Inflammation for Healing
Majid Ali, M.D.
No Healing Is Possible Without Inflammation
I expect eyes to roll at the title of this article. I assert that health cannot be understood without understanding the above words. Inflammation has been demonized by ill-informed individuals selling their aanti-inflammatory products.
Evolution created the inflammatory response to gently remind people—animals and plants as well—to take a pulse of their lives. Inflammation is a response to injury. The inflammatory response is also essential part of healing. I do not know any form of healing that can take place without inflammation and I do not know any disease process in which inflammation does not begin tissue injury and, if unchecked, does not intensify it.
Cost of Neglecting Nature of Existence
When the early signals of inflammation are ignored, Nature’s intelligent design is stressed and inflammation creates swelling and pain. If still ignored, the inflammatory response deepens, its message becomes angry, and it torments the whole body. If still unheeded, Nature plays its “inflammation card” and deeply sickens the individual. Finally, it gives up on the individual.
I reproduce some text from my 14-volume textbook entitled The Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine to explain the above summary of what inflammation is and what it means. Life is an unending injury-healing-injury cycle. Injury is inevitable in an organism’s struggle for survival. Healing is the intrinsic capacity of the organism to repair damage inflicted by that injury. Inflammation is one aspect of the energetic-molecular mosaic of that intrinsic capacity. This view of inflammation extends far beyond the classical and wholly inadequate notion of it being a process characterized by edema, erythema, tenderness, pain, and infiltrate of inflammatory cells. Since oxygen is the organizing influence of human biology and governs the aging process in humans, it follows that inflammation, first and foremost, is one of the many face of oxygen homeostasis. In 1990, I devoted a large part of Oxygen and Aging to this subject.
Man-microbe conflicts are a legacy of microbe-microbe conflicts during the primordial period — long before humans appeared on the scene. Oxygen created and adjudicated microbe-microbe conflicts then, as it does the man-microbe conflicts now. I came to recognize that through my clinical work with persons who control microbial infections well — with or without antimicrobial drugs — as well as with those who cannot with any antimicrobial. A large body of personal phase-contrast microscopic and biochemical findings in those patients led me to the conclusion that the fundamental molecular derangement in the latter is disruption of the oxygen homeostasis, including respiratory-to-fermentative shift in ATP production described previously.
Clinical Significance of Inflammation – Two Core Concepts
Below, I state two core concepts of crucial clinical significance that evolved from the view of inflammation given above:
- Physiologic inflammation becomes pathologic inflammation when oxygen homeostasis is in jeopardy; and
- The status of oxygen homeostasis determines the outcome in man-microbe conflicts. In this context, oxygen also resolves the long-standing Pasteur-BeChamp controversy about whether disease is caused by microbes invading from outside or by organisms multiplying from within.
Oxygen homeostasis has not been a consideration of immunologists and infectious disease specialists. It needs to be. Nor has oxygen been of interest to pediatricians, internists, and family practitioners who are the most frequent prescribers of antibiotics, since they take their cues from the specialists. I believe this to be the primary factors that leads to massive abuse of aantibiotics. In a chapter entitled “Oxygen Settles the Great Pasteur-BeChamp Debate” in Oxygen and Aging (2000), I summarized my view of that matter with the following words:
When oxygen metabolism is optimal, Pasteur’s microbes from outside play more important roles in causing infectious disease. When oxygen metabolism is dysfunctional, BeChamp’s life forms multiplying from within the body become more important.
The Core Message
Physiologic inflammation is healing. Pathologic inflammation is disease-causing. It is crucial to learn how to keep inflammation in the healthful range and how not to allow it to slip into disease-causing mode. I present my guidelines for doing so in my tutorial entitled “Oxygen Governs the Inflammatory Response and Adjudicates Man-microbe Conflicts” for more information on inflammation.