Jerome Groopman’s article, “Inflamed, Debate Over the Latest Cure-All Phase” Misreads Chronic Inflammation’s Genuine Meaning

In his recent article in The New Yorker Magazine, Dr. Jerome Groopman says: “For centuries, scientists have debated whether inflammation is good or bad for us. Now we believe that it’s both: too little, and microbes fester and spread in the body, or wounds fail to heal; too much, and nearby healthy tissue can be degraded or destroyed. The fire of inflammation must be tightly controlled—turned on at the right moment and, just as critically, turned off. Lately, however, several lines of research have revealed that low-level inflammation can simmer quietly in the body, in the absence of overt trauma or infection, with profound implications for our health” (italics are mine).

If it is true that scientists endlessly debate the goodness or badness of inflammation common sense may dictate otherwise.

When the vital force is strong an acute illness features a perfectly timed inflammatory response of exactly the right “amount.” Groopman’s understanding of two kinds of inflammation, one too much and the other too little both describe what homeopaths such as myself would ascribe to a chronic illness. In the case of too little inflammation, an underlying psychic issue or overwhelming pathological intrusion stymies and overwhelms the immune system rendering the normally healthful response inadequate to the problem. In that case the remedy chosen must address the underlying mental/emotion problem, not just the physical manifestation. Groopman’s notion of too much inflammation, an immune system that fails to turn itself off represents the chronic condition of autoimmunity, rampant in modern times. In that case addressing why the immune system has become hysterical needs to be addressed.

Groopman’s unwillingness or inability to ask WHY inflammation is quietly simmering in the body in the absence of overt trauma or infection reflects a blind spot in medicine, the connection (actually identity) between chronic inflammation and autoimmune conditions. Rather than asking how best to control inflammation so that the right amount is produced he and his fellow scientists should be asking, “Why is there so much autoimmunity of which chronic inflammation, the body’s battling phantom antagonists is a mere symptom?”

Chronic inflammation of the brain for example, such is seen in conditions like Alzheimers disaease and autism reflect glial tissue overload. A newly emerging concept, glial overload refers to systematic metabolic degeneration leading to a general overheating of the nervous system’s neuroglial cells. This is described as the degeneration phase f(the last phase in a cascade of six) described in the field of homotoxicology.

Glial overload refers to an ongoing neuroinflammatory process that is damaging to the mitochondria (cell powerhouses) in different regions of the brain and activates a special type of glia known as the microglia. Microglia function as macrophages in the brain and spinal cord (like little Pacmen that eat other cells) and thus constitute the first and main form of active immune defense in the central nervous system. So activating the microglia, the brain’s main immune defense cells, begins the process of autoimmunity in the brain that my book, Autism Reversal Toolbox refers to as the Neural Autoimmune Miasm.

Gut glia can become dysregulated due to toxic overlaoad, but also via genetic and epigenetic causes that prompt gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. As I have written in Autism Reversal Toolbox,

“A developmental explanation is helpful. As we develop from child to adult, our intestines must rise to the challenge of breaking down food so that the immune system can fully mature and the microbiome [i.e. gut flora] can be well balanced.”

The ileocecal valve is the nutritive hinge between the inner and outer universe, just as the lungs are the respiratory hinge between the inner and outer universe.[1] (Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Small Intestine/Heart relationship thus reflects how the intestines augment the sense of self, with the Heart representing one’s soul). That a strong sense of self and confidence among one’s peers reflects Small Intestine/Heart balance is borne out by a recent discovery that the gut’s germs influence our behavior: the behavioral preference of germs in a healthy microbiome is for the host to be socially adept, able to bond with others.[2]

Leaky gut, on the other hand (the breakdown of the mucosal lining), reflects a sense of general danger such as can prompt inflammatory anxiety and the diminished ability to overcome social and other challenges within the sense dimension of Taste.


[1] The ileocecal valve, positioned between the ileum (last portion of your small intestine) and the cecum (first portion of your large intestine) is a hinge in that it has the dual function of allowing digested food materials to pass from the small intestine into your large intestine while also blocking waste materials from backing back up into your small intestine.

[2] Zimmer, C. How bacteria may control us. New York Times Science section, 8/19/2014, pg. D1.

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