Chronic Inflammation: causes, signs & treatments
What causes chronic inflammation?
Inflammation is a response to foreign objects, pathogens, or damage to the cells in our body. It’s a sign of a healthy, robust immune system and it can protect us from many illnesses and sickness.
Inflammation almost always occurs whenever there is an injury such as breaks, cuts and sprains. It triggers increased blood flow on to the site of the injury and helps to protect it from infections setting in.
Burns involve some level of cell damage, which can also lead to infections. The inflammatory response to burns can appear so much more marked because the cellular damage to the skin does more damage on skin functions than some other injuries. Colds, flu, bronchitis, and other common illnesses also incite the inflammatory and immune response.
Sometimes the immune system responds with inflammation at the wrong times or to ‘less threatening invaders’ such as allergens, which can be found in foods, chemicals, or other substances that the body considers foreign. This overreaction results in an allergy attack.
Lifestyle and poor diet causes chronic inflammation
Poor diet and other lifestyle factors may also cause inflammation. Certain food can irritate the digestive system, and a poor diet can incite the inflammatory response. These factors include stress, lack of exercise (or too much), tobacco, drugs, medicines, gluten, fruits, sugars, processed foods, coffee, alcohol, inflammatory fats, refined flours, grains, and dairy.
Alcohol, drugs and toxic substances cause inflammation
Toxic substances such as drugs or alcohol can produce a harmful immune response from the body. Inflammation of the liver can result, which can then also trigger and influence the rest of the body’s immune processes in a very damaging way.
Overusing muscles can cause inflammation
Something as simple as overexertion of certain muscles can cause a state of inflammation. Overexertion occurs when the muscles become overworked, leading to damage. Extra blood is then pumped to the site of the over-worked muscle to reconstruct anything that has become damaged due to overuse. Of course, this same inflammatory response can be helpful against potential muscular infection as well.
Poorly functioning immune system causes chronic inflammation
If the immune system is not functioning correctly, then inflammation will probably manifest as something out of control or harmful. Immune system issues can be provoked by too much exposure to allergens, stress or poor diet.
HIV/AIDS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Lupus are some examples of illnesses or disorders that are associated with a problematic immune system.
Even if nothing is invading or threatening the body physically, stress primes our immune systems to release agents in our blood which are ready to attack at the smallest inconvenience. It’s through these immune changes that chronic inflammation can begin, and start doing its damage.
Other triggers that cause chronic inflammation include:
- Stress, hidden or chronic infections with viruses, bacteria, yeasts
- Hidden allergies from food
- Pesticides, heavy metals, mold toxins
- Also, toxic health and body care products are strongly associated with the ‘western unhealthy lifestyle’ that is causing an epidemic of critical and chronic inflammation.
It’s important to find out what is triggering the inflammation and to try to rebalance the body through diet, detox, bodywork, etc. In more serious cases inflammation may develop auto- immune diseases such as diabetes, colitis, reflux, asthmas, cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s, obesity, autism, metabolic disorders, hypothyroidism (and other thyroid diseases) amongst others.
This is by no means a complete list but the theory is that inflammation in the body causes the onset of many diseases (including certain types of hair loss).
Chronic Inflammation can affect our entire body
- If you’re guilty of following a poor diet, then inflammation can affect your digestive system. Other factors such as stress, food allergens and immune function can play a part in inflammation of the digestive system, making it even worse. Why is this so serious?
- Because an inflamed digestive system can interfere with the proper absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Some of the leading diseases or causes of illness in the developing world—heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer —are a result of chronic inflammation getting out of hand. The worst consequence of an inflamed vascular system can lead to heart attacks, bodily damage due to poor circulation, and even cancer; this makes minimising inflammation of the heart and blood vessels an integral health priority.
- Most inflammations of the respiratory system are signs of acute inflammations healing themselves in time. Still, symptoms like coughing, hacking, wheezing, and excessive phlegm can be signs of inflammation and even some immune disorder—a warning of something more major.
- Inflammation can affect the urinary system, which can be recognised by spots of blood that leak into the urine. The blood flushes out a lot of helpful antibodies and immune agents from the body.
- Inflammatory diseases that afflict the bones include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which are triggered by depletion or dysfunction of cartilage and joint lubrication.
- Muscular inflammation could be the result of an isolated injury, and with some medical intervention, can be resolved. However, inflammation in the muscle could also be a sign of chronic inflammation somewhere else in the body.
- Inflammation, both chronic and acute, can affect the brain and nerves. Recent studies showed that low-grade inflammation of the brain could be a trigger for depression, or even that depression and stress itself can lead to inflammation.
- Although inflammation is a function of the immune system, that doesn’t mean it cannot become inflamed. This is usually how autoimmune diseases manifest. The immune system becomes ‘overstimulated’ and begins to attack completely harmless and healthy areas of the body.
“What we’re not adapted for, however, is the chronic, unrelenting stress that has become so common in modern life. This type of stress provokes feelings of hopelessness and helplessness – what psychologists call a “defeat response”. And it’s the defeat response that leads to increased fat storage, abdominal obesity, tissue breakdown, suppression of the immune system, and all of the other effects I listed above that directly cause obesity and diabetes.“
– Chris Kresser from chriskresser.com
Minor illnesses caused by inflammation
- There are so many minor health problems that can be associated with inflammation such as acne, eczema and infections
- Acne occurs when hair follicles in the skin become blocked by dead skin or bacteria, resulting in Psoriasis is irregular inflammation of the skin, involving an abnormal immune response to healthy human skin cells. Inflammation of the skin can either be chronic (eczema) or acute (contact dermatitis).
- Mucus membranes in the nasal passages become inflamed by foreign objects—puffy eyes and a runny nose is the body’s response, which directly reflects the immune system’s reaction to that.
- Bladder infections, also known as UTI, is caused by inflammation of the bladder, this condition tends to be worsened by stress and is triggered by an infection
- A moderate immune reaction to certain foods can create inflammation and irritation of the digestive tract. Stomach inflammation involves inflammation of the stomach lining, caused by either stress, food, or immune issues.
- Joint inflammation is caused by a high build-up of uric acid—a protein byproduct. Overexertion/overuse cause muscular
- Pneumonia involves infection and inflammation of the lungs—but with fluid that fills the lungs, thus making this illness require special attention and
Major illnesses caused by inflammation
The full list of chronic inflammation is exhaustive, but to name a few:
- Chronic fatigue is a complex multi-systemic condition involving chronic inflammation all throughout the body, due to an overwhelmed and stressed out immune system
- Alzheimer’s, a brain disease, resulting in memory loss and dementia, is under intense study nowadays with evidence showing that chronic inflammation could be one of its primary precursors
- Studies also reveal a connection between depression and inflammation. Low-grade inflammation can lead to this illness, or vice versa, with inflammation occurring in and around the brain. Remember how I said before that certain foods make me feel depressed, angry and sometimes even suicidal?
- Arthritis is a painful and debilitating illness that involves inflammation of the joints
- Asthma is a chronic inflammatory response that can shut down and obstruct airways, which can be life threatening
- Cancer development has been connected to inflammation
- Celiac disease is a severe, genetic, autoimmune and inflammatory response to wheat, rye, and other grains containing gluten, which occurs in the intestines
- Chron’s disease is an autoimmune, inflammatory disorder of the intestines, which often creates symptoms similar to IBS/IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Diseases).
- Diabetes has also been shown through recent research to have a huge role in inflammation.
- More intense than food hypersensitivities, food allergies (i.e. peanut, nightshade) involve a more intense immune response, which can even involve anaphylaxis and sometimes, death.
- Arterial build up, due to poor diet or inflammatory foods, can lead to serious heart complications. Inflammation of the arteries is often a marker of possible heart disease, which can result in heart attack and even death.
- Lupus is a group of severe autoimmune, inflammatory diseases that can afflict the kidneys, liver, skin, heart and lungs through over-stimulated, damaging chronic inflammation.
- Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease where the nerve endings, spinal cord, and brain are damaged by a progressive destruction of the immune system
- More and more research shows that obesity and overweight are also linked to chronic inflammation.
Healing chronic inflammation through proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle
“Seems you can’t outsmart Mother Nature.“ Dr Mark Hyman
Thankfully, Mother Nature is a powerful ally against inflammation, and through carefully selected food and lifestyle choices we can master this beast and create a solid foundation for a healthy future. If you suffer from inflammation or disease, it’s best to follow an anti- inflammation diet or Auto-immune protocol, so that your body can start healing on its on own again.
All diseases start in your gut. So ensure you don’t suffer from a leaky gut syndrome
Trust your gut, and take care of it too! Many health professionals believe that good health begins in the gut. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was even famously for it. He quoted to have said: “All disease begins in the gut”.
At least 80% of our immune system can be found in the gut. Along with billions of good and bad bacteria. The gut also sends signals to the brain which controls our appetite and mood. Now imagine your gut unprotected and ‘unsealed’. And allowing toxins and chemicals to enter it. This is why it’s so important to protect it.
The anti-inflammation diet / autoimmune protocol
Now that you know about the dangers of chronic inflammation it’s important you understand how diet can help you heal. Dr Sarah Ballantyne, aka ‘The Paleo Mom’, describes the anti-inflammation diet, also known as the ‘Autoimmune Protocol’, as being very similar to the Paleo diet.
This is what she has to say:
“The biggest difference between a standard Paleo diet and the Autoimmune Protocol is where we draw the line between “yes” foods and “no” foods. This is to get more health-promoting compounds and fewer detrimental compounds in our diet. Those who are typically quite healthy can tolerate less-optimal foods than those who aren’t. You can think of the Autoimmune Protocol as a pickier version of the Paleo diet. This means it accepts only those foods that are clear winners.
“Foods can be viewed as having two kinds of constituents within them: those that promote health (like nutrients!) and those that undermine health (like inflammatory compounds). Some foods are obvious wins for a health-promoting diet because they have tons of beneficial constituents. And very few or no constituents that undermine health. Good examples of these superfoods are organ meats, seafood, and most vegetables.
Autoimmune protocol no foods
“Other foods are obvious fails because they have a relative lack of health-promoting constituents and are rife with problematic compounds—good examples are gluten-containing grains, sugar, dairy, peanuts, and most soy products.”
Autoimmune protocol grey area foods
She goes on to discuss the food that falls into a more ‘a grey area’, such as tomatoes, which do contain nutrients but are also known to aggravate the immune system.
Autoimmune protocols heal your body
The main aim of the Autoimmune Protocol is to ensure your body receives enough nutrients. And avoids food that can lead to disease, or at least interfere with the body’s ability to heal. As difficult as it may be, you need to cut out the foods that are most likely to be holding back your health.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! Ballantyne explains. “After a period of time, many of the excluded foods, especially those that have nutritional merit despite also containing some (but not too much) potentially detrimental compounds, can be reintroduced”
Other holistic tools to help lower chronic inflammation
Apart from introducing the auto-immune protocol, which is in my opinion challenging to keep up with, but so is being ill, other things that can help you to heal and lower inflammation is ozone therapy, infrared saunas, yoga, meditation, walking in nature. We need more oxygen in our bodies as we severely lack this because of our indoors and sedentary lifestyle.
Some great herbs that are good to lower inflammation are garlic, ginger, turmeric, green tea,
Helpful resources and books to help combat chronic inflammation
During my wellness journey, I read a lot of helpful information online, but I would also like to share these books with you in the hope that they can resonate in your holistic journey!
To get myself well, I had to work on getting the level of chronic infections in my body down. This was a very hard task and it took me years to manage them, but I finally did it. My diet plan is a Paleo/keto inspired auto-immune diet.
Below is a list of my 5 favourite books that helped me with combat inflammation:
An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from some form of autoimmune disease. If you’re among them, you may know all too well how little modern medicine can do to alleviate your condition.
The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a diet and lifestyle program designed to reduce inflammation, heal digestion, deliver nutrition that supports health, and ultimately reverse autoimmune disease. It’s not a cure, but it can make a powerful difference in how you feel.
The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions
The Wahls Protocol has become a sensation, transforming the lives of people who suffer from autoimmune disorders. Now, in her highly anticipated follow-up, Dr. Wahls is sharing the essential Paleo-inspired recipes her readers need to reduce and often eliminate their chronic pain, fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms related to autoimmune problems, neurological diseases, and other chronic conditions, even when physicians have been unable to make a specific diagnosis.
The idea behind the Paleo, or ‘caveman’, diet is simple – eat the food we humans were genetically and biologically meant to eat, as our hunter-gatherer ancestors once did, and we can all experience near-effortless weight loss, increased vitality and greatly improved health. But does it really make sense to restrict yourself to the limited range of foods available to our ancestors? Although we share a lot in common with them, we each have our own genes, tastes and health goals.
The New York Times says it “ranks with green juice and coconut water as the next magic potion in the eternal quest for perfect health.” ABC News calls it “the new juice craze.” Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Shailene Woodley, Salma Hayek, and Kobe Bryant are hooked on it. It’s bone broth–and it’s the core of New York Times bestseller Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet.
Empowering others via my anti-ageing wellness platform and holistic health books
I hope you liked this article about chronic inflammation. If you would like to learn more about clean living and how I saved my life from being chronically ill and tired to the lively person I am today, ensure to check out other pages of this anti-ageing wellness platform.
I am here to help, empower, enlighten and support you through this journey of good health.
I changed the way I eat in 2011 when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue, conditions where the thyroid is affected. I had no energy, was exhausted, desperate, and my weight had sky-rocketed.
Because of that, I decided to ditch sugars, processed foods, grains, dairy and toxic chemicals. And step-by-step, I introduced a whole-foods-based (first Paleo) and later an AIP (autoimmune protocol) friendly ketogenic approach to food which gave me my life, vitality, happiness and energy back!
Now, through my holistic wellness books and anti-ageing health platform, I want to empower people around the world do the same and regain their health, hair, life, vitality and beauty!