Chances are you experience inflammation quite frequently in your everyday life – a twisted ankle, a sunburn, puffy eyes from a cold, insect bites. Inflammation occurs when something damages the cells in your body, causing it to release chemicals that make your immune system leap into action and defend against viruses, bacteria, and toxins.
In the short term, inflammation is extremely useful in helping your body fight against various ailments. It lets your immune system know that there’s something wrong and acts immediately. This natural type of inflammation is referred to as acute inflammation, which is a natural part of the body’s healing process. However, inflammation is not something your body is meant to undergo all day every day. Short-term inflammation can easily turn into chronic inflammation, leaving you open to more illness and even disability.
When chronic inflammation occurs, the effects linger and leave your body in a constant state of panic. Over time, chronic inflammation can start to have a negative impact on tissues and organs. Inflammation has been linked to many serious illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, thyroid conditions, and more.
Here at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we know how debilitating chronic inflammation can be. We’re here to give you hope. Our functional medicine practice is based in Johnson City, Tennessee, and we work with people from all over the Tri-Cities area. This includes Kingsport, Knoxville, Greenville, and Abingdon in Virginia.
We can help you find the root cause of your chronic inflammation. Schedule a free discovery call.
How Inflammation Affects Your Body
Chronic inflammation weakens and suppresses the immune system, creating stress on the body. When the immune switch is constantly turned on, it can affect all systems of the body:
- Brain: Inflammation of the brain can manifest as fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and dementia.
- Gut: Inflammation in the gut can cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gas, bloating, pain, cramping, and malabsorption.
- Thyroid: If the thyroid is inflamed, you may experience autoimmunity, low thyroid function, and abnormal hormone levels.
- Liver: Inflammation causes increased stress on the liver, leading to damaged cells and elevated liver enzymes.
- Heart: Inflammation affects the control of the autonomic nervous system, which can lead to poor blood pressure control and hypertension. Hypertension damages blood vessels, the heart, and kidneys.
Signs You Have Chronic Inflammation
Chronic inflammation can reveal itself in a variety of ways, but these 10 signs are the most if you are dealing with chronic inflammation:
- Joint Pain: When inflammation occurs in the joints, it can cause serious damage, leading to pain and stiff joints. As inflammation breaks down the tissue in the joints, you may find it increasingly difficult to move around and complete everyday activities.
- Muscle Stiffness: Inflammation damages the muscle fibers, which causes weakness, and can affect the arteries and blood vessels that pass through muscle.
- Digestive Issues: IBS, frequent upset stomach, chronic diarrhea, loss of appetite, or constipation are all signs that you could be suffering from chronic inflammation.
- Fatigue: It requires a lot of resources for your body to fight inflammation. Unfortunately, you may not have enough energy left over to carry on in your everyday life.
- Brain Fog: Chronic inflammation hinders your body’s ability to properly clear out toxins. When toxins build up, you may experience symptoms of brain fog.
- Frequent Headaches: If you suffer from chronic headaches, your body might be mounting an attack against inflammation in your sinuses. Inflammation can also cause swelling to push on nerve endings, which in turn causes pain.
- Skin Issues: Eczema, psoriasis, and hives are all signs that your body is fighting against chronic inflammation.
- Persistent Fever: Because the body is working hard and using a lot of energy to fend off potential harm, chronic inflammation can cause a persistent fever.
- Chronic Allergies: When you have chronic inflammation, your body may start to see benign things as threats, such as foods, flowers, trees, and other irritants.
- Constant Chills: Chills are commonly caused by inflammatory disease. If you constantly experience chills, chronic inflammation could be the cause.
Learn more about treating inflammation by watching our free online webinar.
Common Triggers of Inflammation
So what causes chronic inflammatory responses? Here are some common triggers:
- Processed and Junk Foods: Processed and junk foods are packed with inflammatory ingredients and lack nutrients, such as antioxidants, that help prevent and repair the damage from inflammation.
- Added Sugars: Excessive sugar can cause an immune response and lead to inflammation. It also can cause insulin resistance and increased blood sugar, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and strokes.
- Gluten: When gluten is eaten, villi become inflamed and flattened. Those with celiac disease have damaged intestinal villi that cannot process gluten. But patients who do not have celiac disease can also show similar symptoms of pain, bloating, and fatigue after consuming gluten.
- Lifestyle Choices: Drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco both trigger inflammation in the body. Excessive drinking can create intestinal inflammation, affecting your gut and other organs, like the liver. Smoking nicotine activates certain white blood cells, called neutrophils, which in turn release molecules that lead to increased inflammation.
- High Cortisol Levels: Stress and lack of sleep both cause cortisol levels to rise. High cortisol levels influence your metabolism and can trigger chronic inflammation.
- Physical Inactivity: Physical inactivity leads to visceral fat accumulation-induced chronic inflammation and is commonly accompanied by fatigue and muscle wasting.
- Polluted Air: When you breathe in pollutants from the air, it triggers your body to fight back with an immune response. Extended exposure to pollutants or harsh chemicals can lead to chronic inflammation.
Natural Treatments for Inflammation
Fortunately, you can reduce inflammation by avoiding foods that trigger inflammation, eliminating vices, reducing your stress levels, getting enough sleep, exercising more, and steering clear of harsh chemicals.
Fill Up on Fresh, Real Foods
One of the easiest steps you can take to reduce inflammation is changing your diet. A plant-based diet that emphasizes whole, fresh, unprocessed foods that are not charred or deep fried can help treat inflammation. If you do eat meat products, try to only buy products from grass-fed rather than grain-fed animals. Aim to consume healthy fats and oils, such as Omega 3 fats, nuts, avocados, and olives, and avoid refined sugars and corn syrup.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
It’s important to stay vigilant about your health, but many of us take up some bad habits, and sometimes those habits stick with us for too long. If you smoke, make a plan to quit; if you drink more than moderate amounts of alcohol, try to reduce your intake.
Reduce Stress Levels
Continual stress weakens the immune system and promotes chronic inflammation. Try meditating or practicing mindfulness to help your brain manage stress levels. Certain supplements, time spent outdoors, or exercises such as yoga can also aid in reducing stress.
Get Enough Sleep
Even just one night of disrupted sleep can lead to increased inflammation. Eating a lighter dinner, shutting off electronics an hour before bed, and developing an evening ritual can help you get more sleep at night.
Move Your Body
Regular, light exercise is a great way to reduce inflammation. Just be careful to not overdo it, as you can make the problem worse if you push too hard and injure yourself.
Avoid Chemicals and Toxins
You are probably exposed to chemicals and toxins regularly – whether in your home (cleaning and garden supplies, cosmetics, food) or in the workplace (chemical exposures, fumes, inhalants, radiation). Identify the potential sources that you encounter and devise a plan to avoid breathing in those pollutants as much as possible.
Functional Medicine Can Help
Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of chronic inflammation. A proper evaluation with our functional medicine doctor can provide you with an individualized treatment plan to help reduce your inflammation. With all the information out there, it can be hard to know what to do on your own. We provide the support you need to get your life back!
If you’re ready to take control of your health, schedule a free discovery call 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.