by Dr. David Minkoff April 17, 2023 5 min read
I wanted to talk a little about inflammation.
Because, outside of very obvious causes, such as an injury or infection, few people know what actually causes it in general.
And even fewer know what to do about it beyond taking a pain-killer.
And it’s something that does need to be known about.
When we look at problems, illnesses, or conditions of the body, if we’re smart, we look for their cause and address that, not just the symptom.
If someone has constant indigestion, it’s a symptom that has a cause, if someone has trouble sleeping, it’s a symptom that has a cause, if someone has a strange pain in their body — it’s a symptom that has a cause.
Find and address the cause, and the symptom goes away.
When we’re talking about inflammation, we’re talking about a symptom, not a cause. A symptom that does have a cause.
Inflammation is the result of an immune response.
Say we get a cut, and then it becomes infected by bacteria. The redness and swelling and pain we see and feel isn’t the bacteria or the cut, it’s the inflammation caused by the body’s immune response to the cut and bacterial infection.
If we sprain our ankle, and it starts swelling and hurts (inflammation), that pain isn’t from the swelling we see. The pain and swelling, are from an immune response to an internal injury we can’t see.
The inflammation is a reaction. A reaction to something. And the inflammation brings pain or soreness or swelling.
Maybe it’s a reaction to bacteria or a sprain, or maybe it’s a reaction to high sugar or trans fats or toxins in the arteries or cells, or maybe poorly digested proteins, or maybe too high or too low hormone levels.
There can be many causes. But it’s a reaction to something. It’s your body’s attempt to heal the area that’s injured or Ill.
But the problem with inflammation isn’t that it occurs. In a properly functioning body, it arrives, does its job, and leaves.
The problem is when it doesn’t leave.
You see, if we ignore the cause of the inflammation, not only does the cause, unhandled, get worse, but the fact of continuous inflammation itself becomes a new cause of new problems.
This is because inflammation, over a period of time, causes cell damage, tissue damage and even nerve damage.
Where does it do this? Wherever the inflammation exists, whether in the skin or muscle, or in an organ or joint. It can even occur in the heart or brain.
And this damage brings new inflammation, causing a gradual worsening over time that can build up.
But what if we don’t have some known injury or illness or bacterial infection?
What if we just feel pain to some degree, generally or in a specific place?
Or what if we just feel sore, or kind of swollen?
This is general inflammation, and it too has a cause.
Let’s go back to the sprain we talked about above.
We injured the muscle and tendon in our ankle and now we have a red, swollen, painful ankle.
Except, it’s not.
That one injury is actually a conglomeration of thousands or tens of thousands of tiny injuries. Microscopic tears or fractures or injured cells.
We only see it as one injury because it happened all at once.
But what about when it happens over time?
Every day we cause tens or hundreds of thousands of tiny injuries to our cells, tendons, nerves and bones.
We stomp down the stairs and cause a thousand micro-fractures in our bones.
We workout and create ten thousand micro-tears in our muscle tissue.
We bend over a computer, staring at a screen, and create tiny tears in our neck and shoulder muscles.
We eat processed sugars, feeding harmful bacteria which release bio-toxins that injure the cells of our intestinal lining.
These are injuries just as much as a large injury such as a sprain, and each one creates an immune response that brings on inflammation.
But instead of intense pain, we just feel a little sore, or tired, or maybe our legs feel swollen after a long day of standing on them, or we want a neck and shoulder rub, or we have a stomach ache.
This is general inflammation.
And it’s fine. Because we eat plenty of protein and healthy food, and get good sleep where our body has the time and nutrients to heal the micro-injuries from the day, and then in the morning we feel good and refreshed and ready to go at it again.
Ten thousand micro-injuries is nothing to the body. Truly.
Because they’re so easy to heal with enough protein and deep sleep.
But what if our diet is low in protein, or we don’t get good sleep?
Well, these injuries don’t get a chance to heal.
Some of them do, but not all.
So, say half were healed, and half weren’t. Now we start the day with five thousand micro-injuries still waiting to be handled… and add ten thousand more.
But we lived on coffee and a sandwich that day and then got broken sleep, so only half of these new ones get handled.
Then we go through another day…
After a week we’ve got thirty-five thousand micro-injuries stacked up and we’re feeling a bit sore.
After a month we’ve got one hundred and forty thousand stacked up. Now we’ve got some mild inflammation throughout our body.
If we get our protein, keep the sugar low, and get good sleep, we’ll heal our micro-injuries over the next few weeks and start feeling back to battery.
But if we don’t, this just keeps compounding. It doesn’t stop.
It may take a long time, maybe it starts out as only a little, much less than half, but it does add up, and it can lead to fairly severe inflammation, soreness and pain down the line.
Even more, every cell depends on every other cell. So when more and more injured cells aren’t being repaired, the cells that are in good working order get more of the work load. And this can cause them to get injured, bringing on more inflammation.
But also bringing on a body that doesn’t function as well.
Our body is nothing but trillions of cells, and how well they’re doing is how well we’re doing.
If a significant number are injured and inflamed, we’re not going to be feeling well.
We’ll be sore all the time, our energy levels will be low, it will be hard to gain muscle or lose fat, high cortisol from inflammation will have thrown our hormones out of balance, and our organs ability to function will be suffering.
It all adds up over time.
Hundred of thousands of unhealed micro-fractures in a bone add up to a break waiting to happen.
Tens of thousands of un-repaired micro-tears in muscle or ligaments result in a torn ligament or seriously injured muscle at some point.
The true solution to the soreness and trouble from unhealed micro-injuries isn’t pain-killers.
If we need them in the moment, fine. But they won’t reverse the situation causing the pain or soreness.
We need to give our body what it needs to repair itself.
It seems simple because it is.
Stay off the high processed sugars, they further the problem.
Make sure you're getting in high levels of proper protein.
Fatty acids from fish and seafood our powerful anti-inflammatories.
Get good, deep sleep, where your body actually has a chance to use the protein to recover.
Try it and see. You may be very happily surprised.
by Dr. David Minkoff
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