inflammation

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In this article we are exploring what is inflammation, what are the various types of inflammation, what causes inflammation and what we can do to combat it.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation can be defined as the response of your immune system to an intruder in the body.

The intruder is a foreign body, such as an irritant or pathogen (infective agents like viruses and bacteria).

Inflammation is an element of the body’s defense mechanism, thus it is a part of how our body attempts to heal the body.

When cells in the body are damaged or encounter a potentially harmful agent, chemicals are released to activate the immune system. 

Related: 21 Best Foods That Boost The Immune System

The immune system responds by discharging antibodies and proteins that attack the intrusive particles and instigate cellular repair.

The components discharged by our immune system include inflammatory cells and cytokines (a substance that stimulates more inflammatory cells). 

Sometimes, the body identifies its own cells or tissues as a threat, and launches an attack on them; this condition leads to different kinds of autoimmune diseases.  

Types and Symptoms of Inflammation

There are two basic types of inflammation, namely ‘Acute’ (temporary) and ‘Chronic’ (long-term) inflammation. 

  1. Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation occurs as a sudden response to an injury or infective foreign body. For example, when you get stung by bees, get a paper cut, or catch a cold. Acute inflammation may last for a few hours or a couple of days. Common symptoms of acute inflammation include:

  • Pain – Continuous or when the affected area is touched. It may also arise when a wound is in contact with water or left exposed.  The injured area may become tender and hurt when moved, thereby causing temporary immobility. 
  • Redness – Redness is caused by an increase in blood supply within the capillaries of the affected area. This may heat up the affected area and trigger itchiness. The person may feel flushed, sweaty, and clammy due to this. 
  • Swelling – Sometimes, fluids build up at the site of injury and develop a symptom known as ‘edema’. The swelled area may appear red and puffy, and is usually painful when touched. Deep and contaminated wounds may develop into an abscess. 
  • Numbness/Loss of Function – People often lose their sense of smell and taste when they catch a cold. An injury may cause numbness and compromise the ability to move an affected body part or joint. 

Acute inflammation can also be silent, i.e. a person does not feel or observe any of the mentioned symptoms. However, they are likely to feel weak, tired, and unwell because of a fever. 

  1. Chronic Inflammation

If the inflammatory response in the body continues to reside even when there is no perceived threat or danger, it becomes chronic.

This type of inflammation is generally associated with some illness or disorder, and may occur in response to no obvious reason.

Chronic inflammation tends to have a negative effect on health, as the long-term progression may damage cells, tissues, and organs. It can linger for months, or even years if not detected, and when the underlying health issue is not diagnosed. 

The signs of chronic inflammation are a lot more subtle and negligible, as compared to acute inflammation. Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue – A person may feel exhausted and drained all the time. 
  • Painful Joints – Stiffness in the arms, neck, and legs reduces mobility, and may be mistaken as signs of aging or ergonomic injuries.
  • Body Pain – If slight pain is felt in multiple parts of the body for no apparent reason, it may indicate inflammation. Abdominal and chest pain are frequently occurring symptoms.
  • Weight loss/gain – noticeable fluctuations in weight that are hard to explain should be perceived as a red flag. 
  • Gastrointestinal problems – Constipation and diarrhea are common symptoms of inflammation in the gut. 
  • Depression – If you have been feeling overly anxious and down lately, it could be related to an inflammatory response. 
  • Rashes – Skin rashes that keep re-appearing and trigger itchiness and/or pain. 
  • Intermittent Sickness – If you are falling ill more than often and seem to have become increasingly susceptible to viral infections, it could be explained by a weakened immune system caused by chronic inflammation. 

Causes of Inflammation

If you are suffering from inflammation, the number of biomarkers, such as CRP (C-reactive protein), will increase in your body.

Doctors often diagnose inflammation by testing CRP levels in the bloodstream. As mentioned earlier, acute inflammation propagates in response to an injury/wound, exposure to harmful substance, or an infective agent.

On the contrary, chronic inflammation is usually associated with a serious health issue, and sometimes the underlying cause is unclear and complicated. 

Some common causes of chronic inflammation are:

  • An untreated or improperly treated injury/illness. Oftentimes, a disease or condition takes a long time to be diagnosed, which is the main reason for long-term inflammation. Under these circumstances, acute inflammation may progress to chronic inflammation. For example, some people who do not seek immediate medical attention after incurring an auto accident injury may experience greater damage later on. 
  • Prolonged exposure to inflammatory substances, such as air pollutants, industrial toxins, or contaminated food. It is important to note that everyone’s immune system is not developed the same way. The substance that triggers inflammation in your body may not affect everyone else around you exposed to the same situation. 
  • An autoimmune disease, which means that your own immune system conspires against you. Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease are among the most frequently observed autoimmune diseases. 

Health conditions largely associated with chronic inflammation:

Factors that increase the risk of Chronic Inflammation:

  • Hypersensitivity, allergic reactions
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Too much smoking
  • Chronic Stress and Anxiety
  • Bad eating habits/unhealthy diet
  • Low-level exposure to a toxic substance over a long period
  • Sleeping disorder/insomnia

Related: Ketogenic Diet reduces inflammation of the lungs (study)

How to treat Inflammation?

The treatment of inflammation depends upon its cause and severity; the treatment could be aimed at managing symptoms or eliminating an underlying health issue.

Acute inflammation may heal on its own in a matter of time. You may use an OTC drug or NSAID to ease the pain, apply a skin ointment to accelerate the healing of a wound and prevent scarring, or implement a home remedy like using a cold compress on the inflamed area. 

You may visit the doctor if the inflammation seems to be related to an infection. They shall prescribe an antibiotic or anti-fungal medication to fend off the pathogens.

Corticosteroids (a type of steroid hormone) are also quite effective against managing symptoms of inflammation; however, they can produce serious side effects, so never use them without the doctor’s instruction and prescription.

Many healthcare specialists recommend Vitamin and Zinc supplements to reduce and heal chronic inflammation. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies often contribute to inflammatory symptoms. 

Anti-inflammatory Diet

One of the most convenient and risk-free methods to cope with chronic inflammation is to shift towards an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the famous Mediterranean diet.

A wide range of organic foods and drinks can help reduce and overcome inflammation in the body.

Related: Make You Fall Asleep Fast, Relieve Pain and Inflammation, Reduce Cholesterol

Fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins and fiber are ideal for counteracting inflammatory symptoms.

Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon, as well as unprocessed nuts like almonds and walnuts are very useful for healing inflammation. Olive oil and tomatoes are also loaded with anti-inflammatory constituents. 

Make sure to eat lots of leafy greens (kale, spinach, lettuce, etc.), citrus fruits, and berries on a regular basis to keep inflammation at bay. Drinking lots of water throughout the day also prevents dehydration and inflammation. 

The following foods should be avoided, as they aggravate symptoms of inflammation:

  • Processed food containing high concentration of artificial sugars and/or saturated fats
  • Foods high in sodium and trans fat
  • Fried snacks
  • Cured and preserved meats
  • Refined carbs
  • Spicy and oily foods

Anti-inflammatory Herbs

The best anti-inflammatory remedies are based on natural ingredients that can be found at home.

Ginger and turmeric are commonly added to food and drink to relieve pain. People suffering from chronic inflammation should include turmeric milk and ginger tea in their daily diet plan.

If cannabis is legal in your country and state, you can use cannabis infused products to relieve pain and inflammation.

However, it is important to consume it in a controlled amount to sidestep hallucinatory side effects. Several other herbs like hyssop and devil’s claw are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties. 

Healthy Lifestyle Habits to Prevent and Eradicate Inflammation

In many cases, chronic inflammation can be prevented and overpowered by leading a healthy lifestyle.

woman running

For example, minimizing alcohol intake and quitting smoking can resolve the condition to a great degree.

Regular workout/exercise is crucial to strengthen the immune system and regulate one’s body mass.

Most people are able to eliminate inflammatory symptoms by losing extra pounds.

Another way to reduce chronic inflammation is to get rid of stress and tension. You may try yoga and meditation to achieve mindfulness and peace of mind. 

Final Take

Seek adequate medical treatment for your injuries and illnesses to avoid onset of chronic inflammation.

If you are suffering from a chronic illness, prioritize healthcare and visit the doctor for regular checkups.

Never ignore any signs and symptoms that indicate inflammation in the body. If home remedies and OTC drugs are not working, see the doctor as soon as possible.

About Author

John Adams

John Adams is a lifestyle blogger who concentrates on health, fitness, and self-development. He encourages readers to fight their fears and overcome obstacles holding them back. He believes that every person can improve the quality of his/her life by thinking positive and making better choices. He loves to share his insight on life experiences, and contributes on various online platforms in the same niche.

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