A mild fever? A twisted ankle? A lot of us brush off inflammation as being “normal.” And, let’s be honest, inflammation doesn’t sound that serious when far more worrisome conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are out there. However, researchers have suspected for years that these health issues and more have one common trigger: inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can present in many ways, such as autoimmune disease, that severely compromise your health. When inflammation levels increase, so does your risk of disease. But, when you get a disease, inflammation levels naturally increase as your body fights the condition. In other words, inflammation can be both good and bad.
A discovery call with our professionals can help you get started on the path to finding solutions.
What Is Chronic Inflammation?
We all need a small amount of inflammation to stay healthy. Acute inflammation is a normal immune response that acts as a defense mechanism in the event of injury or illness.
When your body’s inflammation response functions properly, it releases pro-inflammatory compounds when it senses a threat. When the threat has been addressed, your body should release anti-inflammatory compounds and return to a balanced state.
If your body’s pro-inflammatory immune cells continue to be released, though, you can develop chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a slow, creeping condition that keeps your body in a constant, long-term state of high alert. It causes excess immune cells to continually circulate in your system, which can damage healthy areas of your body.
How Do You Know if You Have Chronic Inflammation?
So how do you know if you have chronic inflammation? Some signs and symptoms you should look out for include:
- Skin outbreaks
- Digestive issues
- Shortness of breath
- Body aches and pains
- Changes in weight
- Frequent infections
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Depression and anxiety
- High blood sugar
If you have any of these symptoms, you may have chronic inflammation. You should also consider if you have any of the following risk factors that could increase your risk of developing long-term inflammation:
- Older age
- Poor diet
- Smoking habit
- Chronic stress
- Sleep problems
Why Is Chronic Inflammation Such a Problem?
When your body detects danger, it releases chemicals that alert your immune system. White blood cells are sent to the damaged area to eat bacteria, viruses, damaged cells, and debris. If the damage is too significant, the white blood cells call in backup. These backup cells –known as neutrophils – basically attack everything in sight, healthy or not.
Neutrophils have a short life span. But if you have chronic inflammation, your body continues to send neutrophils long after the real threat is gone. As the neutrophils attack healthy cells and tissues, it can trigger various chronic conditions.
Learn more about the dangers of chronic inflammation with our free online webinar.
Examples of Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation plays a vital role in your body’s healing, but chronic inflammation can increase the risk of various conditions. In fact, chronic inflammation is linked to most chronic health conditions, including:
Heart disease is probably one of the most common examples of chronic inflammation in the body. Inflammation can affect your heart’s ability to pump correctly, causing rapid or abnormal heart rhythms. Long-term, persistent inflammation has been linked to heart disease and potentially even heart attacks.
Inflammation of the thyroid gland can cause your body to over and under-produce thyroid hormones, which can lead to Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease.
Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Inflammation makes your body less responsive to insulin, causing blood sugar levels to creep higher and higher.
Over time, chronic inflammation can block anti-tumor immunity, damage your DNA, and trigger certain cancer cells.
Inflammation plays a role in contributing to digestive disorders and has been known to trigger ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Gut inflammation has been known to contribute to skin disorders like dermatitis herpetiformis, rosacea, acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
Inflammation causes the lining of your airways to swell and produce mucus, which can increase your chances of experiencing an asthma attack.
Multiple sclerosis is caused by damage to the myelin sheath, which surrounds and protects nerve cells throughout your body. Inflammation forms lesions that damage the protective covering and the underlying nerve cells.
If inflammation causes your immune system to attack the connective tissues in your body, it can lead to arthritis.
When inflammation in the sinuses leads to a sinus infection, it is called sinusitis. Essentially, inflammation blocks drainage in your sinuses, causing a build-up of mucus that leads to increased sinus pressure and facial pain.
Inflammation can lead to insulin resistance, and studies suggest it is linked to many conditions that may affect your fertility, such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Scientists have found a direct link between the body’s inflammatory response and the development of plaques in the brain that characterize Alzheimer’s disease.
Chronic inflammation can damage the cells in your endocrine glands. So oftentimes, the root cause of hormonal imbalance is inflammation.
Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety and more serious conditions like dementia or schizophrenia have all been linked to inflammation of the brain.
Recent studies show that inflammation can influence bone turnover, inducing osteoporosis. Persistent inflammation can also cause joint erosion and deformity, a loss of joint function, and damage internal organs and other parts of the body.
Chronic inflammation may initiate processes in the body that lead to Parkinson’s disease. Research shows that the disease might start because inflammation triggers an abnormal accumulation of certain proteins into clumps, leading to more inflammation and an ongoing cycle that progresses the disease.
Some of these conditions can be triggered or exacerbated by inflammation, while others can cause inflammation. This vicious cycle makes it unclear whether chronic inflammation has caused the condition or whether it is a symptom of the disease.
When to Seek Help for Inflammation
Most of the time, you don’t need to worry about acute inflammation. You can use some essential oils, take a natural remedy, take an over-the-counter pain reliever or apply cold compresses to reduce swelling. Otherwise, the inflammation should do its work to help you heal.
Chronic inflammation is trickier since it is often “invisible.” However, your condition may be chronic if you notice you have symptoms that are impacting your ability to function or symptoms that last for more than six weeks.
What You Can Do to Manage Chronic Inflammation
The first thing you can do to address chronic inflammation is to practice a healthy lifestyle by eating a nutritious diet and staying active. Lifestyle modifications such as these are the best approach to reducing your risk of inflammation and reversing its symptoms. If you are concerned about your risk of inflammation or think you may already be experiencing symptoms of chronic inflammation, contact Tri-Cities Functional Medicine. We can help.
You don’t have to be ruled by inflammation. We can work with you to keep inflammation at bay.
Take the first step:
- Watch a free webinar to learn about our approach to the health concerns you are facing.
- Schedule a Free Discovery Call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.
- After your discovery call – if we are a good fit, you’ll schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan for you.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA.