Inflammation is typically indicated by the presence of it’s four calling card symptoms: redness, swelling, heat, and pain.
With symptoms like those, it’s clear that inflammation in the body is not something that is desirable. Although the common symptoms are no walk in the park, inflammation is a sign that your body is working to fight off an infection or illness.
Inflammation is an essential function in the immune response, it aids in fighting off infection and helps to build long-term adaptive immunity towards some pathogens. While having a healthy inflammatory response to infection is beneficial, having inflammation that is chronic can lead to a host of health problems that in some cases compound and can contribute to many debilitating illnesses.
So in essence, inflammation is good when it’s serving as a needed step in the immune response. When inflammation becomes chronic, it’s like a scourge that can spread throughout the body causing pain and irreparable damage to tissues and organs.
Inflammation And The Immune System
The immune system is made up of organs, cells, and proteins that all work together to help your body fight off viruses, germs, cellular changes, and other harmful substances.
Within the immune system are two sub-systems, the innate (non-specific) and the adaptive (specific) immune systems. The innate immune system uses specialized cells (natural killer cells and phagocytes) to fight off germs and other harmful substances that enter the body. The innate immune system is the general defense for the body against infection and disease.
The adaptive immune system produces antibodies to illnesses and germs that the body has come into contact with already. These antibodies are stored for the next time that previously encountered germs attack. The antibodies act as a guide or reminder to the body on how to fight off the invader germs based on how the body responded in prior incidents.
Inflammation is the innate immune system’s response to harmful elements in the body. Pathogens, toxic materials, damaged cells, irradiation, and other negative stimuli can all incite the immune response and cause the onset of inflammation (the body’s initial reaction in the innate immune response).
The basic steps that are involved in an inflammatory response are:
- Cell receptors in the body recognize harmful stimuli
- Inflammatory pathways in the body are activated
- Inflammatory markers are released
- Inflammatory cells are recruited to the affected area
This process is more or less the body signaling that there is an invader and that the immune response needs to be activated to send cells to the location of the infection.
Activating the immune system to fight off an infection is a much-needed step that protects the body from intrusive pathogens and other destructive elements. When the immune system has completed the process of fighting off the invaders, the inflammation triggers should subside.
When the triggers for inflammation are still firing after they’re no longer needed to heal, the body can begin to attack itself in some cases (rheumatoid arthritis and lupus).
Inflammation - A Top Threat To Worldwide Health
Too much of a good thing typically results in a bad outcome. Inflammation is no exception to the rule. While it’s a healthy part of the immune response, when the body is constantly inflamed, complications can arise.
Even low-grade inflammation can have detrimental effects on the body over time. Studies have found that not only does inflammation cause many diseases, it’s also associated with a 44 percent higher mortality rate.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked chronic diseases as the number one threat to human health worldwide. It’s estimated that 3 out of 5 people will die from a chronic inflammatory condition like diabetes, heart disease, or stroke.
The most common signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation are:
- Physical pain throughout the body
- Chronic fatigue
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia
- Mood disorders, depression, and anxiety
- Stomach issues (constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn)
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Recurring infections
These symptoms are often associated with other chronic illnesses, so diagnosing inflammation is sometimes difficult when there are other underlying problems that have been caused by the ongoing inflammatory response.
The most common diseases that are associated with chronic inflammation are:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
How To Fight Inflammation
Keeping inflammation in check is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
The top ways to fight inflammation are through diet, exercise, adequate sleep, and avoiding toxins.
A diet that is rich in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients is key in maintaining health. An anti-inflammatory diet is sometimes recommended for those suffering from chronic inflammation. Even with the most healthful food choices, we can still end up with nutritional deficiencies though. To combat dietary shortcomings, supplements are a healthy alternative for those looking to boost their intake of certain nutrients.
Getting enough exercise and sleep are also top priorities in the fight against inflammation. Missing out on sleep can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress-activated hormone that can lead to chronic inflammation if released for a prolonged period of time).
It’s not always easy to opt for the salad instead of the pasta or to go to bed early so you can exercise before work. Making choices to keep your body fueled with healthy foods and supplements, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and steering clear of toxins are the building blocks for good health.
Your health is your wealth, so make sure that you’re fully invested!