Inflammation usually occurs when your body suffers an injury or gets sick. Its presence helps the body’s tissues to repair themselves, which is an obvious benefit when the body has been compromised. Inflammation is usually painful, so while it can be helpful, it’s also a signal that something is wrong with us. Fortunately, there are ways we can avoid and reduce the mental and physical stress brought on by inflammation.
Research indicates that inflammation is directly related to aging. While temporary inflammation signals the body is repairing itself, continuous inflammation can be a sign of deteriorating health. The effects of chronic inflammation dovetail with the physical signs of getting older, each contributing to increase the negative effects of the other on the body. These combined processes are what cause us to lose vitality and function as we get older.
So, does aging cause inflammation or do the effects of inflammation cause us to feel older? While there are no clear-cut answers to this chicken-or-egg puzzle yet, there are a few theories. Most of these work in some way with several of the same key concepts described below.
Inflammaging and Immunosenescence
Inflammaging is the name for chronic, low-grade inflammation that persists after the immune system has finished the healing process.
When the body heals a wound or fights off a foreign pathogen the effort leaves behind broken cells in the body. These are called senescent cells. It can also leave behind other structures (organelles, macromolecules, other damaged cells) called cell debris. Normally, the immune system clears all of these away at the completion of the healing process.
As the body ages, however, the immune system declines over time. This is known as Immunosenescence. In an older body, the less efficient immune system fails to remove all of the senescent cells and cell debris once it finishes the healing process. These structures, when left behind, cause persistent inflammation. Thus, the repeated accumulation of these structures is what causes inflammaging.
So immunosenescence contributes to inflammaging, which leads to immunosenescence, and so on. These processes feed each other in an ever-escalating spiral to make the body more susceptible to disease and infection. Most alarming, is the fact that these processes cause loss of function over time. This can be partly to blame for the reason why bodies slowly start to suffer more aches, pains, disease, injury, and illness during the aging process.
Gut microbiota, or gut flora, refers to the bacteria present in the intestines. This region has a profound effect on the digestion of food. Research suggests it also affects the health of the entire body, especially the immune system.
The composition of a body’s gut microbiota goes through changes as it ages. Over time the number of helpful bacteria present tend to decrease, and the number of harmful bacteria tend to increase. As that balance of helpful vs. harmful bacteria shifts over time, the process makes us more susceptible to disease and inflammation, thus contributing to an overall decline in health. These age-related changes in gut microbiota are called microbial burden.
There are other factors that can promote chronic, persistent inflammation. Many are disease-related such as:
- Fibrosis-related diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
- Degenerative diseases
- Persistent infections
Others are related to life choices including:
- Diet choices
A diet high in processed grains and saturated fats has been associated with increased inflammation in the body. This can be especially harmful to those with low levels of physical activity. Smoking and air pollution in general are associated with higher levels of inflammation as well as increased risk of disease.
What Can I Do?
While no specific therapies exist to prevent chronic inflammation, this is an area of interest for healthcare practitioners at 25 Again. Obviously, certain lifestyle choices can influence the effects inflammation has on your body as it ages. Our medical professionals work with members to identify and make appropriate choices that can provide positive influences on your body. For example, simply quitting smoking, or avoiding secondhand smoke and other sources of air pollution, can lower your risk of inflammation and disease. Increasing physical activity and exercise promotes the reduction of inflammation. Updating your diet to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil can also help.
But for many adults, lifestyle choices are simply not enough to counteract years of stress and bodies that are succumbing to the aging process. The good news is that all of our members eventually experience problems related to inflammation that can be addressed, slowed down, or even reversed. New research on inflammation and inflammaging is constantly providing answers and techniques that help millions of men and women every year. For example, our medical providers specialize in providing personalized solutions to problems. We look at you unique biomarkers to provide advice on the missing components and possible solutions like hormone replacement therapy. These techniques have been known to reduce inflammation in men and women, while providing many other health benefits.
If you are concerned about the harmful impact of inflammation on your health and enjoyment of normal activities, it might be time to learn more about what’s going on. Our process is simple. Click here to take the free health survey and get started.
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Hill; Inflammaging and Age-related Disease
Jenny, Inflammation in Aging: Cause, Effect, or Both?
Malkin CJ, Pugh PJ, Jones RD, et al. The effect of testosterone replacement on endogenous inflammatory cytokines and lipid profiles in hypogonadal men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jul;89(7):3313-3318.
Sanada, Taniyama, Muratsu, Otsu, Shimizu, Rakugi, and Morishita; Source of Chronic Inflammation in Aging