Inflammation is your body’s response to infection and injury. When something triggers an inflammatory response, the immune system kicks into gear, isolating the area, removing harmful or damaged tissue, and beginning the healing process. “Inflammation” refers to both the immune processes happening under the surface and the outward signs of an inflammatory response—symptoms like pain, swelling, or fever. Inflammation gets a bad rap in the alternative health world: “The root of all chronic illness!” This is true to some extent. Name a disease, and inflammation is involved. Crohn’s disease, major depression, heart disease, arthritis—all inflammatory. Every autoimmune disease—inflammatory, involving an inflammatory response directed at your own tissues. Even obesity is inflammatory, with fat cells literally secreting inflammatory cytokines. Yes, but the story is more complicated than that. Inflammation is, after all, a natural process developed through millions of years of evolution. It can’t be wholly negative. Just like our bodies didn’t evolve to manufacture cholesterol to give us heart disease, inflammation isn’t there to give us degenerative diseases. The popular refrain that “inflammation is bad” misses the fact that inflammation is necessary and beneficial in certain circumstances and in the right amounts. Where we run into problems is when there is too much for too long, as is so often the case. So how do you know when the line between helpful and harmful has been crossed? What Causes Inflammation? In order to understand what causes inflammation, we first need to distinguish between acute inflammation and chronic inflammation: Acute Vs. Chronic Inflammation Acute inflammation Acute inflammation is the body’s relatively brief response (lasting several days or less) to a specific injury or illness. All sorts of things can cause an acute inflammatory response, including Trauma or injury, whether serious (car accident, stabbing, broken bone) or trivial (paper cut) Infection by bacterial or viral pathogens Burn (including from the sun) Chemical irritant Allergic reaction When an injury or invasion occurs, the body launches a defense involving the vascular system (veins, arteries, capillaries), immune system, and cells local to the injury. As a result, you’ll likely experience one or more of the five signs that an acute inflammatory response is underway: heat, redness, swelling, pain, or a loss of function. Heat, redness, and swelling signal that leukocytes (white blood cells) have arrived to clean up the injury site, mop up pathogens, and oversee the inflammatory process. Pain and immobilization remind you—or force you—to proceed with caution, lest you re-injure the area. Although annoying, these symptoms are only temporary. And they’re a small price to pay. Without acute inflammatory processes, we would quickly succumb to even minor illnesses and injuries. But not all acute inflammation is the result of something harmful. Some things that cause acute inflammation are actually good for us. Sun exposure is one example. Exercise is another. Immediately after a single hard workout, inflammatory markers go up because exercise stresses the body—but in a beneficial way. The short-term damage that exercise induces allows us to be stronger, fitter, … Continue reading “The Definitive Guide to Inflammation”
Older people (and those headed in that direction, which is everyone else) are really sold a bill of goods when it comes to health and longevity advice. I’m not a young man anymore, and for decades I’ve been hearing all sorts of input about aging that’s proving to be not just misguided, but downright incorrect. Blatant myths about healthy longevity continue to circulate and misinform millions. Older adults at this very moment are enacting routines detrimental to living long that they think are achieving the opposite. A major impetus for creating the Primal Blueprint was to counter these longevity myths. That mission has never felt more personal.
So today, I’m going to explore and refute a few of these top myths, some of which contain kernels of truth that have been overblown and exaggerated. I’ll explain why.
Hypertension is a problem. It raises the risk of heart disease; it’s one of the most consistent risk factors for that condition, as well as others like kidney disease. But before you start freaking out about your high blood pressure, make sure you actually have it. A single elevated reading does not a hypertension diagnosis make. Readings are snapshots in time. They can be a part of a trend, or they can be an isolated case. Don’t assume based on one bad reading.
I can remember going to the doctor about ten years ago for a routine checkup, showing 140/100, and almost getting a prescription based on that. It was absurd, so absurd that I took matters into my own hands and got a fancy blood pressure device to measure my own over the next couple weeks. The result?
I’ve been around the block. I’ve spent thousands upon thousands of hours in the gym, on the track, on the bike, in the water. I’ve tasted glory and defeat. I’ve been sidelined with injuries, I’ve gone stretches where I felt invincible. I’ve trained with, and trained, some of the best to ever do it. And along the way, I learned a lot: what to do, what not to do, what matters, what doesn’t.
Last week a comment from a reader gave me a great idea for a post: Give fitness advice to younger Groks. Help them avoid the mistakes I made and capitalize on the wins.
Let’s get right to it.