The Autoimmune - Inflammation Connection
Updated: Jun 28, 2022
by Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen, DC, CFMP, FRC-ms
Patients themselves often tell me how they are inflamed. They say this word; but they don't fully understand what that even means or why that matters with respect to whatever condition they are currently dealing with.
Inflammation is at the center of every single chronic condition we suffer from. If not the primary driver; it is certainly a reinforcer of the metabolic dysfunction associated with conditions that don’t seem to improve. Whether it be chronic mood issues, weight issues, brain fog, skin conditions, Multiple Sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, Hashimoto’s disease, chronic joint or muscle pain, fatigue, or any other thing that you might ‘have’ and which doesn’t seem to improve over time. The higher the background level of inflammation, the more your condition will cause you strife.
Resulting Tissue Destruction
Inflammation is a driver of tissue destruction.
As an example, I sprain my knee... Tissue gets destroyed there (physical destruction). White blood cells come in to scavenge the damaged tissue and carry it out through the lymphatic system (the normal inflammatory process). That process involves the damaged tissue being carried to lymph nodes where T and B immune cells are. If the damaged tissue is 'stimulatory' to these T/B cells, we get increased immune surveillance and the potential to exacerbate or develop a response to the tissue presented. Essentially, if the T or B cells recognize the tissue as a problem, our immune system begins to attack. This is helpful when extracellular pathogens, infections, bacteria or physically damaged tissue is presented.
In the case of chronic inflammation, this process is happening a lot more often. There is increased chance that self-tissue will be presented to a T or B cell and flagged for destruction. When the body attacks self-tissue, we called this AUTOimmunity. This chronic inflammatory process, becomes the main instigator of further autoimmune tissue destruction that is hallmark to most loops of dysfunction.
NfKb + STAT3: The Auto-Inflammatory Instigators
At the center of this connection between chronic inflammation and autoimmune tissue destruction (I like to call it ‘self-tissue interest’) is the fact that NfKb (Nuclear factor Kappa beta), the central chemical actor in inflammation, drives the activation of STAT3 (Signal transducer and activation of transcription 3), a central actor in the tissue destructive process of autoimmunity.
When NfKb or STAT3 are ramped up, an autoimmune flare can cause tissue destruction that drives inflammatory activation. Again, we are in this loop of Inflammation>Autoimmune Flare>More Inflammation.
This means: anything that feeds into the inflammatory process has the potential to drive (new or existing) flares of autoimmune activation.
I want to make a point – your unique inflammatory drivers are unique to YOU. Some people get a lot of gastrointestinal inflammation from certain dietary proteins whereas other people tend to tolerate them much better. Some people seem to ‘handle stress’ better than others; whereas there are those of us who get sick or get a headache or get that chronic ache or pain every time stress gets kicked up. This is because chronic stress tends to be inflammatory; and within the context of an already strained and chronically infected or chronically inflamed patient’s physiology, that new stressor becomes the final instigator and reinforcer of your inflammatory load.
The fun part about what we do is; we help you peel back layer after layer of inflammatory drivers until your body can start to put itself back into balance. In this way, the healing is left up to your body and you and that is the finest expression of self-love you can provide.
NFKB – primary driver of the inflammatory process because it drives gene expression of TNFa and IL-1b, which drive neutrophils into tissue – this is the core mechanism and it is driven by NFKB. Anything which drives that process will drive STAT3.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen, DC, CFMP serves as Director of Functional Medicine at The Facility in Denver, CO. He sees patients in-person and via Telehealth to get to the root cause of dysfunction and restore a state of well-being using nutritional intervention, supplementation, and lifestyle change.
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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