Inflammation
1 Case Studies
95 Research

Inflammation is the natural process of your body to fight against anything that harms it, including injuries, infections, and toxins. The reason why inflammation is so crucial is that it's been proven to be a participant in nearly every chronic disease

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the natural process of your body to fight against anything that harms it, including injuries, infections, and toxins. Inflammation is an indication that the body is attempting to heal itself. Inflammation is a sign that your body is protecting itself & trying to remove harmful stimuli to begin the healing process. Inflammation has an important role in the body's immune response.

 When there is something that causes damage to your cells, the body releases chemicals that trigger an immune response. This response includes the release of specific proteins and antibodies and also increases the blood flow to the affected area. The entire process takes around a couple of hours to a few days in the case of acute inflammation. 

What is Chronic Inflammation?

Chronic inflammation is what happens when this process takes a longer time, thus leaving your body in a continued state of alert. Over a period of time, chronic inflammation can harm your organs and tissues. 

The reason why inflammation is so crucial is that it's been proven to be a participant in nearly every chronic disease, which affects approximately 133 million people in the US alone.

Research done by the Sapienza Università di Roma in Italy in 2011 found that chronic inflammation has a role to play in a variety of chronic conditions - from asthma to cancer.[1]

What causes chronic inflammation?

White blood cells that creep into the walls of the arteries are important contributors to cardiovascular disease. Inflammation is caused by a number of physical reactions triggered by the immune system in reaction to a physical injury or a disease.

Three major processes occur before and during acute inflammation. First, the little branches of arteries expand when providing blood to the damaged area, leading to increased blood circulation. Then, the capillaries become simpler for proteins and fluids to infiltrate, meaning that they can move between cells and blood. Finally, the body releases neutrophils (white blood cells full of little sacs that contain enzymes to digest microorganisms).

The issue with inflammation is that over time, you may wind up with too much of a good thing. With chronic inflammation, your body is on high alert all the time. The protracted state of emergency may cause lasting damage to your heart, brain, and other organs. When inflammatory cells stay for a long time in blood vessels, they encourage the buildup of harmful plaque. The body sees this plaque as an invader and sends more of its first soldiers. Since the plaque continues to build, the arteries can thicken, which makes a heart attack or stroke far more likely. 

Signs & symptoms of chronic inflammation

1. You are always tired

Inflammation in the body can be caused either by too little sleep.[2] If you are not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep every night, then there is a chance that you have inflammation in the body, making you feel tired all the time. 

Too much sleep throws off the body's inflammatory responses.[3] Due to this, the body's cells start responding with an inappropriate amount of inflammation. One can almost say that your body treats inadequate sleep or too much sleep as if it is an illness. Therefore, the body believes that you are sick, and it needs to react accordingly. 

As we all know, fatigue is the biggest symptom you experience when you are getting inadequate sleep. Fatigue is one of the biggest signs of chronic inflammation in the body. So if you find yourself constantly feeling exhausted, even after getting the necessary amount of sleep, then you should think about seeing a doctor. It is necessary to figure out why you are so tired, and if the underlying cause is because of not getting enough sleep, then your doctor will advise you on steps to take to correct your sleeping cycle.

 

2. Aches and pains throughout the body

If you have recurring aches and pains, then it might be a sign that you are suffering from chronic inflammation. Experiencing pain regularly is another huge indicator of inflammation. 

If you are not in pain, but experience pain at the end of doing some activity, such as touching your toes or rotating your shoulders, then that is also associated with chronic inflammation. Some people may experience both fatigue and pain that comes and goes without being able to accurately pinpoint why they are experiencing these symptoms.[4]

Pain can also be a sign that you have some type of arthritis, which is, again, a significant contributor to inflammation in the body. This is why it is so crucial that you bring it up in front of your doctor because you should not be having to deal with pain without any known reason.[5]

 

3. Digestive Issues

While everyone experiences a bout of diarrhea or fullness now and then, ongoing digestive symptoms can be a sign of chronic inflammation, especially pointing to inflammation in the gut. 

Inflammation in the gut can lead to diarrhea, feeling the need to urgently have a bowel movement, abdominal cramping, and even bloating while these symptoms can also be due to a food allergy or a medical condition such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or even any other chronic inflammation-causing condition in the gut. 

If you notice that you are experiencing ongoing digestive issues, then it is imperative to let your doctor know about the same. Digestive issues always take some time to get diagnosed as the symptoms of these are similar across many conditions.

 

4. Having a Stuffy nose or Nasal Congestion

When you have chronic inflammation in the body, your body will react in a variety of ways to let you know that something is wrong somewhere. These reactions can be different for everyone, but one of the common ways that the body tries to communicate that something is wrong to include inflamed nasal cavities and watery eyes.[6 ]

You may feel like you have a stuffy nose due to seasonal allergies and watery eyes from the pressure in the nasal cavity or behind the eyes, but this is also a sign that you are suffering from chronic inflammation. 

In some people, high levels of stress and lack of sleep can also cause inflammation in the body, leading to a stuffy nose. Having a stuffy nose does not only indicate that you have allergies or that you may be down with the common cold. It can also be a sign that there is inflammation present in the body.

 

5. You are plagued by headaches

In people with migraine and chronic headaches, it might be possible that they suffer from what is known as neurogenic inflammation.[7] People who are having a recent onset of headaches or migraines, or have noticed a change in their previous pattern of headaches or migraines, should undergo a complete neurological examination to rule out any underlying medical condition.[8]

Do keep in mind that there are many environmental triggers as well that can lead to headaches and migraines. So make sure to rule these factors out before you suspect inflammation as being the underlying cause of your headaches.  

Chronic inflammation vs acute inflammation

Acute inflammation is a healthy response that functions to protect and repair the body from something harmful, whether that be a disease in a reduction or a strained muscle. Proof of acute inflammation can be viewed in scabbing, redness, pus, and swelling. You will notice pain, redness, swelling, and warmth in the region. But once all of the cells in the inflammatory response have done their job and the injury is healed, that inflammation disappears. That's the sort of inflammation you wish to happen.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is not part of the body's natural recovery process and is the problematic one. It can happen if the immune system is attempting to fend off an illness, but is not having success. Chronic inflammation is a condition where dilated blood vessels and a hyped-up immune system become the new standard. The human body is not designed to deal with this unfocused immune activity, and chronic inflammation will lead to organ damage. White blood cells usually protect the body from illness, but the unchecked white cell activity of chronic inflammation may make you more prone to non-infectious conditions like cancer.

Conditions like asthma, allergies, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders have a clear inflammatory component, but studies imply that chronic inflammation may also be at the origin of other diseases. Chronic inflammation is believed to play a role in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, Alzheimer's disease, and the visible signs of aging.

Scientists aren't certain how chronic inflammation affects our health, but higher inflammation markers are a risk factor for the majority of the common diseases of aging. Our lifestyle and diet can make our own body over-produce inflammatory compounds. Knowing the causes and weapons against chronic inflammation can encourage us to correct our lifestyles for improved health.

 

Tests that may help identify inflammation

White blood cell count, Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) blood tests are commonly used to detect an increase in protein in the blood. In this way, they are used as biomarkers of inflammation. 

White blood cell count: A high white blood cell count is a sign that the immune system is activated and working to fend off a disease or injury. Chronically elevated white blood cells indicate the immune system is frequently in overdrive.

Sedimentation rate (ESR): Your sedimentation rate or ESR is a measure of how fast your red blood cells settle in a blood sample. Since red blood cells typically settle gradually, the fast speed of settling may indicate inflammation in the body.

High sensitivity c-reactive protein (hs-CRP): hs-CRP is a protein that's created in response to inflammation in the body. Individuals with greater hs-CRP values not only are inflamed but also have the maximum risk of cardiovascular disease and people with lower values have significantly less risk.

Taken together, they provide a fairly good idea as to whether inflammation is a problem, and doctors could also use them to monitor whether the inflammation is worsening or improving.

 

Natural remedies for chronic inflammation

The way to cure chronic inflammation

 

Some recommended strategies for fixing chronic inflammation are in adopting diet & lifestyle behavior modifications:

- Load up on anti-inflammatory foods as your food choices are just as important as the supplements and medications you might be taking for general health - they can protect against inflammation. Having more fruits, vegetables and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids will be a good start. Some of the greatest sources of omega-3s are cold-water fish, such as salmon and tuna, and tofu, walnuts, flax seeds, and seeds. Other anti-inflammatory foods include grapes, celery, blueberries, garlic, olive oil, tea and a few spices (ginger, rosemary, and garlic). The Mediterranean diet is a good example of an anti-inflammatory diet.

- Avoid foods that you're sensitive to. This is something we regularly check for or figure out with an elimination diet. Eliminate the foods which are known to cause inflammation, like sugar, dairy, and simple carbohydrates.

- Exercise. Regular exercise of moderate intensity enhances immune function and reduces inflammation. (Even occasional exercise has advantages, but high-intensity exercise may have a detrimental effect on the immune system.)

- Minimize stress and optimize how you react to it.

- Supplements like probiotics, turmeric, resveratrol, and fish oil are known to help fight inflammation.

Take note if you have symptoms that look consistent with inflammation, try to find it with blood tests and the advice of a doctor, and do your best to embrace an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. 

Summary

Chronic inflammation dramatically increases your risk of developing other serious diseases. Your doctor can diagnose inflammation with the help of some simple blood tests. Eating an anti-inflammation diet, taking medications and supplements, and leading a healthy lifestyle can help lower the risk of inflammation. Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking and maintain a healthy body weight will also help reduce the risk of inflammation and also work towards lowering your stress levels. Remember that high levels of chronic stress can also lead to chronic inflammation.

References

1. Scrivo, R., Vasile, M., Bartosiewicz, I. and Valesini, G., 2011. Inflammation as “common soil” of the multifactorial diseases. Autoimmunity reviews, 10(7), pp.369-374. 

2. Mullington, J.M., Simpson, N.S., Meier-Ewert, H.K. and Haack, M., 2010. Sleep loss and inflammation. Best practice & research Clinical endocrinology & metabolism, 24(5), pp.775-784. 

3. Irwin, M.R., Wang, M., Ribeiro, D., Cho, H.J., Olmstead, R., Breen, E.C., Martinez-Maza, O. and Cole, S., 2008. Sleep loss activates cellular inflammatory signaling. Biological psychiatry, 64(6), pp.538-540.

4. Louati, K. and Berenbaum, F., 2015. Fatigue in chronic inflammation-a link to pain pathways. Arthritis research & therapy, 17(1), p.254.

5. Kidd, B.L. and Urban, L.A., 2001. Mechanisms of inflammatory pain. British journal of anaesthesia, 87(1), pp.3-11.

6. Gargiulo, K.A. and Spector, N.D., 2010. Stuffy nose. Pediatrics in review, 31(8), p.320.

7. Geppetti, P. and Holzer, P., 1996. Neurogenic inflammation. Crc Press.

8. Richardson, J.D. and Vasko, M.R., 2002. Cellular mechanisms of neurogenic inflammation. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 302(3), pp.839-845.

9. Straub RH, Schradin C. Chronic inflammatory systemic diseases: An evolutionary trade-off between acutely beneficial but chronically harmful programs. Evol Med Public Health. 2016;2016(1):37–51. Published 2016 Jan 27. doi:10.1093/emph/eow001

10. Dr. Colin Tidy, Reviewed by Dr. Adrian Bonsall, https://patient.info/treatment-medication/blood-tests/blood-tests-to-detect-inflammation

 

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