One of the Most Important Factors in Chronic Disease
The immune system is designed to defend us from foreign invaders such as bacteria and to clean up damaged tissue after injury so that proper healing can take place. As we age, however, our immune systems turn against us.
Inflammaging is the seemingly paradoxical state of excessive inflammation and immune deficiency that characterize unhealthy aging.
Inflammation is the immune system response to injury and infection. If you twist your ankle badly you'll experience the characteristic signs of inflammation: pain, swelling, redness, heat, and loss of function. The inflammatory process serves to wall off the injured site, attack any foreign organisms, and breakdown and clean up the damaged tissue. This is a good thing. This process is mostly complete within 72 hours. Then repair of the injured tissue commences.
The problem is when inflammation becomes chronic. If the inflammation doesn't finish, healing cannot complete. Excessive and/or prolonged inflammation is a factor in all the chronic degenerative diseases: Cardiovascular disease, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, asthma, osteoporosis, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and diabetes to name a few.
Chronic inflammation is associated with a multitude of signs and symptoms, which severely compromise quality of life. Muscle wasting and weakness, fever, depression, anxiety, poor sleep, cognitive impairment, anemia, elevated triglycerides and "bad" cholesterol, reduced "good" cholesterol, hypertension, pain, stiffness, fatigue, altered levels of various hormones and nutrients are all consequences of chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation has the potential to increase or decrease appetite depending on other factors. Chronic inflammation is bad for body composition. It contributes to increased body fat and reduced muscle mass.
Chronic inflammation may not always be accompanied by obvious symptoms. For example, the first sign of atherosclerosis or narrowing of the arteries is often sudden death from a heart attack. Heart disease is an inflammatory condition. Inflammation is a more important factor than elevated cholesterol, although the two are intertwined.
Inflammation impairs detoxication and also activates the stress response. Under stress, the body produces more of a hormone called cortisol. Whether the stress is mental-emotional or biochemical, the response is basically the same. Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory hormone. Proper levels of cortisol are necessary for good health. Elevated cortisol is damaging to all the tissues throughout the body. Cortisol suppresses the immune system. Perhaps it is the elevated cortisol in response to inflammation that contributes to the weakened adaptive immunity seen in Inflammaging. Infections and cancers increase in this situation.
Is there anything that can be done to deal with Inflammaging? Is this simply the result of blowing out too many birthday candles. No. There is more to it than that. We can't stop aging but there are other factors we have control over that influence Inflammaging.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is a major contributor to inflammation. Excessive refined carbohydrates and fatty acid imbalances are big factors. Other drivers of inflammation include: food sensitivity reactions, insulin resistance, glycation (tissue damage from sugar), chronic infections, elevations of the amino acid homocysteine, toxicity, dysbiosis (imbalanced intestinal flora), stress, inadequate sleep, hormonal imbalances, mechanical trauma, excessive tissue acidity, and abdominal fat. All of these factors can be assessed and treated to reduce Inflammaging.