Understanding and Combating Chronic Inflammation

The body has many different processes to defend itself, including inflammation. Chronic inflammation refers to the body remaining in an elevated response state. When the body senses potential dangers, such as an infection or injury, it responds through a process broadly referred to as inflammation. Chronic inflammation occurs when that process lasts for several months or even years. We're going to break down the symptoms of chronic inflammation and look at ways to combat it.

Acute Vs. Chronic Inflammation

There are two types of inflammation: Acute and chronic. Acute inflammation symptoms last only a few days. Symptoms may include redness, pain, problems with function, swelling and/or heat.

Causes of acute inflammation could include injury, infection, or being exposed to something that triggers the inflammation like a bee sting. The immune system responds to such situations by releasing white blood cells that travel to the affected area. It might take moments of just a few hours for symptoms of acute inflammation to reveal themselves. In some cases, it may take several days but acute means sudden and usually short-lived in the greater sense.

In contrast, chronic inflammation may last months or years. It may be linked to other conditions, such as allergies, diabetes and arthritis.

Chronic inflammation may occur if the body is extra sensitive to something in the environment and the irritation sets up inflammation that never seems to abate.

Autoimmune disorders also may result in chronic inflammation. These disorders cause the body to launch an attack on healthy tissue, as is the case with psoriasis. Chronic inflammation may also develop from acute inflammation.

Chronic Inflammation Symptoms

Certain symptoms are typical of chronic inflammation, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. These symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Mood disorders such as depression or anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Weight changes

Combating Chronic Inflammation With Diet

Diet changes may help alleviate chronic inflammation in multiple ways. In overweight individuals, weight loss has been linked to improving inflammation for conditions such as psoriatic arthritis. But even those with chronic inflammation who do not need to lose weight may benefit from making some diet changes.

Following a low-glycemic diet, for example, may reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This type of diet limits the consumption of foods that promote inflammation, such as refined carbohydrates like cake or white bread, sodas and fructose corn syrup.

A diet that contains omega-3 polyunsaturated fats may reduce inflammation, while saturated and synthetic trans-fats increase your risk. To increase omega-3s, add a dash of ground flax to a meal every day. To reduce trans-fats, limit consumption of foods like baked goods made with corn and soybean and vegetable oils.

Eating fruit and vegetables is imperative for health. Foods in this category that may protect us from inflammation and even ease symptoms include cherries, blueberries, apples, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Eating foods high in fiber, such as whole grains and nuts like almonds, also may help reduce levels of inflammation and feed gut bacteria.

Before changing anything drastic in your diet, check with a health-care provider to learn about any restrictions or additions they might recommend.

Battling Chronic Inflammation With Supplements or Drugs

Certain supplements or medications may help ease the symptoms of inflammatory diseases. For example, it may help to add magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc and selenium to your daily routine. Other little considered supplements that may ease inflammation include ginger, turmeric, fish oil and possibly cannabis.

Drugs may help certain conditions that are linked to inflammation. A physician, for example, might prescribe Metformin to a diagnosed type II diabetic patient with dyslipidemia and low-grade inflammation. Those in pain from arthritis may experience some relief by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin. Immunosuppressants may help to manage certain autoimmune diseases.

Always check with your healthcare provider before starting or changing the dosage of any prescription medication, over-the-counter drug or supplement.

Battling Chronic Inflammation Through Lifestyle Changes

Although you can’t control every risk factor for chronic inflammation, certain lifestyle changes might help.

  • Exercise. Exercising regularly might offer multiple benefits. Inflammation risks are higher for those who are overweight so controlling weight is essential. In addition to helping to regulate weight, exercise may lower the risk of heart disease and build strength.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep disorders increase the risk of chronic inflammation. Aim for at least seven hours a night, and talk with a health-care provider if you face challenges in getting enough sleep.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking creates inflammation.
  • Avoid stress. Reducing stress may ease mood disorders while helping the body to respond to inflammation. Yoga and/or meditation, drinking green tea every day, walking, journaling, or taking up a creative art may help with stress as well.

A diagnosis of chronic inflammation may help provide the motivation to improve your overall well-being but almost everyone could stand to reduce their inflammation load. So tackling it while also seeking help from a physician is a great strategy. From changing your diet to quitting smoking to getting enough sleep, you can almost certainly enhance your health by making it a goal to reduce overall inflammation.

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6/19/2020 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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