Inflammation: your clingy ex-lover

Bronwyn's picture

If you’ve ever had an infection or a broken bone, then you have experienced first hand the exceptional emergency response system that your body mounts to evict intruders or heal a wound; but what happens if it doesn’t stop?


Almost immediately after an injury, the affected area becomes swollen, red, painful and hot, the four classic signs that your immune system is doing its job, sending specialized cells to the area to perform demolition.  Without this response, untold millions of bacteria would exploit the opportunity to set up camp, multiply and ultimately take over.  This military-style defense has undoubtedly saved your life more than once without you even knowing it.  


So what happens when the job is done and the infection is eradicated?  Ideally, the inflammatory response subsides.  But what if it doesn’t? In some situations, inflammation continues in high gear after the bacteria are gone, effectively causing sepsis,sometimes followed by catastrophic organ failure.  Contrary to what many people believe, this is not caused by the infection itself, but by the inflammatory process running out of control.  Septic shock is the culprit in thousands of deaths in Canada every year.  



In this recent randomized controlled study published in Nature Medicine last month,  electro-acupuncture was performed on mice suffering from sepsis.  Without going too much into the technical detail, let it suffice to say that the treatments actually dampened and reversed the septic state, somehow interrupting the chemical feedback loops that propagate the process.


I find this encouraging and I wonder about the implications of this finding on my own treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions such as endometriosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, eczema, and interstitial cystitis.  If electroacupuncture can modulate emergency inflammatory response, what can it do for chronic inflammation?  Subclinical inflammation?  This, I believe, will require another blog post...Stay Tuned!


There is nothing quite like a well-designed study to get me excited and inspired about this medicine!