Inflammation (Latin, īnflammō, "I ignite, set alight") is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. The classical signs of acute inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and/or loss of function. Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process. Millions of men and women endure the pain of chronic inflammation; even when pain is not apparent, millions more run the risk of serious diseases triggered by sublinical levels of chronic inflammation. By some estimations, a high percentage of diseases are actually inflammatory in origin, including hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, gallbladder carcinoma, and other musculoskeletal pain. For example, when inflammatory cytokines destroy joint cartilage and synovial fluid, arthritis results. If cytokines induce an autoimmune attack, they can trigger lupus. The target of the chronic inflammatory response determines the disease risk. For instance, inflammation can result in brain cell damage and death (resulting in neurodegenerative disease), heart muscle wasting (contributing to congestive heart failure), or coronary atherosclerosis (potentially triggering a heart attack). Even obesity is related to chronic inflammation. Taking action to reduce chronic inflammation can dramatically minimize cellular aging and risk of lethal, age related diseases.
How do you know if your body is in a state of chronic inflammation? An annual C-reactive protein blood test can detect potentially high levels of systemic inflammation. If testing shows your C-reactive protein level is over 1.0 mg/L, this could indicate that you have inflammatory activity occurring in your body, and may be at increased risk for any number of serious medical conditions.
Gluten (gliadin) has recently received an abundance of press and studies in its possible correlation with systemic inflammation. Although we do not include studies here, if you are experiencing systemic inflammation or musculoskeletal pain, a trial of eliminating gluten from your diet for 2 weeks or more may yield positive results. One does not need to have a diagnosis of celiac disease (gluten allergy) to experience gluten sensitivity causing physical symptoms.
Herbs that can help reduce inflammation include curcumin, ginger, and turmeric oil. These supplements can easily be used in cooking, and are readily available in combination remedies at the health food store.