The Icelandic volcano that erupted and was responsible for crippling air travel throughout Europe over the past few weeks, is still continuing to wreak havoc on a global scale affecting commerce, welfare and even health with a cost into the billions of dollars. It is hard to believe that all of this "fallout" emanated from one volcano on a small island country just south of the Arctic Circle. Yet, this phenomenal geologic event is also analogous to what could be going on in your body right now. And, there's a biologic "volcanic eruption" that can occur inside you, that can also wreak havoc on many levels- threatening the welfare of your entire body, and even your life.
The simple explanation of a volcanic eruption is that pressure from magma, molten rock from the earth's upper mantle or lower crust, and its dissolved gasses rises and increases to a point until an eruption occurs. The "magma" or fire within your body is known as inflammation. A complex biological response, inflammation is an essential process by which our body can protect itself, keeping infections, allergens, toxins, and other stresses under control. In a controlled release, as with the earth's magma, this is a good thing, as the body regulates and protects itself. The classic signs are pain, swelling, redness, and heat-as with a bad sore throat or infected hangnail. Healing comes and things return to normal.
However, big problems happen when this process is not in balance, and your body is as unprepared for the fallout as millions were from the Icelandic volcano spewing uncontrolled volcanic ash that blanketed most of Western Europe. Under stress, the natural balance of the immune system, which produces just enough inflammation to heal from harmful stimuli, continues on overdrive. The immune system shifts into a chronic state of alarm, with inflammation rising like magma under the earth's crust. Stress can promote a state of damaging chronic inflammation that can lead to an "eruption," like heart attack, stroke, or even cancer.
In the mouth, stress can manifest as periodontal (gum) disease, one of the largest sources of this chronic low grade inflammation in the body. It can result in a ten times greater chance of a heart attack or stroke, a seven times greater chance of type 2 diabetes, or seven times greater chance of a premature low weight baby if you are a pregnant woman with gum disease. In a recent study from Harvard University, men with advanced gum disease also had a 67 precent higher incidence of pancreatic cancer. The cost of the "fallout" from these debilitating diseases and illnesses is devastating to our economy with healthcare costs in the trillions of dollars.
Just as there are geologic diagnostic markers that can signal an impending volcanic eruption, there are signals for chronic inflammation in the body that can be a harbinger of the same. These include C-reactive proteins (CRP) levels which are released by the liver under chronic inflammation. An important way to be aware of a problem is to have a blood test to look for these important inflammatory markers. Prevention always remains key and you can start by what you put inyour body. Remember the "A-list" for nutritional support: Alkaline, Antioxidant -rich, and Anti-inflammatory. So, don't wait for a 'volcano to erupt' inside you, because that one just may keep you "grounded"- for life!
Dr. Gerry Curatola is a renowned aesthetic dentist and pioneer in the emerging field of rejuvenation dentistry, which improves patients' overall health and appearance by integrating total wellness with cutting edge oral care and restorative procedures. In addition to his private practice, research, and work as a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, he is an internationally sought after speaker, author and expert who has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. For more information, go to