Cardiovascular disease. Autoimmune disease. Cancer. Type 2 Diabetes. These are all conditions that have been associated with “inflammation” in wellness culture. It seems there are constant discoveries that hyper-processed foods with large amounts of added refined sugars and vegetable oils can elicit inflammation and lead to these severe outcomes if left unchecked. So much so that the general public has begun to equate inflammation with bad news and perhaps even believe that it should be avoided at all costs.
Science tells us that inflammation is one of the most vital features of the immune system. Its uses are necessary for our survival. The thing is, as, with all functions of our health, inflammation should exist in a healthy ratio with anti-inflammation in the body. When this balance is thrown off, that is when we may encounter health complications. This article aims to teach you about the uses and misuse of inflammation in the body and its relationship with your gut.
The role of inflammation
Simply put, inflammation refers to the process by which your immune system’s white blood cells protect your blood and tissues from infections and invaders. The chemicals released by these white blood cells are used to protect the site of injury or injection and promote blood flow and nutrient delivery for healing. (1)
Side effects of this can include swelling, redness, and warming sensations, and sometimes, this process can even cause pain. Think about the last time you stubbed your toe hard, you have probably noticed it swelled up, turned red, and felt warm to the touch. That is inflammation at work to help you initiate and get through healing! (2)
Acute and Chronic inflammation
There are 2 major types of inflammation in the body — acute and chronic. Acute inflammation quickly becomes severe and clears out over a matter of days. This process is usually triggered in response to tissue damage from trauma or foreign substances and invaders. Hitting your elbow, and catching a foodborne illness are both examples of instances where acute inflammation may be activated. (2)
On the other hand, we have chronic inflammation, which is a slower, longer-lasting process that can take months or even years to complete. It can occur from a long list of causes, some of the common ones include chronic exposure to a low level of a particular irritant, autoimmune disorders where your white blood cells attack your body’s tissues and organs, or recurrent episodes of acute inflammation. (2)
When does inflammation become unhealthy?
Okay, so if inflammation is so healthy and natural then how did it accumulate so much bad press in recent years?
Well, the answer is convoluted, but mainly because chronic inflammation and excessive inflammation have been linked to medical conditions that have been rising rapidly in prevalence, such as type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and arthritis or joint diseases. These are a few of the diseases that are being diagnosed more and more often, as well as having higher and higher death tolls. (2)
When your body experiences prolonged symptoms of inflammation, it is in an extended state of alert and repair, which in turn impacts your body’s other functions. This can create cascading effects on your overall health status. (3)
The gut and inflammation connection
One of the ways in which inflammation can disrupt your wellness outside of the site of injury is in your gut flora. The quality and population of bacteria in your gut microbiome are affected by your inflammatory load and response. Chronic inflammation can inhibit the growth of good bacteria that in turn help to manage your skin health, mental health, and so much more.
Just as inflammation needs to exist in balance with anti-inflammation processes, your gut bacteria also need to exist in harmonious proportions. If some of the bacterial strains overgrow, they can reduce the more beneficial bacteria strains in your gut. There are certain bacteria associated with inflammatory molecules that increase inflammation in various body parts. (4)
The development of disorders such as dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance), increased intestinal permeability, and toxic bacterial metabolites that result from poor gut health can strongly contribute to the development of chronic inflammation. (4)
Therefore, there is a bidirectional relationship between the quality of your gut bacteria and the regulation of inflammation in your body. As such, when you take care of your gut health with probiotics and prebiotics which are nutrients that replenish and feed beneficial gut bacteria respectively, you are also helping to manage the levels of inflammation in your gut.
R’s KOSO is an example of a natural health food supplement high in prebiotics and probiotics that support a balanced gut microbiome. It is a fermented beverage that originates from Japan and combines the benefits of over 100 plant foods.
Original Photo by @_saki_yamamoto_