Understanding SPMs and Inflammation

Understanding the pros and cons of inflammation has been a topic of conversation with many of our patients and practice members this past year. All of us experience inflammation, even when you may not be aware. Inflammation is a normal response to physiological stress or injury. Unfortunately, many people can become trapped in state of chronic inflammation. This can lead to pain, obesity, and other degenerative conditions. There are many factors that can initiate inflammation, some of which are under our control and others less so. One area of emerging research is the importance of specialized pro-resolving mediators or SPMs. What we are learning is how essential inflammation is to the healing process and that we do not necessarily want to dampen the response but to resolve this process once it has started.

First, let’s talk just a bit more about inflammation. Although it has become a bit of a “buzz word”, at its core it is a process begins when a specific event such as injury, infection, or trauma. Our inflammatory response acts as a vital defense mechanism. The results may include ultimate resolution of the inflammatory process, that lead to cell regeneration, tissue repair, and wound healing. The other scenario is the progression of the inflammatory response leading to chronic low grade inflammation. In other words, the problems start when the inflammation doesn’t resolve.

Over the past 30 years, scientists at Harvard Medical School uncovered mechanisms for inflammation resolution and were able to identify the specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) that coordinate the resolution response. Before the discovery of SPMs it was believed that inflammation passively faded away over time. Yes, the body does produce SPMs to an extent but environmental stressors and lifestyle choices often lower our natural production of SPMs. NSAIDs are also effective at reducing inflammation in the short term, although they have been found to block the natural inflammatory response, which leads to immune suppression along with other side effects. The body of clinical research on using SPMs therapeutically is growing. Some of my favorite high quality nutraceutical companies are producing an SPM product including Thorne, Designs for Health, and Metagenics. If you are concerned about the effects of inflammation you definitely want to watch the two minute video below and let’s talk soon! 


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