INFLAMMATION: The Chemical Process
Updated: Aug 27
by Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen, D.C., CFMP, FRC-ms
What is inflammation? Generally speaking, it is the immune system’s response to an irritant. An irritant most commonly could be a pathogen (think ‘germs’), an external injury such as a sprained ankle or a wood splinter, or effects of chemicals or radiation. In medicine, terms that end in ‘-itis’ are referring to inflammation of whatever tissue comes with it.
Dermatitis = inflamed skin.
Hepatitis = inflamed liver.
So on and so forth.
When you have acute inflammation, you will typically notice some or all the following:
Loss of function
Ok great. That is probably most of which you could already assume based on the last time you sprained your ankle. BUT
– what is happening chemically during inflammation?
If tissue damage or infection occurs, sentinel cells (fibroblasts/macrophages) send signals (cytokines) out. When these signals are released, they diffuse out and hit the wall of a small vein (venule) associated with the area of damage/infection.
This vein-sticking phenomenon causes expression of adhesion molecules on the venule, which causes the neutrophils in the nearby venule to ‘stick’ to the wall of the venule and come into the tissue, through a process known as ‘extravasation’.
This infiltration into the damaged/infected tissue by neutrophils leads to the engulfing of bacteria (if infection) OR damaged tissue (if injury).
Once the engulfing happens by these Neutrophils which have been “called” to the site of issue, these recruited neutrophils send some signals of their own. These signals hit the wall of the nearby venule and attract monocytes (specialized white blood cells which are a key mediator during the process of adaptive immunity). These monocytes are just floating by in venules at all times. Once neutrophils ‘call out’ for the monocytes, the monocytes come in, differentiate themselves into something known as a ‘Macrophage” (“big eater”), and then phagocytose (“eat”) these ‘apoptotic neutrophils’ and get rid of them.
This is a very common mode of inflammation. Neutrophilic inflammation.
Taken one step further- Neutrophilic inflammation is a primary mechanism by which tissue is destroyed in the Autoimmune process. Failure to remove apoptotic bodies typically leads to chronic inflammation and/or Autoimmunity – this same mechanism is promoted in many other processes like insulin resistance, dysbiosis, chronic stress, etc.
Failure to remove apoptotic bodies results in CHRONIC INFLAMMATION.
What happens when there is failure in this process? Numerous potential issues, including:
chronic infections, chronic inflammation, and brain inflammation.
We will circle back at some point to also discuss failures in inflammation resolution.
What to do ABOUT INFLAMMATION?
+ We can address inflammation with dietary and lifestyle intervention. An anti-inflammatory diet involves removing inflammatory triggers AND focusing on relevant anti-inflammatory nutrients. For a guided anti-inflammatory protocol, Book an Appointment with Kate.
Want to work with a functional medicine doctor to run labs and assess nutrient status? Struggling with hormone imbalance, IBS, weight gain, mood changes? Let's look at BIOCHEMISTRY. Read more about Functional Medicine at The Facility here.
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