You hear it all the time. Inflammation is terrible. Worldwide, 3 of 5 people die due to chronic inflammatory diseases like stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. And far more people are impacted. But what exactly is inflammation? And what do we do about it?
There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. We’ve all seen acute inflammation. You roll your ankle and it swells up and turns red and hot. When the body is injured, your immune system releases white blood cells to surround and protect the area, while body fluids gather in the area causing swelling. This swelling is acting as a physiological brace to keep you from causing further injury. This same process holds true for infections, cuts, and colds. Acute inflammation is how your body heals and protects against illness and injury.
It’s only when inflammation lingers that it causes problems. Chronic inflammation typically results from the following:
- Failure of eliminating the agent causes an acute inflammation such as infectious organisms that can resist host defenses and remain in the tissue for an extended period.
- Exposure to a low level of a particular irritant or foreign material that cannot be eliminated by enzymatic breakdown.
- An autoimmune disorder in which the immune system recognizes the normal component of the body as a foreign antigen, and attacks healthy tissue giving rise to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
- A defect in the cells responsible for mediating inflammation leading to persistent or recurrent inflammation, such as auto-inflammatory disorders.
- Recurrent episodes of acute inflammation. However, in some cases, chronic inflammation is an independent response and not a sequel to acute inflammation for example diseases such as tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Inflammatory and biochemical inducers are causing oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction such as increased production of free radical molecules, advanced glycation end products (AGEs), uric acid (urate) crystals, oxidized lipoproteins, homocysteine, and others.
Research has shown that chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Inflammation also accounts for a significant percentage of gynecological disease and unexplained infertility.
The only way to truly know your inflammatory levels are to see your doctor, where they can give you a blood test, called the hsCRP, to measure a protein produced by the liver, C-reactive protein (CRP), which rises in response to inflammation. Another blood test, to measure the erythrocyte sedimentation rate is used for people with diagnosed inflammatory conditions, like Rheumatoid Arthritis. Although, many doctors don’t use the hsCRP test because for the most part, they believe the results would not change your treatment.
So how do you know if you have chronic inflammation, if you don’t get a blood test? You listen to your body. Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include aches and pains, poor sleep, depression or anxiety, GI issues (constipation or diarrhea), weight gain, weight loss, or fatigue
Five Ways You Can Prevent or Reduce Chronic Inflammation:
- Eat a primarily alkaline diet, full of leafy greens and fresh vegetables.
- Eliminate or cut back on gluten, alcohol, dairy and sugar from your diet and limit processed foods as these can all lead to immune responses.
- Supplements such as Omegas, Lipoic Acid, and Curcumin have been proven to be highly anti-inflammatory. Add these into your morning routine with a good multivitamin.
- Exercise: A 2017 study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Include a mindfulness practice and get regular acupuncture to reduce inflammation, reduce stress and promote sleep.
Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
Weiss G, Goldsmith LT, Taylor RN, Bellet D, Taylor HS. Inflammation in reproductive disorders. Reprod Sci. 2009;16(2):216-229. doi:10.1177/1933719108330087