Struggling With Chronic Inflammation? Read This!
Inflammation refers to your body’s immune response to harmful substances like viruses, toxic chemicals, injuries, infections etc., in an effort to cure itself. In addition to increased blood flow to the wounded area, this immune response also involves the production of proteins and antibodies. The entire process lasts only for a few hours or in the case of acute inflammation like coping with a cold or an injury it may last for a few days. The result of this defence mechanism can be swelling, pain, bruising, and redness.
When this reaction persists, your body enters a condition of continuous alertness and chronic inflammation results. Your tissues and organs may suffer long-term effects of persistent inflammation. Your tissues and organs can be negatively affected over time by chronic inflammation. It could have a major role in conditions like cancer and stroke.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
Several reasons could lead to chronic inflammation. Some of them are
- Injuries and infections are left untreated.
- Irritants like industrial chemicals or contaminated air.
- Autoimmune disease i.e., when your immune system attacks healthy tissues by mistake.
It should be noted that not all of them who experience these problems develop chronic inflammation. There are also rare instances of persistent inflammation that lack a known underlying aetiology.
Some of the other factors that lead to chronic inflammation are
- Alcohol consumption
- Unhealthy diet
Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation
The symptoms of acute inflammation like swelling or rashes are visible. It is not so with chronic inflammation. Since the symptoms are subtle, they are generally ignored or overlooked. Some of the symptoms of chronic inflammation are:
- Body pain
- Anxiety or depression
- Infections that persist
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Gastrointestinal compilations like diarrhoea or constipation.
The symptoms can either be extreme or mild and can linger for years. If these symptoms are untreated, they could lead to other serious health issues.
Repercussions of Chronic Inflammation
The repercussions of untreated chronic inflammation symptoms can be drastic. The inflammatory response of your body will start affecting healthy cells, tissues and organs. This will eventually result in internal scarring, tissue loss, and DNA damage. All of this can trigger the development of several medical conditions like
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Age-related cognitive issues like dementia
Diagnosis of Chronic Inflammation
There are no specific tests for the diagnosis of chronic inflammation as it cannot be diagnosed on its own. Blood tests that focus on C-reactive protein (CRP) that indicate inflammation and infection in the entire body such as joints as well as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) which indicates inflammation of the heart are a good way, to begin with the diagnosis of chronic inflammation.
Generally, the condition is ignored and diagnosis is not initiated until any other medical condition surfaces. It is recommended to consult your physician if you are experiencing any symptoms of persistent inflammation. Once diagnosed it will be easy to decide on the treatment method.
Treatment for Chronic Inflammation
Your body’s immune response will produce proteins and antibodies as well as increase the blood flow to the wounded area to cure inflammation caused by injuries, infections, viruses and toxins. This is a natural healing process. But when the inflammation persists i.e, when it becomes chronic, immediate attention has to be given to treat the inflammation to avoid long-term damage. Some of the treatment methods to manage chronic inflammation include
Anti-inflammatory drugs: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen are prescribed as an initial treatment. These drugs are effective in reducing pain and inflammation. Short-term use of these drugs is fine but long-term use can affect the functioning of kidneys and also lead to serious medical conditions like peptic ulcer.
Supplements: Supplements are considered a safe method of treating chronic inflammation, especially, if they are 100% natural. Some of the supplements recommended are
- Fish oil supplements
- Curcumin supplements
- Lipoic acid supplements
Spices: The inclusion of certain spices in your diet is a natural way of targeting inflammation and inflammation-related health issues. The spices include ginger, garlic, and cayenne. More research is needed regarding the optimum dosage of these spices.
Changes in lifestyle: Some of the lifestyle changes like weight management, regular exercise, healthy diet etc., can also help in managing chronic inflammation. Low-glycemic diet and reduction in intake of saturated fat can to a great extent help in tackling inflammation.
Impact of Diet on Chronic Inflammation
What goes into your diet plays a pivotal role in managing chronic inflammation. Foods with anti-inflammatory properties are many. Some of these foods provide additional benefits of antioxidants and polyphenols.
- Kale and spinach (leafy-green vegetables)
- Fatty fish like mackerel, sardines, and salmon
- Olive oil
- Fruits like berries, oranges, and cherries.
Including the above foods can considerably reduce the markers of inflammation.
If you have to effectively manage inflammation, you will have to avoid certain foods that inflate the condition of chronic inflammation. The foods to be avoided are
- Fried foods
- Refined carbohydrates
- Processed food
- Saturated fat
The body’s immune response generally helps in curing inflammation by releasing proteins, and antibodies, and by increasing the blood flow to the wounded area. Sometimes, when inflammation caused by infections, injuries, toxins, and viruses persist it will lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation if left unattended can lead to several other serious medical conditions like kidney damage or peptic ulcer.
Timely management of inflammation either through medication, supplements, or by making lifestyle changes, and by having a low-inflammatory diet can help in lowering your chances of developing chronic inflammation. Do consult your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.
Certain blood tests can help in the diagnosis of inflammation. Most times the doctors determine that you may have some underlying conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, or autoimmune disorders which frequently coexist with chronic inflammation and tests will be done to identify these issues.
What is the difference between acute inflammation and chronic inflammation?
The most common inflammation is acute inflammation which is caused by discomfort, redness, and swelling that surrounds tissues and joints after any injury such as a cut on the body. Your immune system releases white blood cells to surround and defend against an injury when it occurs. Acute inflammation is good as your immune system remains active and defends your body.
When the inflammation persists and the immune response continues to release white blood cells and chemical messengers that prolong the process, it leads to chronic inflammation. At this stage, the body’s immune system starts attacking healthy tissues and organs. Chronic inflammation if left unattended can lead to serious health conditions like heart and kidney disease, arthritis, digestive disorders, diabetes, etc.
How long does it take to heal chronic inflammation?
Chronic inflammation can last longer and sometimes for longer than 6 weeks.
It can happen even in the absence of an injury, and it isn't necessarily resolved by the healing of an illness or injury. Autoimmune conditions and even long-term stress have both been linked to chronic inflammation.
What are the fast ways of healing chronic inflammation?
Limit intake of processed foods, exercise regularly, indulge in relaxation techniques like meditation, include anti-inflammatory foods, and get quality sleep to get respite from chronic inflammation.
What causes chronic inflammation?
Causes of chronic inflammation are:
- Untreated acute inflammation
- Autoimmune disorders
- Exposure to toxins like pollution or industrial chemicals
Which are the vitamins that help inflammation?
Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K help in reducing inflammation.