Inflammation: What You Should Know


by Dr. Christina Cummings

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I’d like to talk briefly about inflammation as it has become the buzzword in the world of health today.

Inflammation is a normal and beneficial process that occurs when your body’s immune system protects you from foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses.

You need some level of inflammation in your body to stay healthy, however it’s also possible and increasingly common, for the inflammatory response to get out of hand.

If your immune system mistakenly triggers an inflammatory response when no threat is present, it can lead to excess inflammation in your body,

This has process has been linked to asthma, allergies, autoimmune diseases, heart disease cancer, depending on which organs the inflammation is impacting.

¬ Inflammation of your heart (myocarditis) can lead to shortness of breath and fluid retention

¬ Inflammation of the small tubes that transport air to your lungs---Asthma attack

¬ Inflammation of your kidneys (nephritis) can lead to high blood pressure or kidney failure

¬ Inflammation of your large intestine (colitis) can lead to cramps and diarrhea.

You need some level of inflammation in your body to stay healthy
— Dr. Christina Cummings

Acute Inflammation

When you have an injury or an infection, inflammation is necessary to help protect and heal your body.

Through a series of biochemical reactions, WBCs and other chemicals are sent to the injured area to fight off foreign bodies.

You’ve all experienced this type of beneficial acute inflammation if you’ve had a cut or sore throat and symptoms typically include:


¬ Redness

¬ Warmth

¬ Pain

¬ Swelling

¬ Loss of movement and function

When inflammation becomes chronic, however, there are often no symptoms until a loss of function occurs.

This is because chronic inflammation is low grade and systemic , often silently damaging your tissues.

This process can go on for years without you noticing, until a disease such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or autoimmune diseases like MS, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease or RA develops.

What Causes Chronic Inflammation?

Chronic inflammation can be the result of a mal-functioning, over-reactive immune system, or it may be due to an underlying problem that your body is attempting to fight off.

Many of these “problems” are actually due to an unhealthy lifestyle.

The study of NUTRIGENOMICS (the study of the effects of food on gene expression) suggests that certain foods can either trigger or prevent health effects in your body, and this is true with inflammation.

Whereas eating oxidized or rancid fats and sugar will increase inflammation,

Eating healthy fats such as Omega 3s (I’ll talk more about healthy fat later) will help reduce inflammation.

All of the following increase your risk of chronic inflammation:

  • Overweight and obese (BMI is one calculation we use to measure this parameter.

  • Eating a poor diet

  • An existing heart condition

  • Poorly controlled diabetes

  • A sedentary lifestyle (no or very little exercise)

  • Smoking

  • Long term infections

  • Gum disease

  • Stress
    ~ Constant stress keeps us in a perpetual state of “fight or flight” with all of the side effects

~ Cortisol steal---robing from other hormones to make more stress hormone (cortisol). So men make less testosterone and women less estrogen---effects on menopause.

So how can you determine if you have chronic inflammation, especially since many of the “symptoms” are silent?

There are 3 tests that act as SIGN POSTS only because they are non-specific and it’s hard to say when they turn positive.

1) C-Reactive Protein (CRP) Test: this measures a protein found in your blood that signals responses to any form of inflammation.

2) ESR or SED rate test: this test checks for non-specific indicators of inflammation

3) FASTING BLOOD INSULIN: This test is typically used to screen for diabetes, it’s also a marker for inflammation as the higher your insulin levels (increased insulin resistance) the higher your levels of inflammation tend to be.

The diseases we face today are the effects of our lifestyle choices.

We know enough now to eliminate about 80% of dis-ease----genes are not our destiny---epigenetics or DINNER IS OUR DESTINY.

The master levers of medicine today are the following: forks, feet, fingers, sleep, stress and love.

Obesity is the canary in the coal mine (it’s letting us know that big problems lie ahead)---obesity begets diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, arthritis etc etc etc.

We are not destined to express our gene pool. Epigenetics has taught us that we can up regulate and down regulate our genetic material based on how we live, what we eat, how we move etc.

Our lifestyle is what determines whether we express those genes that we have a predisposition towards.

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Dr. Christina Cummings is a family physician, (MD Duke University.) She focuses on nutrition and a holistic approach to medicine that incorporates the mind, body, and spirit.

Her seminar and lecture series have been utilized by individuals, families, corporate groups and non-profit organizations to empower participants, by providing information and skills that allow them to make lifestyle changes necessary to support their health and well-being. Dr. Cummings addresses the key ingredients for wellness:  positive mental attitude – food – exercise. Her motto, ”Let Food Be Thy Medicine,”  is the cornerstone of her healing practice.