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Silent Inflammation – Brian Lamb, Medical Herbalist


We usually associate inflammation with an injury to the skin such as a cut, scrape or bruise when we see redness and swelling and experience pain. This is a normal protective reaction. However, it is less commonly known that inflammation is at the root of all disease — from the common cold right through to the most serious life-threatening illnesses. Here is the disease cascade of chronic internal inflammation: Inflammation creates free radicals which in turn create systemic toxicity which in turn is the forerunner of chronic disease.

When we are ill, we are inflamed on the inside. Fortunately most diseases resolve either spontaneously with time or from help with medication. On the other hand, many people suffer what has been termed ‘silent inflammation’. Silent inflammation is a state of low-grade chronic inflammation below the threshold of frank disease. Silent inflammation is related to lifestyle choices and bad habits. We will give two examples of sources of silent inflammation: smoking and excess alcohol. Most smokers and habitual drinkers of alcohol actually feel perfectly well — but they are not, since silent inflammation sets them up for chronic disease and a shorter life. World wide smoking deaths account for almost 10 million but their demise started with silent inflammation! Bad habits aside, lifestyle choices create chronic low-grade inflammation.

Before we explore silent inflammation, it is essential that we understand the life saving role of inflammation. For example, when we cut ourselves, our innate inflammatory response will marshal an astonishingly complex healing process. Similarly when we are invaded by bacteria or viruses our immune system creates an inflammatory response to these potentially life-threatening micro-organisms. Our innate inflammatory responses are turned on and off as required automatically. This is not the case with silent inflammation which serves no useful purpose whatsoever and in fact can set us up as already mentioned for chronic disease. Chronic inflammation damages the entire body but may focus its destructive energy on the circulatory system where it can cause strokes and heart attacks. A depressed immune system results from silent inflammation as does the formation of malignant tumours whilst inflammation in the brain is the forerunner of dementia. The scourge of chronic internal silent inflammation runs rampant through society. To be aware of it is the first step in its correction.

In my opinion, by far the greatest source of silent inflammation is from a disturbed digestive system. Many people eat too much, too often and too late in the day and make poor choices with food and drink. Sleep loss is another source of inflammation and the ubiquitous cell phone with its dopamine-addictive nature is the insomniacs worst companion. Moderate daily exercise is a vital component in opposing inflammation. However, no exercise and over-exercise are causes of silent inflammation.

Whilst there are many symptoms of silent inflammation. Blood tests are available both on the NHS and privately that will provide assurance or otherwise. However each one of us can do much in the way of self assessment as we make an honest appraisal of the following: weight, sleep, energy, digestion, exercise and emotional harmony. In all of this we need to be encouraged by our extraordinary resilience to life’s stresses but on the other hand we do best when we lead a lifestyle that opposes silent inflammation.

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