Importance of Combating Inflammation

Woman with back pain

Importance of Combating Chronic Inflammation

The human body is comprised of an intricate network of systems that when working properly together help us enjoy long quality lives. One such example is the body’s immune system.  Our immune system helps us heal from wounds or foreign invaders, whether from sustained injury like a sprained ankle or an illness like the common cold from invading germs. In effort to heal itself, the body’s immune system activates, sending inflammatory cells into the body to attack foreign invaders or heal damaged tissue. This short-term activation of the immune system, known as acute inflammation, is necessary to initiate healing, restore health and even avoid death in most serious cases.

Unfortunately, many factors can cause the immune system to become continuously activated without the presence of illness or injury, causing chronic inflammation, an unhealthy condition that’s one of several contributing factors in the onset and progression of many diseases and illnesses, including:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease, including heart attack and stroke
  • dementia and cognitive decline in older adults, including Alzheimer’s disease
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis (AS)
  • type 2 diabetes
  • osteoporosis
  • fatty liver disease
  • asthma
  • cancers
  • obesity
  • and specific autoimmune disorders.  

Chronic inflammation can cause long-term health damage if not controlled properly.Yet many people with chronic inflammation don’t even know they have it until they are diagnosed with another health condition.

Your local Capital Women’s Care team wants to increase your awareness of chronic inflammation and its adverse health effects. We discuss chronic inflammation causes, symptoms and treatments and offer tips to combat and eliminate chronic inflammation and subsequent health issues, so you achieve and enjoy a long quality life.

Chronic Inflammation Causes

Chronic inflammation results when other substances are in the body besides germs, viruses and bacteria. The presence of additional substances beyond germs, viruses and bacteria or having untreated injuries have been proven to increase likelihood of chronic inflammation. These chronic inflammation-inducing substances include excessive fat cells, chemicals and toxins from cigarette smoking or environmental pollutants and toxins, even clots within arteries that block blood flow, the primary cause of most heart attacks and strokes.

The most common causes of chronic inflammation include:

  • autoimmune disorders like lupus, where the body attacks healthy tissues.
  • exposure to toxins, like pollution or industrial chemicals.
  • untreated acute inflammation resulting from a previous infection or injury.
  • and identified lifestyle factors, including:
    • drinking excessive alcohol.
    • having overweightness or obesity, often including a high body mass index (BMI).
    • exercising at maximum intensity too frequently or not getting enough exercise.
    • having chronic stress in your life.
    • and smoking.

Chronic Inflammation Symptoms

Chronic inflammation symptoms may be harder to spot than acute inflammation symptoms as symptoms are often more subtle.

Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include:

  • fatigue
  • body pain
  • depression or anxiety
  • gastrointestinal complications (diarrhea or constipation)
  • weight gain
  • weight loss
  • persistent infections

Signs of chronic inflammation may be a sign of having an autoimmune disorder. For instance, joint pain or stiffness could be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, fatigue caused by systemic lupus or a skin rash due to psoriasis.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and last for several months or years.

If you experience symptoms, contact your general practitioner to schedule a checkup. Your doctor will examine you to determine whether you have chronic inflammation, an autoimmune disorder, an illness where chronic inflammation presents as a symptom or other identifiable health issue.

Measuring Chronic Inflammation

While a specific test for solely diagnosing inflammation isn’t known, your provider may choose to check your inflammation levels using specified blood tests, including those that highlight C-reactive protein (CRP), which indicates infections or inflammation within the general body (like the joints), and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), which reflects heart inflammation.

If you have a history of high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol or a family history of diagnosed heart disease, your practitioner may be more inclined to recommend these blood tests.

Chronic Inflammation Treatment

If you have chronic inflammation, your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Supplements. Certain vitamins (vitamin A, C and D) and supplements (zinc) may reduce inflammation and enhance repair. For example, your healthcare provider may prescribe a fish oil supplement or vitamin(s). Or you may use spices with anti-inflammatory properties, such as turmeric, ginger or garlic.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs.) These over-the-counter medicines lower inflammation: ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen. Ask your healthcare provider if they can be taken to help relieve your symptoms.
  • Steroid injections or oral medications.

Tips to Reduce Your Risk

Fortunately, there are many factors within our control of developing chronic inflammation. It’s important to talk with your healthcare practitioner about instituting any lifestyle changes you are considering for their expert guidance and recommendation.

You have greater risk of chronic inflammation if you are:

  • not getting enough exercise and leading a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.
  • overweight or obese.
  • smoking or experiencing regular exposure to pollutants and toxins.
  • experiencing chronic stress.
  • drinking excessive alcohol.
  • eating an unhealthy diet that includes fried or highly processed foods, nitrate-cured meats (lunch meat, sausage and hot dogs,) highly refined oils and trans fats, plus refined carbohydrates (pastries, white bread and sugar.)

You can reduce chronic inflammation risk by initiating good health practices:

  • achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • avoid or quit smoking.
  • exercise 3 to 5 times per week minimally (daily exercise is best.)
  • do strength-training activity at least twice a week.
  • limit alcohol intake (maximum 2 ounces per day.)
  • sit less and walk more.
  • get enough sleep.
  • manage stress with healthy tools like meditation or journaling.
  • connect with others and avoid isolation.
  • and see your healthcare provider regularly.

Additionally, you can modify your diet to reduce chronic inflammation. Researchers note the Mediterranean diet helps lower inflammation levels within the body. Research shows that what you eat can affect the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP)—a marker for inflammation—in your blood. That could be because some foods like processed sugars help release inflammatory messengers that can raise the risk of chronic inflammation. Other foods like fruits and veggies help your body fight against oxidative stress, which can trigger inflammation.

Some foods known to offer anti-inflammation properties include:

  • oily fish – mackerel, salmon, tuna and sardines
  • leafy greens – spinach and kale
  • beans and lentils
  • legumes
  • whole grains
  • green tea
  • olive oil
  • tomatoes
  • soy
  • ground flaxseed
  • fresh vegetables – including beets and avocados
  • nuts – walnuts and pecans
  • spices – turmeric, ginger and garlic
  • and fruits – berries, cherries, blueberries, apples, grapes, pomegranates, peaches, apricots, plums and citrus.

Conversely, there are also foods known to increase chronic inflammation:

  • fried or processed foods
  • nitrate-cured meats – lunch meat, sausage and hot dogs
  • red meats
  • dairy products
  • soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • margarine, shortening and lard
  • highly refined oils and trans fats
  • alcohol
  • artificial food additives – aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • refined grains
  • and refined carbohydrates – pastries, white bread and sugar.

Your Capital Women’s Care team of doctors, nurses and support staff is here to answer your questions and concerns regarding chronic inflammation or any women’s health issue. Our seasoned healthcare professionals strive to provide unparalleled comprehensive women’s health services and care to you and your family, so you achieve and enjoy a long quality life.

Sources:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21660-inflammation
https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-disease/ask-the-doctor-what-is-infl...
https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-inflammation
https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-inflammation-187934
https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-inflammation-187934#toc-preventin...
https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-inflammation-187934#toc-treatment
https://www.verywellhealth.com/signs-of-inflammation-4580526
https://www.verywellhealth.com/signs-of-inflammation-4580526#toc-additio...
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-c...
https://www.scripps.org/news_items/4232-six-keys-to-reducing-inflammation
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflamma...
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eatin...
https://performancehealthcenter.com/2020/02/the-top-10-inflammatory-food...

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