Hidden, generalised inflammation is a key cause of most chronic diseases, and of ageing, but is not well recognised in conventional medicine. Localised inflammation, such as that associated with a sprained ankle, is however, a well-known phenomenon and a normal response to injury. A healthy inflammatory response is important for survival, as it is how we repair our bodies.

Conversely, generalised chronic inflammation is due to an out-of-control immune system.  Common causes of this include anything that causes stress to our bodies, such as:

  • emotional stress, e.g. grief
  • sub-optimal temperatures
  • too much or too little exercise
  • eating poor quality food, which leads to nutritional deficiencies and damage from artificial additives
  • eating food to which we are allergic or intolerant
  • social isolation and its opposite of ‘too much socialising’
  • sleep problems
  • ‘toxic’ relationships
  • noise pollution
  • poor breathing patterns
  • chronic or hidden infections (including sub-clinical asymptomatic dental infections)
  • heavy metal (e.g. lead), chemical toxins (e.g. pesticides) or biotoxins (e.g. from mould)
  • environmental allergens (e.g. pollens).

Well-known diseases that are a result of too much localised inflammation include asthma, seasonal allergic rhinitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Less well-known diseases from generalised chronic inflammation includes pretty much everything else, e.g. cancer, heart disease, obesity, dementia, and some thyroid diseases. Premature ageing is another fallout from too much generalised inflammation.

Most of my patients believe that if they are reasonably healthy and have no diagnosed diseases, they therefore have no generalised inflammation. However, their blood tests reveal the simmering fires of hidden inflammation in their bodies. There are numerous inflammatory markers, but unfortunately these are not standard blood tests in conventional medicine.

Some patients say to me, ‘I’ll just take anti-inflammatories’ when I tell them that their bodies are showing signs of generalised inflammation. However, the side effects from anti-inflammatories (think ibuprofen and steroids) can be serious and include death. They also upset our precious gut microbiome, a factor in many health conditions.

Anti-inflammatories may be appropriate for acute injuries, but they do not treat what started the ‘fire’ in the first place and their side effects must be taken into consideration.

So how do we treat hidden inflammation?

  1. Treat the underlying cause.
  2. Utilise as many natural anti-inflammatory tools as possible (and nature has many tools to help).

Dr Tracy Chandler BSc (Hons) MBChB FRNZCGP FNZSCM, PGDipSEM, Cert Dermoscopy, Cert Homeopathy, MACNEM member, gained her degree in England and worked as a GP in Timaru before doing postgraduate training in sports, skin and integrative medicine.

She specialised in integrative (wellness) medicine in line with her increasing interest in the impact of nutrition and environment on health and wellbeing.

7 COMMENTS

  1. From my understanding a lot of what Dr Tracy Chandler claims in this article on inflammation is not supported by evidence, and falls within the realms of pseudoscience to appease those who don’t trust science or the medical profession. Her claim that allergic rhinitis is caused by inflammation is incorrect, it is caused by the presence of allergens that result in a localised type 1 hypersensitivity. She has also studied homeopathy which has been thoroughly discredited as a treatment and is only successful as a means to lighten one’s wallet. Should there not be a strong focus on evidence-based practice?

    • Dear Katie,

      I have to correct you there regarding allergic rhinitis – rhinitis directly means ‘inflammation of the nose’ where anything that ends with ‘itis’ literally means ‘inflammation’ as opposed to hypersensitivity. In any case IgE mediated reactions will lead to acute inflammation. So I think Dr Chandlers article regarding that is factually correct. It is also well known now that most chronic disease has, as one of the root cause, chronic inflammation as part of its pathophysiology. You can easily search for their links in Pubmed or Google Scholar for scientific articles regarding that. It is so much mainstream now, so I am not sure what you are referring to as pseudopscience.

  2. What a great article Dr Tracy ! I , for one, am very glad to be alerted to your column as I will read more of it. You give a very good broad outline for people to do their own research, depending on their interest. There is a huge and growing amount of scientifically validated evidence coming out these days, backing up your statements. And I know, because I am a GP and it is my growing interest too, to expand the conversation within the medical field. I have seen patients reduce the suffering and burden of chronic disease and take control back in their hands with relatively simple lifestyle changes. I also believe patients need the support of a well qualified health practitioner. This could be a doctor working along with a naturopath, psychologist, homeopath, acupuncturist, osteopath etc to guide people in their unique needs and preferences. In New Zealand we are very lucky to have well qualified and motivated practitioners who keep up to date with the research and pass this on to their patients.

  3. What a breath of fresh air – a lovely article – thank you Dr Tracey. In an age when chronic disease is increasing at an alarming rate we have to look for the root cause instead of merely suppress the symptoms. A red light comes on in the car warning us that something is wrong – we of course don’t pull the light out nor do we stick a bit of masking tape over it so that we don’t see it. Instead we look for the reason why the light came on. In the same way with chronic diseases. It’s important that we start asking questions and look to the latest science as to why someone is suffering from yet another chronic disease.

  4. Dear Katie, Thank you for taking the time to make your comment.

    Regarding the role of inflammation in chronic disease, the following article will help explain it for you in more detail https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00316/full

    Regarding your comment that ‘Her claim that allergic rhinitis is caused by inflammation is incorrect, it is caused by the presence of allergens that result in a localised type 1 hypersensitivity’. Type 1 hypersensitivity causes an inflammatory reaction which is what cause the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

    Regarding my qualifications. As a scientist and a member of the medical profession (I am a GP) I certainly trust both. I will explain my qualifications that you missed as it may be you misunderstood them. BSc (Hons) is a Batchelor of Science (with honours) in Biochemistry. MBChB is my medical degree. FRNZCGP is Fellowship of The Royal NZ College of GPs, PGDipSEM is a Post-Graduate Diploma in Sports and Exercise Medicine, MACNEM member is training through the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine.

    I have worked as a GP in conventional healthcare for 18 years and left as I felt conventional medicine fails many patients. Homeopathy is a small part of how I treat some of my patients but have found it helpful in most of those I use it in. We are doing our patients a huge disservice waiting for science to prove quantum healing techniques like homeopathy with double blind randomised placebo-controlled trials. If you or your family need healing, would you wait for this type of ‘gold-standard’ study to prove a therapy (that you had heard may help)? Thankfully even conventional medicine is showing signs of becoming more open to the possibilities of quantum healing with conventional medical journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) dedicating a 1998 issue to the field of alternative medicine. Additionally, in 2009 a summit was arranged to explore the science of integrative medicine by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM).

    Thank you again. Have a lovely evening. 🙂

  5. Dr Tracy Chandlers article aligns completely with my own research and observations of over 20 years rural General Practice in NZ. Inflammation is a response the body produces in many circumstances including allergy and when inflammation is chronic and excessive it leads to ill health, pain and suffering. Medications to manage acute inflammation have significant benefit however the same medications used long term for chronic inflammation are potentially very harmful. It makes complete sense to me for one to use any safe health tool that works for an individual to reduce chronic inflammation. Those of us in General Practice know that evidence based double blind placebo controlled studies are very useful research tools however, the art of medicine is to relate this data to an individual person. Often this means finding what works for the individual and helping them to get well. Everyone requires a different approach and one treatment does not fix all. This article gives people a better understanding of how to reduce potential harm and suffering in a safe way. Well done Tracy.

  6. What a great article Tracy. As a fellow Australasian College of Nutritional Medicine member and allied health professional, I have a deep respect for those who are trying to educate the masses as to other ways that people can empower themselves to heal. As I tell my clients it is about finding the key that fits them..and it isn’t a one size all approach. Going back to the root cause..and treating clients with an integrative approach is what will help people heal. Thank you

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