Inflammation and why it’s important to understand it
There are times when we all feel that everyone else knows something, but we are in the dark, or playing catch-up. For many of us, inflammation is in that category; we have probably heard that it’s bad for us and we should take steps to lower it with one of the wide range of products out there that are marketed around inflammation. I’m guessing you still have questions though; what is inflammation, do I have it and what does it mean for my health. If you’re taking anti-inflammatory supplements, do you wonder if they are working for you?
The good side of inflammation
Inflammation is your immune system mobilising white blood cells to help your body deal with infection or injury. This is coordinated by the release of many different signalling molecules, that can also be used to measure inflammation in a blood sample. The function of inflammation is to remove the cause of the problem, maybe a bacterial infection, clean up the damage to your tissue, such as dead cells and initiate tissue repair. This process is central to your health and a process that happens in all of us quite frequently. The key is that the initial inflammatory process should be acute, or short-term, finishing within a few days as your repair and regeneration process takes over.
The bad side of inflammation
Most things that were built to run intermittently will breakdown and cause damage if we run them continuously and our inflammatory system is no different. Long-term, or chronic inflammation, is a damaging process that comes from many of the aspects of modern life; poor diet, lack of exercise, alcohol, smoking and stress. Increased low-level inflammation is a natural part of ageing, but the broad set of things we call the ‘western lifestyle’ has increased the level of overweight, obesity and chronic inflammation in much younger people. It is now clear that body-weight induced chronic inflammation contributes to a wide spectrum of diseases, including type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease and some cancers.
The same signalling molecules I mentioned above can be used to track chronic inflammation and understand the patterns that correlate with disease risk. Your inflammatory markers are likely to be elevated well before you develop a chronic disease, such as type II diabetes.
Science and business know how important inflammation is
In the last 20 years there have been over 100,000 scientific papers published that have investigated some aspect of chronic inflammation and its role in disease. These studies have resulted in pharmaceutical companies developing biological drugs that combat chronic inflammation. In fact, these products are the largest selling pharmaceutical drugs in the world, used to treat autoimmune diseases and increasingly conditions like heart failure.
Reducing inflammation plays a large role in the marketing of dietary supplements too; products like fish oil and curcumin. About half the adult population in western countries use at least one supplement and the industry is worth many billions of dollars.
The missing link
Despite all the evidence about the role of chronic inflammation in the development of disease it’s likely that you don’t know your inflammatory status. That’s not your fault, the medical systems across the developed world are mostly focused on diagnosing disease and treating it. But the world is changing, people are becoming more interested in preventative health and taking control of their own medical data. Drop Bio is part of that trend and our goal is to help people understand their inflammatory status, how that relates to health risk and ultimately what to do about it.