Volume 3 Issue 5

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Page 25 of 55

Throughout most of human history, the main threats to human life and health have been the germ diseases: smallpox, bubonic plague, tuberculosis, dysentery, influenza, typhoid fever, etc. In the developed world these diseases have been mostly eradicated over the past century, and a new set of diseases has become the main cause of debility, illness and death. The illnesses/conditions that plague the industrialized nations include allergies, asthma, age-related frailty, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia, depression, diabetes, heart attack, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease, lupus, macular degeneration, osteoporosis, periodontal disease, overweight/obesity, skin disorders, stroke and surgical complications. Surprisingly, modern science has discovered a common denominator to all these conditions, and it isn't germs. It is inflammation. And while germs may be considered enemy aliens who invade our bodies, inflammatory conditions are created by our own physiologic reactions. As Pogo wisely stated, "We have met the enemy—and it is us." Inflammation 101 Mosby's Medical Dictionary defines inflammation as "...the protective response of body tissues to irritation or injury. Inflammation may be acute or chronic; its cardinal signs are redness, heat, swelling, and pain, often accompanied by loss of function." While acute (sudden onset) inflammation is often obvious (such as the redness, swelling, pain and tenderness from a cut), chronic inflammation, such as occurs in the linings of heart arteries in atherosclerosis, may have no visible or obvious signs or symptoms. Such "invisible" chronic inflammation may properly be called "silent inflammation." Inflammation is an immune response, "designed" to protect us from germs, wounds or injuries. Without adequate inflammatory responses, life would not last The New "Plague" long. Any germs invading our bodies would quickly overwhelm us. Wounds and injuries would not heal. New healthy tissues would not replace damaged tissue. In a world without sanitation and full of germs, such as faced mankind prior to the 20th century (and still does today in the "underdeveloped" world), a vigorous inflammatory response is the key to health and longevity. A genetically weak inflammatory response would typically mean death in infancy from some germ disease. Ironically, a genetically vigorous inflammatory response that is highly protective in a world of poor sanitation, full of germs, may serve to limit longevity in a world such as ours, where germs have mostly been conquered. This is because such vigorous inflammatory response tends to promote cancer with aging. The inflammation response involves a large cast of characters. White blood cells such as neutrophils, monocytes/ macrophages, basophils, eosinophils will speed to the inflamed area. Cytokines, hormone-like immune proteins, will be secreted by various cells. Interleukin-1 and -6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha are some of the most important inflammatory cytokines. Tissue-swelling chemicals such as bradykinin, histamine and serotonin may be released. Inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes will further amplify the inflammatory response. James South, M.A. Page 26 | Abby's Magazine -

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