Bring Up Inflammation – How does it help


This summer something happened to me. As I was walking down a scenery path, something hit me. It happened so quickly that I felt as if I had been hit by a drop of burning oil that I could not manage to wipe away. Turns out that the culprit responsible for my pain was a bee, or a wasp, I never actually saw it so it could really be either one. What I was certain of, however, was the amount of pain I was experiencing. My body didn’t like it one slightly bit. I was also very confused, why did this insect decide to sting me? Why me? Why on my hand? I had to find answers. I actually had never been stung before. That was my very first encounter and I really didn’t know what to do. 

My fiancé, having been stung many times before, was kind enough to inform me to raise my hand above my heart line until we reached home. Once there we would finally be able to put some ice to soothe the pain. Thinking about it now, I realize there were actually two actors at play in this scenario: pain and inflammation. They were interrelated. Inflammation caused pain and pain caused inflammation. It’s a truly terrific vicious cycle we got there. As previously mentioned in the Bring Up Pain article, pain is an adaptative mechanism that forces us to take an adequate action to free us from danger or from something the body interprets as potentially harmful. Where inflammation, also an adaptive mechanism, is there in contrast to provide an ideal environment for healing. One way it achieves this is by sending chemicals to the skin to increase sensitivity. This is the component responsible for the pain we feel when dealing with an inflamed body part. This is also why just the mere rubbing of our clothes after a sunburn is nearly unbearable. We call this increased sensitivity, allodynia. This is meant as a way to keep us from making the injury worse.  

Ike louie Natividad|

Apart from the aforementioned insect sting and sunburns, there are many more events that can lead to development of inflammation. Think about blemishes (pimples), injuries, headaches, arthritis, only to name a few. All of us at one point or another has, or definitely will, experience inflammation. There is absolutely no way around it. Well, not naturally at least. So I believe it’s essential to know how to recognize it. To do this, experts rely on a principle called the five cardinal signs of inflammation. Here, even though you might not know them in terms of their names, you know them at least from experience. So there is really no need to get scared!

Alex Green|

The first sign, you guessed it, is pain. This is a necessary step, but still a dreadful step. This is the most obvious sign. It’s a major warning that signals us to pay attention to what’s actually going on. Without it, we would probably carry on with our days with absolutely no knowledge that something wrong is happening. This is also the main, if not only the only sign that transpires when we get a headache. Not that all headaches are signs of inflammation, it’s still a common source. We often get them when we don’t get enough oxygen to our brain cells. That could be caused from a bad sitting position, anxiety or even other health problems. You can discover that the only act of massaging the back of your neck can prove itself sufficient to relieve a headache. This happens because you are restoring blood flow by relaxing muscles that can compress the blood vessel walls. By putting a stop to the compression, enough blood can finally reach your neurons and deliver the oxygen it so dearly wants. Now that your brain cells get enough oxygen, there is no more need for inflammation and thus no need for pain.

The second sign is redness. This is a visual cue that you probably got to experience last time you got pimples. I’m talking about the one that hurts, the one that seems all perky and purulent. They are not only painful, they are also obviously visible by their coloration, red. If you want an additional example of this, think about sunburns. The lobster shade that you adopt after taking that extended sunbath is definitely a manifestation of inflammation. This should be taken as an unquestionable warning sign to get the Fick out of the sun, or pursue at your own peril. Taking in too much ultraviolet rays (mostly from the UVB type) will cause damage to your outer skin layer which will lead to inflammation. To avoid this, it’s really easy, use a proper sunscreen. This tiny bit of advice is so well known that I don’t even know why I bother repeating it here. We know that we should do it, but we don’t. Thus, I am here taking a pledge that I will, from now on, use sunscreen before lengthened sun exposure. Are you brave enough to join me?

Now if you fail to protect your skin after it has turned red, by running away from the sun to the shade, you will probably see soon enough blisters appearing. These are also called edema, which is the third cardinal sign. They contain something we call the inflammatory soup. That soup contains pain mediators, hormones, chemicals, and immune cells. They all contribute to different functions of inflammation, which some of them were mentioned earlier. The immune cells are the one responsible for protecting and defending the affected site against outside invaders, think about that venom from the insect bite I spoke of at the beginning. Some chemicals and hormones will be involved in stimulating cell reproduction (or multiplication). This will help heal wounds, like the skin you damage with the sunburn. 

Jimmy Chan|
Polina Tankilevitch|

As a fourth sign, we get increased heat. This is not only really obvious when we touch ourselves after a sunburn, it is also really evident when we get a fever. That fever appears because the body, or more precisely your immune cells, perceived a widespread infection with an external agent. It could be from toxins, bacteria, parasites or viruses. By itself, a slight fever is often sufficient to kill living organisms like bacteria and parasites, but it’s completely useless against things that are not alive, like toxins and viruses. This is why fever that gets really intense is frequently associated with viral infection or toxin exposure. If we fail to care for the fever in these cases, it might cause us harm and this is why medical experts give us medication to quench the fever. In most cases, it actually targets inflammation directly which ends up also alleviating pain.

At last there is the loss of function that marks the final signs. This takes the longest to settle in but is, nonetheless, one of the major drivers for hospital visits. This is the less evident sign, as it bears somewhat of a very confusing title. Don’t worry this will be made very clear with examples. If you consider sunburn, the skin is so damaged that it can’t serve as the ultimate barrier anymore; therefore it has lost function. The hypersensitivity we experience is actually a testimonial to that. It is screaming to you that you have to keep all things away from it as it can no longer protect you by itself. Now if you consider a twisted ankle, the loss of function manifests itself through the near inability to walk over it. Your ankle which normally allows you to perform a walk, now pains you anytime you use it. This pain prevents you from performing the exact action it was meant to accomplish. 

Vidal Balielo Jr.|

Now that you’re familiar with the five cardinal signs of inflammation, you may feel comforted in knowing that there exist some ways to help reduce the inflammation responses. Probably none of them will come as a surprise to you. When the inflammation is localized (only in your foot, for example), external (not in your airway or other internal organs) and acute (not a long-termed response), you can refer to the acronym RICE for treatment. “R” stands for rest. Reducing movement will prevent more stress from damaging the tissues further and help the healing process. “I” is for ice, placing ice indirectly (not straight on your skin) on the affected area will slow down the immune response. This will reduce swelling and pain. “C” corresponds to compression, by exerting pressure on the skin you are reducing the volume available for the inflammatory soup to occupy. This should lead to reduced swelling and increase mobility. Finally, the “E” refers to elevation, by lifting your body part slightly above your heart you are improving blood circulation in the area, leading perhaps in the loss of swelling and increased mobility as well.

If ever you are faced with a situation that is so bad that none of these helps, you may require medication. Ibuprofen, commonly known in North America as Advil, is an over-the-counter openly available anti-inflammatory medication that you may want to use or at least keep in your cabinet. If Ibuprofen fails to help, there are more anti-inflammatory medications, some of them even stronger, that require a prescription for procurement. In these cases, you will need to set a visit with your family physician or go through an emergency clinic to obtain the prescription.

C Technical|

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.


Bring Up Sun and Stars – What makes them special

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My very favourite summer activity is stargazing and I don’t know if you do share the same feeling about it as I do. If you do, you probably find that the stars are fascinating too. Here beware that I am not talking about the shooting stars we happen to see during a meteor shower. They’re still cool, but they are no stars at all, they are as you may now suspect meteors. Now coming back to the stars, I may assume that even our ancestors liked looking at the stars. Our ancestors would indeed stargaze and by doing so came to all kinds of conclusions about their nature. From being the spirit of their dead ancestors to being used as tools for prediction, stargazing holds somewhat of a spiritual nature. Always to be respected, those giants of the night sky are notably recognized to have guided humans in their escapades. 

Sometimes we often forget that our sun is also a star. However, if you’re thinking about stargazing, forget to consider the Sun as your next subject. As a matter of fact, the word “stargazing” is commonly referred to as the act of contemplating the stars in the night sky. At night, the Sun is, fortunately for you, nowhere to be seen. It’s hiding away on the opposite side of Earth, casting the shadow from which we can observe what we call the night sky. Only from its shadow can we observe the other stars. Looking directly at the Sun is strongly discouraged for reasons that can be explained by both its location and its characteristics.

Min An|

The Sun is very close to us, but this unique element wouldn’t do much to us if it weren’t a yellow dwarf, to begin with. These very features are what provide the Sun with the ability to project huge amounts of heat and sunlight at us. This is the reason why we can’t look directly at the Sun. The Sun is projecting an important amount of radiation in the form of sunlight. Staring at the Sun unprotected is a sure way for you to burn down your retina, which could cause you to become permanently blind. Despite this issue, the Sun in all of its grandeur is a good thing for us and other forms of life. Its proximity provides sufficient heat to allow us to survive, and thrive for that matter.

The heat, as well as the light, comes from radiation produced through nuclear reactions. Its light is so powerful that, when it shines directly at us, it can interfere with the light of all other stars that are much further. This is why you can hardly see any stars during daylight. Even though looking directly at the Sun is a risky endeavour, with adequate protection, we can safely gaze at it, especially when extraordinary phenomena happen like solar eclipses. Solar eclipses happen when the moon comes between Earth and the Sun. The Sun is then blocked by the moon which casts a shadow on Earth. The shadow can, at that moment, block either partially or completely the sunlight causing the annular form we see.

Drew Rae|
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Something very difficult to discern with the naked eye is how different each and every one of the stars is. They can be compared by size, by gas composition, by age and by many other criteria. Yellow dwarfs (e.g. the Sun) are, in terms of heat emitted, slightly warmer than red dwarfs. These two dwarf stars are the most prevalent stars of our galaxy. Eventually, as they burn through their fuel, they can either cool down to become red giants or transform into white dwarfs becoming suddenly much warmer. Other known star types are blue giants, supergiants, brown dwarfs, neutron stars and pulsars. As a general law, the bluer a star is, the warmer it is and reciprocally the redder, the cooler it is.

J. Petersson|

Now if you start to worry, don’t, our sun is still young and has a lot of fuel left to burn before turning into a red giant. It’s estimated to be merely 4.5 billion years old, yes that’s still young, I promise you. The Sun is a very stable star that is expected to remain this way for the next 5 billion years. At that point, you and I will be long gone. We won’t have the chance, or should I say the misfortune, to see Earth’s annihilation when it’s going to morph into its next phase. We can hope that, by the time we come to this, we as humans will have succeeded in finding new areas to conquer in our galaxy or maybe even the universe.

Let’s now stop lingering on Earth’s gloomy prospect and let’s simply enjoy the Sun’s presence while it lasts. As I mentioned earlier, thanks to sunlight we can prosper. Not only we as humans but we as all living things. The most obvious example of its benefit on Earth is photosynthesis. Animals may use carbon as the primary source of energy, but plants have developed a strategy to extract their energy from sunlight. Through a cellular apparatus called chloroplast, they can absorb light and transform it into energy. On one of its inner membranes, the thylakoid membrane, are located the chlorophyll pigments which are the ones responsible for absorbing light frequency corresponding mostly to blue and red. Green light is reflected causing the typical green colour we see in plants. When in contact with the pigments, the light energy from the sunlight excites electrons from within and sparks a chain reaction that produces energy in the form of ATP and NADPH. The electrons then need to be replenished and this is done through electrolysis of water, meaning that hydrogen and oxygen are split apart. Hydrogen ions are then used as electrons. This last bit is the part responsible for the plant’s oxygen emission.

Although we also know that the plants are famous for absorbing lots of carbon dioxide (CO2). This occurs mostly at night, in the absence of light. Outside of the chloroplast, CO2, with the use of ATP and NADPH, is transformed into sugar chains. Afterward, the sugar chains are transported to the mitochondria, which is the powerhouse of any cells. The process at this point is very similar to what we can observe in our cells. The mitochondria change the sugar to meet the metabolic demand of its host, or it’s stored away. For plants, the storage of sugar is in the form of glucose or starch. In sum, plants through photosynthesis are essential to our survival by providing the required oxygen we so dearly need.

Ryutaro Tsukata|
Arnie Chou|

Sunlight does not only benefit us through plants or the heat it produces, it does also through intricate maintenance of the balance in gas compositions. Sunlight is one of the principal sources of energy that triggers naturally occurring chemical reactions. All these chemical reactions happen at a specific rate that allowed formation then but now maintains our atmosphere. If there were too much solar energy, water would sublimate and the atom of its molecule would split apart forming hydrogen and oxygen. Oxygen would eventually burn away and hydrogen would explode. With too little solar energy, there would not be enough water evaporation causing an eventual depletion of oxygen in the air.

Furthermore, the plants and the atmosphere are not the only ones to benefit directly, we do too. Though, we might only come to realize this when it makes itself scarce. Some northern regions may experience extremely long winters where they can go months without seeing the Sun. This can lead people to experience some discomfort. Yet, even places that don’t see such drastic changes in sunlight exposure during winter might feel this way. This mere reduction seems sufficient to induce troubles. The discomforts can sometimes be so severe that they cause the person to be completely unproductive. This reaction is commonly caused by a seasonal affective disorder, which is regularly referred to as winter blues. Turns out that the lack of sunlight exposure leads to dysregulation of our circadian rhythm and a lower release of serotonin and/or melatonin. These changes make us more likely to develop sleeping issues, eating issues, depression and fatigue. The solutions to avoid this are easy; either you spend more time outside boosting sunlight exposure or you buy a luminotherapy lamp. Usually, these changes only are sufficient to resolve the situation, and thus there is no need for medication.

Bob Ward|

Personally speaking, the Sun is what I would consider the closest thing to a god. This belief is motivated by the fact that the Sun first created us; now it keeps us safe and provides for us, but later it could also very much destroy us all in the snap of a finger. It’s powerful and always there, even if we can’t always see it. But every star in the night sky is as great and powerful as our sun, even though they appear from our perspective to not be any larger than the tip of a needle. So the next time you get the pleasure to stargaze, remember to enjoy the show that they are offering you and admire their inherent beauty and forces.

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.