Normal Inflammation Versus Chronic Inflammation

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

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Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Normal Inflammation Versus Chronic Inflammation
The normal process of inflammation helps dismantle and recycle older tissues that have become damaged or worn out or that simply need repair. This process is called “turnover,” or “normal inflammation,” and it occurs when older tissue is replaced with newer tissue. Before the age of thirty or so, this normal turnover process is perfectly balanced—for every bit of tissue that is damaged and removed, another similar (or greater) bit is put in its place. This means that, under ordinary circumstances, you’re always making your tissue stronger and more resilient.

After about age thirty, however, the turnover process becomes somewhat less efficient year after year. This causes a very slight loss of healthy tissue—you continue to break down and to remove some tissue, but the amount of healthy tissue added back is just a little bit less than it should be. As you age, the turnover process becomes less and less efficient, and your body’s ability to heal itself from injury is reduced. This imbalance in tissue turnover and the “normal inflammation” process is the primary cause of the loss of flexibility, vigor, and the various “-itis” diseases that people tend to encounter as they get older.

With aging, these normal repair mechanisms start to dwindle, and, ironically, the very inflammatory process that has been helping “turn over” older tissue into healthy new tissue can completely turn on you. That leads to problems with pain, mobility, and flexibility.

The same process of inflammation that naturally governs your body’s repair and protection starts to accelerate tissue breakdown and impede that repair. The end result, as you may have already started to experience, is that your tissues literally begin to fall apart. Cartilage degrades, muscles lose tone, ligaments and tendons creak, bones become brittle, energy and mood falter, and vigor is sapped.

Let’s keep in mind that not all inflammation is bad. As you’ve just learned, inflammation is part of the normal healing and turnover process for any tissue. But when you experience too much inflammation, things go awry. In this chapter, this state of “too much” inflammation is referred to as “chronic inflammation.”

With chronic inflammation, healing is suppressed, and tissue destruction is accelerated. Your body simply cannot heal itself or stop the damage when inflammation gets out of control. To illustrate this point, think about the ocean crashing against a protective seawall. The seawall represents your tissues, and the ocean is your inflammatory process. Over time, that wall will become broken and weakened by the crashing waves and will need to be repaired to return to optimal functioning. If the pace of repair fails to keep up with the pace of destruction, then the seawall fails, and the ocean comes rushing in (leading to tissue destruction and dysfunction). You need to maintain the integrity of the seawall (your tissue) by keeping up with repair and maintenance—but you can’t do that if the ocean is continually crashing down on you.

A plethora of scientific and medical evidence demonstrates how to use diet, exercise, and supplementation to “calm” the ocean (to reduce damage caused by excessive inflammation) and to accelerate tissue repair (to keep that seawall intact). It is all a question of balance. You want to maintain a normal level of inflammation so you can then maintain a normal pace of tissue turnover and thus retain healthy tissue, flexibility, and mobility.

As soon as you get too much inflammation—that is, chronic inflammation—even by a small amount, you see a little bit more tissue deterioration, leading to a little more inflammation and still more tissue breakdown. Once this vicious cycle of inflammation/damage has begun, it can be very difficult to stop—unless you have a comprehensive plan to control inflammation via multiple health practices.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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