At its very essence, inflammation is a good thing. It’s what your body uses to get rid of a dangerous invader. But if it doesn’t subside when the work is done, it can become a problem.
When the body’s immune response remains active after the threat has cleared, acute inflammation has turned to chronic. Chronic inflammation is associated with a host of life-threatening illnesses.
First off, what is acute inflammation? Quite simply, it is a noticeable first response when something “wrong” happens to the body. It is the bit of pain that comes when you bump or cut yourself, then the swelling as it heals. It’s the sneeze when you’re affected by allergens.
Acute inflammation shows you something has happened, and the immune system is at work to fix the problem.
Chronic inflammation doesn’t have the same identifiable factors, but more on that later.
Acute inflammation may turn chronic when the body can’t rid itself of whatever’s bothering it, like an infectious organism, irritant, or chemical toxin. Even though the immune system is good at eliminating these invaders, sometimes they can hide out in tissues leading to repeated bouts of inflammatory response.
Another scenario that can lead to chronic inflammation is that the immune system goes into “threat mode” even when no threat actually exists. For example, in an autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks healthy tissue, believing it is dangerous. It starts to damage the body instead of healing it.
Unhealthy lifestyle choices can also lead to chronic inflammation. Smoking, sedentary living, and eating a lot of processed foods/refined carbohydrates can all cause it.
Chronic inflammation, however, is hard to spot. It can be localized or widespread and may come with various symptoms that can include:
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Depression and anxiety
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Constipation, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal issues
- Changes in weight/appetite
- Brain fog
The best way to reduce the risk of chronic inflammation is with a healthy lifestyle. Getting daily activity and eating a nutrient-rich diet are likely to help.