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Acute vs Chronic Inflammation and why it manifest in our bodies

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

"The body's objective is to not hurt you and often, when it does create an inflammatory state, the body is actually doing its job to protect you", shares Pooja Vig, (@pooja_tnc_functionalnutrition) TNC's Clinic Director.

Acute vs Chronic Inflammation

"Inflammation is the body's defence mechanism - it's actually very sophisticated and impressive. When the body's defence army is activated in acute situations like an injury or a cut, it's a fantastic system to help us from bleeding out and to start repair work."

"But what happens when someone is under constant pressure and stress is that the body constantly believes it is constantly in 'flight or fight mode' - so the body continues to remain in switched on in high alert. The body believes that it needs to be in constant fight mode", says Pooja.

Acute inflammation begins fast and lasts for a few days to possibly a few weeks.

It is often easy to see or feel - a person may experience pain, immobility, or swelling. Some examples of acute inflammation are the common cold, the flu, bronchitis, headache, hives, or joint pain.

Chronic inflammation lasts for several months to years and the body’s immune system permanently turned on and fighting. Symptoms can include bloating, brain fog, achy joints, persistent fatigue, headaches, and pain. You may not even notice that you are experiencing a chronic problem, just a “flare up” here and there.

The cycle of unresolved Chronic Inflammation

A strong relationship exists between the Hypothalamic Pituitary Axis (HPA) and inflammatory signaling. During periods of long term stress, the protective aspect of cortisol can go awry. Continued stimulation of cortisol production interferes with HPA axis signaling and feedback, leading to cortisol resistance, which impairs the HPA feedback loop contributing to hyperactivity of the HPA axis.

HPA axis dysregulation has been observed in many inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease.

When we talk about stress, we don't just refer to emotional stress, but physiological stress as well - eating foods you are sensitive to, not getting quality sleep and pushing yourself too much and not getting rest will all manifest into physical ailments and show up as symptoms.

Snapshot of a person's food sensitivity test result

Inflammation as a result of high-fat diets, food intolerance and sensitivity, excess body fat, smoking, as well as long-term psychological stress can cause HPA axis dysregulation, leading to decreased cortisol output which contributes to more inflammation, and the cycle continues.

Cortisol is a hormone that is important throughout the body to maintain blood pressure, blood sugar, metabolism, and respond to infections and main stress hormone - it works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fears.

Over time, this resistance can blunt the anti-inflammatory effects of cortisol, leading to a hypo-cortisol state. Low cortisol levels can also cause anxiety, irritability, inability to handle stress, fatigue and a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Getting time in the sun, enough electrolytes and getting quality proteins and calories is important to increase cortisol levels. You may also want to cut back on fasting if your cortisol levels are low - that's why even though fasting reaps numerous benefits and we advocate for it, it only makes sense if your HPA-Axis is in balance first.

At the clinic, we test for food sensitivity, nutrition deficiency and gut microbiome as well as body stress impact in relation to your HPA Axis to determine your personalised care with us.

We remove the guesswork, so you can achieve your health goals with greater confidence. Learn more about about whole mind-body approach to wellness.


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