We talk about inflammation a lot-from triggers to avoid to natural ways to treat it-but what do we mean when we talk about chronic inflammation? What is it, how did it get there, and how can we manage it to live our healthiest lives?
Acute inflammation versus chronic inflammation
The body's acute inflammatory response is normal, natural, and necessary. It takes place when we're injured or exposed to foreign material. Think about what happens when we cut ourselves or sprain our ankle: the area gets red and swollen (inflamed) as the body defends itself from bacteria, viruses, and further injury. Eventually the swelling and redness go away and our immune system has done its job.
Chronic inflammation happens when the inflammatory response doesn't stop and the body begins to attack healthy tissue. Chronic inflammation is typically related to chronic illnesses or imbalances that the body is constantly attempting to fight against. Things like arthritis, autoimmune disorders like lupus, allergies, asthma, IBS, Crohn's disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer are all linked to chronic inflammation. Lifestyle and health choices that can cause chronic inflammation include poor diet, being overweight, not exercising, stress, smoking, and overuse of alcohol.
How to tell if you have chronic inflammation
Chronic inflammation is harder to spot than acute, but there are plenty of warning signs:
• Excess weight, especially around the abdomen
• High blood sugar
• Chronic fatigue
• Joint pain
• Stiffness or unexplained aches
If you suspect you might have chronic inflammation, speak to your doctor or natural health professional about blood testing. An Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test measures how fast red blood cells separate from plasma and C-reactive protein (CRP) test measures the presence of a protein associated with diseases that can cause inflammation.
Preventing and healing chronic inflammation
The cause of a lot of inflammation lies in our diet. Step one is reducing or even avoiding inflammatory foods like sugar, grains, and processed food and replacing them with leafy greens, fish, and healthy fats. There is even a very specific blood test that can determine exactly which foods are causing an inflammatory response.
In addition to looking at what we eat, there are numerous supplements we can take to heal and prevent inflammation, including omega-3s and curcumin. Discuss which supplements might be right for you with your natural health care practitioner.
Stress is a major factor for inflammation, so taking time for self-care is also important. Meditation has been shown to reduce inflammation and even alter our DNA. Focusing on a holistic, whole-health solution rather than just addressing the symptoms is the key to addressing chronic inflammation and encouraging overall wellness.