Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Inflammation: Helpful or Harmful?

Aug 31, 2021 09:31AM ● By Gary Kracoff

Inflammation is a vital part of our body’s defense mechanism to protect us from bacteria, viruses, a foreign body such as allergens, splinters or bug bites, and to help us heal an injury.

When an injury occurs, the body releases chemical mediators to cause short-term inflammation. This is the first step for healing.

Acute inflammation (helpful inflammation) includes:

Pain: this helps us not overuse the injured body part.

Redness: This is due to an increase in blood flow to the capillaries in the injured area.

Loss of mobility/function: There may be difficulty moving a joint; this is to protect the joint from overuse before it is healed.

Swelling: This is due to fluid buildup.

Heat: This is from the increased blood flow and may leave the area warm to the touch.

These symptoms are all normal, may occur to different degrees and are part of a healthy healing process.

Chronic inflammation (harmful inflammation) can develop due to:

Sensitivities: Inflammation can be due to the body sensing something that should not be there, such as an allergen.

Exposure: Toxins from our diet and environment can be a long-term irritant that can result in long-term inflammation.

Autoimmune disorders: This is when our immune system attacks normal, healthy tissue by mistake. Some examples are psoriasis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, Chron’s, ulcerative colitis and sinusitis.

Autoinflammatory diseases: Genetics can affect our immune response in a negative way.

Persistent acute inflammation: If the body does not recover from the acute inflammation, or signals in the body do not shut down acute inflammation at the appropriate time, this can lead to chronic inflammation.

There has been a lot of work done by researchers and practitioners, and they have learned many new pathways that can contribute to chronic (harmful) inflammation. Research has shown that genetics, nutrition and exposure to toxins can be a big contributor to chronic inflammation.

For an in-depth chart of these pathways, click here.

During the Covid pandemic, there has been a lot of research into the IL-6 pathway and its effect on inflammatory cytokines. Covid and overactive IL-6 has been shown to be a contributor to the “cytokine storm” that is a major problem in severe Covid cases. Research has found many things that can stimulate IL-6 and inflammatory cytokines to be over-released, leading to chronic, systemic inflammation. Studying a person’s genetics, labs and history can lead to uncovering some of the underlying imbalances that can lead to chronic inflammation.

IL-6 and inflammatory cytokines are important to fight infections, help with injuries and promote healing. Toxicity, genetics and lack of nutrients can cause this delicate balance to overreact or not turn off at the appropriate time, leading to chronic inflammation. There are many factors that can overstimulate IL-6 and inflammatory cytokine release (see below). This list illustrates that due to our environmental exposures, this can lead to or exacerbate chronic inflammation.

Working with a practitioner that understands the link between genetics and exposures, and the effect they have on the body’s metabolic function and response, is a good first step to unraveling many of the contributing factors leading to chronic inflammation.

Dr. Gary Kracoff is a naturopathic doctor and registered pharmacist at the Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center, located at 577 Main St., Waltham. For more information, call 781-893-3870 ext. 2 or visit

Factors that can overstimulate IL-6 and  inflammatory cytokine release include:

High blood sugar

Super Oxide (a helpful free radical but, can be harmful if at too high a level)

Mast cell imbalances





Lyme disease

EMF radiation


Lead, mercury, aluminum


High Omega-6


Angiotensin II

NOX enzyme elevation (NADPH Oxidase)


High homocysteine


Estriol (estrogen)

High levels of hydrogen peroxide