With all of the talk about the negative effects of inflammation, you might think it’s always a bad thing. The truth is, inflammation has a natural role in your health, and there are more reasons than liver damage to avoid constant use of anti inflammatory medications.
It’s a basic tenet of Western medicine that wounds and infections heal because of the physiological impetus of inflammation. The body’s response to inflammation is increased blood flow and immune response. In alternative medicine this is seen as the result of increased movement of chi or prana to an injury.
In fact, some medicines work because they induce inflammation. Last year The Economist reported the answer to an ongoing “scientific mystery.” For 80 years doctors have been adding alum to vaccines because it was known to increase the effectiveness of the vaccination. A substance which is added to boost performance in this way is known as an adjuvant.
Stephanie Eisenbarth and Richard Flavell of Yale University seem, however, to have put adjuvant researchers out of their misery. As they report in this week’s Nature, alum (or, strictly speaking, the aluminum within it) works by stimulating bits of the immune system called NOD-like receptors. These, in turn, activate the rather disturbingly named inflammasomes, and those go on to trigger inflammation, a standard immunological response to invasion by microbiological bad guys.*
In day-to-day life, some inflammation is normal and even healthy. Bones repair fractures, infections are warded off, tissues heal in response. (Yin yoga is based in this same principle.) This is one of the reasons why you may not be prescribed an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, and be given acetaminophen instead.
Inflammation and infection are not the same thing. Inflammation is a response to infection. Be sure to check with your health care provider about the persistence or severity of your own inflammatory responses. Keep an eye on the flame – sometimes too low is as serious an issue as too high.
*Vaccines | A shot in the dark no more | Economist.com
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.