What Is Inflammation?

Your immune system protects you against pathogens and facilitates the rebuilding of tissue at sites of injury or surgery. When a problem develops someplace, your body does the equivalent of calling 911. The alarm sounds. White blood cells and other specialized cells rush to the site- the first responders. The white blood cells constantly cruise throughout the tissues of your body, like police patrol cars, ever on the alert for viruses, bacteria, or other alien microorganisms, as well as damaged cells created by trauma or internal irritants. As weapons, some of the cells release a shower of powerful free radicals (called an oxidative burst) that aid in the destruction of invading microorganisms and damaged tissue.

Free radicals have gotten a bad rap, and you will see why in a minute, but in reality they perform an essential service to the body. Simply put, they are electron-hungry molecules (needing one or more electrons to stabilize their molecular structure). You can call them electrophiles-electron lovers. Normally, these free radicals obtain their electrons by stripping them away from pathogens and damaged tissue. This activity kills the bad bugs you want out of your body and breaks down damaged cells for removal. As the remedial work winds down, excess free radicals produced during the immune response are neutralized by antioxidants or free electrons in the body.

This response is triggered whenever you have a disease or an injury. It is called the “inflammatory response.” As a result, you may feel the familiar signs and symptoms of inflammation: swelling, redness, heat, and pain, and, depending where the site is, decreased range of motion.

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