What Is Inflammation and Do You Have It?

Inflammation. We hear it all the time, but what does it mean? What causes inflammation? How do we even know if we’re experiencing it? At GEM, we are asked these questions all the time. Here’s what we’ve learned.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is one of the body’s defense mechanisms designed to help you heal. Without an inflammatory response to foreign substances, wounds could be deadly and infections, incurable! Give yourself a pat on the back for those wolverine-like self-healing skills you didn’t know you had.

So, what causes inflammation?

When the body comes into contact with a foreign substance, an intruder is detected and emergency signals are released. The release of these signals, or chemicals, kicks off a chain of vascular and cellular events.

Irritants come in all shapes and forms. Pathogens AKA  “germs”, cause an inflammatory response. These germs include bacteria, viruses, fungi and your run of the mill cooties (just kidding). You might not have guessed it, but chemicals and radiation are also an inflammation culprit. Any type of external injury, like scraping your knee on a rock or pricking your finger on a thorn, can lead to inflammation as well. Even certain foods, such as refined carbs or processed meat, and vitamins, filled with shady additives and fillers, can activate the body’s inflammatory response (cough-- switch to GEM-- cough). 

When the alarms sound off internally, blood vessels in the tissues will dilate, or become wider, making the vessels more permeable. As a result, the damaged area experiences an increase in blood flow and an influx of white blood cells, allowing more fluid to enter the tissue. The delivery of white blood cells, hormones, and nutrients activates the healing process.

What are the signals?

The most common signs of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling, pain, and immobility.

  1. Redness – The damaged area will often appear red. The increased blood flow to the injured tissue is responsible for the reddish color and is a sign that the healing process is underway.
  2. Heat – Increased blood flow not only affects color, but it can also change temperature. As blood rushes to the damaged area, it can become warm to the touch.
  3. Swelling – White blood cells swarm the damaged tissue and allow more fluid to enter. The excess fluid results in the swelling of these tissues.  
  4. Pain – When the body is inflamed, chemicals are released that stimulate nerve endings and sensitize the affected area.
  5. Immobility – The loss of function is another side effect, especially when the damaged tissue is swollen and painful.

These five common signs are not all encompassing. Inflammation can also be “silent” and show no external signs, even if the body is hurting on the inside.  

So there you have it, the basics on Inflammation. Check out GEM’s Blog for more!