Inflammation is your immune system’s response to a perceived threat. When you are injured or fighting off an infection, inflammation is crucial for maintaining health and healing. But sometimes, this immune response happens when it shouldn’t.
Exposure to toxins, chronic stress, and eating unhealthy foods can all trigger long-lasting inflammation in your body that persists over time. Chronic inflammation is when inflammation lingers instead of moving in, healing the problem, and then returning to normal. This chronic state of inflammation can lead to many health problems, including arthritis, heart disease, or even cancer.
Preventing chronic inflammation helps lower your risk of developing other diseases. Here’s how to identify what is causing your chronic inflammation and steps to find healing.
Functional medicine can help you identify the source of your inflammation and take steps to become healthier and happier. Watch our free webinar to learn more..
Signs and Symptoms of Inflammation
The signs of acute inflammation are easy to identify: flushed skin, pain, swelling, or heat. But the signs of chronic inflammation are more difficult to spot. Signs of chronic inflammation can include:
- Brain fog
- Joint pain or stiffness
- Mouth sores
- Skin rashes
Identifying Inflammatory Triggers
Not only is inflammation connected to long-lasting problems inside your body, but it can also affect your skin and your mental health. It’s no surprise that everyone is looking for ways to find the source of the inflammation to prevent it from occurring.
Here are some of the most common triggers of chronic inflammation.
When your body undergoes physical trauma – for example, after a car accident – the inflammation is typically temporary and related to a specific injury. However, if the injury is not treated properly or your system becomes overwhelmed, the localized inflammation can become generalized and involve the whole body, leading to chronic inflammation.
In some cases, chronic inflammation is not due to your body’s failure to kill an infection, but rather a failure to stop the inflammation once your immune system has successfully dealt with an infection.
Your diet – particularly your carbohydrate intake – can play a crucial factor in triggering inflammation. When you consume a large amount of refined carbohydrates, your digestive system will begin to break down some of the carbohydrates into sugar. As a result, your body has to produce a large insulin load to absorb some of that sugar for energy or storage. During this process, an inflammatory response will begin.
Other foods that contribute to inflammation include sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, and processed meats.
Further, certain nutritional deficiencies can cause your immune system to become dysfunctional, affecting your body’s healing processes and resulting in chronic inflammation.
Exposure to toxins adds to your body’s “toxic inflammatory burden.” What exactly does this mean?
Our bodies are constantly exposed to toxins. When exposure happens, the toxins bind to proteins in your body, creating a structure your body doesn’t recognize. This triggers an inflammatory response to try to destroy the toxins. However, because exposure is ongoing, the inflammatory response does not resolve.
When you’re stressed, your body goes into a “fight-or-flight response.” This response is typically short-term. However, during this time, your body’s normal immune function temporarily shuts down because it devotes all its energy and resources to protect you from the thing causing the stress. If you are chronically stressed, though, your body’s inflammatory response can start to go haywire.
6. Physical Inactivity
Many studies show that physical inactivity is associated with increased inflammation. A lack of exercise constricts your joints and causes your muscles to stiffen, worsening your inflammation and leading to increased pain.
We all know the symptoms of allergies – red itchy, runny eyes, swelling and irritation in your airways. These symptoms are signs of inflammation. Any allergies, whether it be food, toxins, or pollen, can trigger an inflammatory flare-up.
Fighting Off Inflammation
Fighting inflammation in the body is a hot-button topic. There is no magic fix to make you fully immune to inflammation, but you can make some simple lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of flare-ups. Even better, you can heal your inflammation naturally and safely.
1. Take Care of Injuries
Prevent acute inflammation from becoming chronic by properly caring for and treating your injuries. In general, it is best to apply heat to the injury before use and then ice after use to decrease inflammation.
2. Eat a Nutritious Diet and Heal Your Gut
Eat lots of vegetables, fruit, fish, and lean meats to give your body the nutrients it needs to ward off inflammation. Avoid processed foods, fried foods, added sugars, and high-glycemic index foods, which can all worsen inflammation.
The Mediterranean diet is a great place to start if you are looking to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Eat probiotic foods such as kimchee, kefir, or fermented sauerkraut to maximize your gut health and enhance your immunity.
3. Find New Ways to Manage Stress
There are many research-backed ways to reduce stress. You could also practice deep breathing, go for a walk in nature, try journaling, or even take a hot bath to lower your stress and reduce inflammation.
4. Eliminate Toxins
Look at the foods you eat as well as your home and personal products and remove anything that contains toxins. Toxins could include BPA, which is commonly found in canned foods; mercury, which is found is certain fish or sushi; and glycol ethers, which is commonly found in paint, cosmetics, and household cleaners.
5. Add Exercise to Your Routine
Keep up a consistent exercise routine to alleviate inflammation. Studies show that just 20 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to stimulate your immune system, producing an anti-inflammatory response.
6. Keep Rested
Get plenty of quality sleep so your body has time to repair and heal itself. The circadian rhythms that control your sleep cycle also impact your immune system, meaning they also affect inflammation.
7. Avoid Allergens and Maximize Your Antioxidants
If you have allergies, particularly food allergies, take steps to find out what they are and then remove those foods from your diet.
Eat a diet that is rich in vitamin C and vitamin E to reduce immune imbalances and help with allergic responses. Vitamin D has also been linked to reducing allergic asthma responses.
8. Work with a Functional Medicine Doctor
Functional medicine focuses on finding and correcting the root of your inflammation. When the source of your pain is identified, steps can then be taken to heal your body and reduce your inflammation.
Using Functional Medicine to Heal Inflammation
Reducing inflammation isn’t always quick or easy, but at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we work with you to find the root of your inflammation and restore your health. Here’s where to start if you want to better understand how inflammation affects your body:
- Watch a free webinar to learn more about our holistic approach to treating inflammation.
- 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 for you – schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan to reach your health goals.
Ready to reduce your inflammation and heal your pain? Talk with one of our Practice Member Coordinators today.
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.