Chronic Inflammation & Immune Health
What is Chronic Inflammation?
First, let’s discuss what inflammation is. Inflammation is a process in the body designed for survival. It aids the body in fighting off microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria, and in the repair of damaged tissues. These functions of inflammation are beneficial to the body; however, when chronic, inflammation can also have harmful and destructive qualities as well.
Chronic inflammation is a persistent state of active inflammation, well past the introduction to or elimination of a threat to the body. It generally lasts for prolonged periods of months to years. Sometimes, there is a low-level of inflammation occurring in the body without any clear injury or infection. This ongoing inflammatory state places stress upon the immune system, as it is constantly active.
The immune system, as a response, sends out white blood cells, which attack healthy tissues and organs. This attack leads to more inflammation, and so starts the cycle of chronic inflammation in the body.
Negative Consequences of Chronic Inflammation
Inflammatory signals interrupt normal immune function by increasing the body’s stress response (the Sympathetic Nervous System) and decreasing its ability to rest or recover (the Parasympathetic Nervous System). In doing so, the body is in a pro-inflammatory state with no anti-inflammatory influence. As such, the immune system is in overdrive and these uncontrolled immune cells can generate an excessive level of pro-inflammatory proteins.
This uncontrolled inflammation can show in the body as mental and/or physical diseases. Research shows that chronic inflammation is linked with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, allergies, and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Further, as common pathways are triggered and multiple systems are disrupted the appearance of related diseases can occur.
Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation
Some symptoms that you are dealing with chronic inflammation may include:
- Body, joint, or muscle pain
- Chronic fatigue and insomnia
- Depression, anxiety and mood disorders
- Gastrointestinal complications like constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Frequent infections
How to Combat Inflammation
- Increase uptake of anti-inflammatory foods
- Avoid eating simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, high-glycemic foods, trans fats, and hydrogenated oils.
- Consuming whole, natural foods, vegetables and fruits high in antioxidants, and fatty fish can be helpful in reducing inflammation.
- Minimize intake of antibiotics and NSAIDs
- Limiting the use of antibiotics, antacids, and NSAIDs as they can harm the good bacteria in the gut creating intestinal issues and inflammation.
- Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight
- Fat tissue causes low-grade full-body inflammation. Regular exercise is helpful in controlling weight but also reduces pro-inflammatory signals and low-grade inflammation.
- Get more sleep
- Sleep is when the body repairs and heals itself.
- Aim to get at least 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night to support your body’s recovery.
- Reduce your stress
- The body’s inability to control the inflammatory response and normal defence is linked to psychological stress.
- Yoga and meditation are helpful in reducing stress-induced inflammation and its harmful effects on the body.
- Quit smoking
- Smoking promotes chronic inflammation of the airways triggering an immune response as a result of damage. To reduce the inflammation of the airways one must stop smoking.
Inflammation and the immune system are impossible to separate. The immune response relies on inflammation in order to support the body. However, too much inflammation results in an overactive immune system, which results in chronic, low-level inflammation that changes the body’s ability to function effectively and can lead to illness and disease.