Inflammation: The silent double agent
01 Jun 2020

All of us have been affected by Covid-19. The speed at which this pandemic has so brutally taken lives can, among other things, be determined by the immune system’s ability to control the rampant inflammation that overtakes the body.

We have all heard that inflammation is bad for us. Worldwide, three out of five deaths are due to chronic inflammatory diseases such as stroke, respiratory diseases, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

Inflammation has even been linked to depression with researchers at Emory University reporting it can have a dampening effect on dopamine pathways in the brain resulting in low motivation and concentration. 

So, what exactly is this silent assailant?

First Response 

When bacteria, toxins or trauma stress the body, the immune system gears up with a short burst of inflammation to remove the foreign stimuli. This is called short term or acute inflammation, without which a small cut could become life threatening and we would not be able to build muscle in the gym.

The problem occurs when inflammation is chronic or long term, a phenomenon termed “inflammaging”. This affects the entire body and lasts indefinitely. It has also been called silent inflammation, as it can linger for decades, undetected, causing a continuing immunological assault on organs resulting in chronic inflammatory diseases. Few of us are immune as startlingly statistics say one in ten people over 40 have type 2 diabetes and around a quarter of the UK population suffers from multimorbidity (2 or more chronic inflammatory conditions in the same person).2

“It's no surprise that scientists are focused on finding strategies for early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of chronic inflammation," says Claudio Franceschi, professor at the University of Bologna, as although some think immortality is the goal, it is more realistic to aim to reduce age related illness and our inflammatory load so that we can be disease free throughout our lives. 

“Inflammaging is one of the hottest topics in immunology right now because we recognize that much of what drives the process of aging in the brain and much of what drives many of the illnesses that eventually do people in, are driven by inflammation” 

Dr. Miller
Vice-chair of Research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences and director of the Behavioral Immunology Program at Emory School of Medicine

Skin SOS

Our skin is not exempt from the effects of inflammation and how we deal with this can determine how well our skin ages. Skin is susceptible to both acute as well as chronic inflammation. Long-term conditions such as eczema results in compromised skin defence barrier and immunity, which can make it more susceptible to wrinkles and pigmentation. In addition, PGE-2, an inflammatory mediator found is skin and produced during exposure to UV radiation, further suppresses collagen formulation.

A recent study linked metabolic syndrome to various skin conditions such as psoriasis, litchen planus and even skin cancers.

While exposure to chemicals, pollutants (free radicals), food intolerances and even skincare products can also cause inflammatory skin conditions. 

Gut Feeling

About 50% of the body’s immune system can be found in our digestive tract. Unfortunately many of us have wiped out many strains of our gut bacteria with antibiotics, processed foods and bad fats. This disturbs the delicate balance of our immune system and increases our risk for chronic inflammation. According to Dr David Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist, people with fewer types of gut bacteria and more parasites have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. We are learning more about the connection between the brain and gut every day. 

Next month in part 2 we have asked our iiaa experts for advice and practical tips on how to reduce our inflammatory load both internally and externally. Ensuring that you, as professional skincare therapists, are able to guide your clients to successfully find resources that will help them not only live a healthy lifespan but continue looking younger for longer. 

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/ 2. cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(19)30066-X?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1364661319 3.https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/healthy-lifespan/changing-conversation-about-ageing 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23919003