern humans. Heart disease, diabetes, dementia and even cancer are fueled by systemic inflammatory overload—which is largely preventable by living a healthy, natural life.

So, it was logical for him to ask how we know when we’re overrun with the flames of inflammation. At a time when technology increasingly gives us insights into the minute functioning of the world around us and within us, it would be great to have a simple way to detect this destructive imbalance.

Before addressing this question, we need to understand a not-so-simple concept.

Inflammation is not bad! Actually, it’s very good—a vital part of life and health. We have a beautifully elaborate system that keeps us young and healthy.

Our inflammatory system consists of cells, hormones and chemicals that break things down. We need a process for removing what cannot be repaired when healthy tissues are damaged, or age. And, when our body is invaded by dangerous bacteria and viruses, or when cancerous cells try to escape the body’s normal controlling mechanisms, we need destructive forces that will eradicate them. This is the role of our inflammatory system.

The problem comes when this system operates at a high level, for a sustained period, throughout our body. Unopposed, these very efficient destroyers would systematically kill us off.

So, we need an opposing force, the anti-inflammatory system, that moderates the potential for inflammatory excess. In health, these two forces are in perfect balance, ensuring that we’re regenerating as fast as we’re degenerating; building as fast as we’re destroying.

Now, here’s the challenge … even though we can measure many of the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory markers in our body, we don’t yet have a simple way of recording and reporting the state of our inflammatory balance. We have a few blood tests that we use in research, but these have not yet proved useful over the long term in tracking our actual health.

We’re left, at best, detecting the damage caused by inflammatory overload. We can measure the thickness and rigidity of artery walls which harden and thicken under the scarring influence of excessive long-term inflammation. We can measure the resistance of the body to the effects of insulin and other hormones that result in diabetes. We can detect cancers and monitor their activity. But, we don’t yet have a simple test that alerts us to inflammatory overload.

I don’t believe that we’re anywhere close to discovering technologies that better sense our health and happiness than the ingenious intrinsic system that comes pre-loaded in every body, courtesy of Mother Nature. We just need to listen more carefully.

So, what about chronic systemic inflammatory overload? Can we hear this?

Let’s first think about acute inflammation—the kind of local reaction you get to a bee sting, a dental abscess, or an inflamed joint. The characteristic signs are heat, redness, swelling and pain. You hardly need a sophisticated test to detect these—your body shouts loudly, directing your urgent attention to the problem.

I believe that there are detectable signals for chronic inflammation, but they are complex, subtle, and difficult to distinguish from other insignificant sensations.

When I was a physician in clinical practice, I was always alarmed when a patient came in to see me saying “I just don’t feel right”, especially if they were somebody who wasn’t at my door complaining regularly of minor ailments. Of course, I started to investigate right away for major underlying disease, and sometimes found it. But there were many times when I found nothing, yet I believed that my patient was responding to real signals of disruption.

Fatigue that remains unexplained after thorough investigation may be a clue, but there are so many other logical reasons for us to be tired in our busy modern life that it’s not very useful. Unintended weight loss is similar, but most often points to an underlying disease like cancer or diabetes, or even emotional disruption.

So, to answer my client’s big question, we modern representatives of the human species must use our massive cognitive brain rather than spending too much time listening for internal whispers.

The causes of inflammatory overload are well known—insufficient exercise, excessive adiposity (that’s too much body fat), sleep deprivation and uncontrolled emotional distress (what most of us call stress). BodyWHealth teaches strategies, proven by science, to optimize these critical elements of a healthy and happy lifestyle. Spend your mental energy getting this right, rather than worrying about the presence of inflammatory fires throughout your valuable body!

Have fun,


About the Body Talk Series:

I have a strong interest in WHealth Tech – that is the technology that enables us to quantify our health and happiness. There is an epidemic of equipment that we can strap on, wear or carry that helps us measure our bodily functions and sometimes our emotional and mental state.

I’m not yet convinced that we’re doing better than Mother Nature. She has equipped us with the most intimate and delicate sensors. More than this, over millions of years she has helped us to prioritize the messages we get from these sensors to not only survive, but to thrive.

The progress we’ve made as modern humans (like electricity, computing, and cellular communications to name a few) has led us into a lifestyle that has eclipsed our original biological design. This mismatch is massively disruptive to our health and happiness. I’m a little worried that our obsession with technological probes will further diminish our sensitivity to critical internal information, compounding our precarious position.

This article is one in a series that is designed to focus your attention on natural signals of health and happiness.

Read more here:

Body Talks: Listen to the Sound of Sleep

Body Talks: Life’s Most Delicate Balance