What Is Inflammation?
You’ve heard of anti-inflammatory medications and anti-inflammatory diets, but do you honestly know what inflammation is? In short, it’s the body’s response to outside threats like stress, infection, or toxic chemicals. When the immune system senses any one of these dangers, it will respond by activating proteins that are meant to protect cells and tissues in the body. These proteins then build up and form inflammation. Most recognizable of these is swelling.
Our immediate reaction to a swelling is to try and decrease it. However, it is important to remember that inflammation is an essential part of the healing process.
The first stage of inflammation is often called irritation, which then becomes inflammation. Inflammation is followed by the discharging of pus The granulation stage comes next, and new tissue is formed in the wound.
Without inflammation, infections and wounds would never heal.
Three main processes occur before and during acute inflammation:
- The small branches of arteries enlarge when supplying blood to the damaged region, resulting in increased blood flow.
- Capillariesbecome easier for fluids and proteins to infiltrate, meaning that they can move between blood and cells.
- The body releases neutrophils. A neutrophil is a type of white blood cell filled with tiny sacs that contain enzymes and digest microorganisms.
A person will notice inflammation symptoms after these steps take place.
What is chronic inflammation?
This refers to long-term inflammation and can last for several months and even years. It can result from:
- failure to eliminate whatever was causing an acute inflammation
- an autoimmune disorder that attacks normal healthy tissue, mistaking it for a pathogen that causes disease
- exposure to a low level of a particular irritant, such as an industrial chemical, over a long period
It Fights Infection
Inflammation is most visible (and is the most beneficial) when it’s helping to repair a wound or fight of an infection. If you’ve ever had a fever or a sore throat with swollen glands or an infected cut that’s become red and warm to the touch, then that swelling, redness, and warmth are signs that your immune system is sending white blood cells, immune cell-stimulating growth factors, and nutrients to the affected areas. In this sense, inflammation is a healthy and a very necessary function for healing. But this type of helpful inflammation is only temporary: when the infection or illness is gone, inflammation is suppose to go away as well.
It Prepares You For Battles
Another type of inflammation occurs in response to severe emotional stress. Instead of blood cells rushing to one part of the body, however, inflammatory markers called C-reactive proteins are released into the blood stream and travel throughout the body.
This is the body’s biological response to impending danger that is real or otherwise—It is a “flight or fight” response that floods you with adrenaline and could help you escape a life-threatening situation. This is a reflex we are all naturally born with. But unrelenting and pounding stress over a very long period of time—or dwelling on past events or emotions can cause C-reactive protein levels to be elevated all the time and this can be a strong factor in many chronic health conditions.
It Can Seriously Harm Your Gut Health
70% of your immune system is in your intestines. Many of the body’s immune cells cluster in and around the intestines and most of the time, those immune cells ignore the trillions of healthy bacteria that live in the gut but for some people that balance is off balance and the immune cell react to the gut bacteria and create chronic inflammation.
The immune cells can attack the digestive tract itself, a serious autoimmune condition known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes lucrative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The symptoms include diarrhea, cramps, ulcers, and may even actually require surgical removal of the intestines. Doctors aren’t sure why some people get IBD, but genetics, environment, antibiotics, diet, and stress management all seem to play an active role in determining who will get this challenging and debilitating disease.
It can harm your joints
When inflammation starts in the joints it’s can cause very serious damage. One condition in the joints is rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and is another example of an autoimmune disorder that also appears to have a genetic component. It is also linked to smoking, a lack of vitamin D, and several other risk factors.
Psoriatic arthritis will also involve inflammation in the joints, and it has symptoms that are similar to those of RA. People with PsA may also experience changes in the nails, like pitting. Most people with psoriatic arthritis first develop psoriasis, another autoimmune condition, on their skin.
It’s Associated With Heart Disease
It does not matter what part of your body that gets injured, it will cause inflammation, even the insides of blood vessels. The formation of fatty plaque inside the arteries can trigger chronic inflammation. The unhealthy fatty plaques attract white blood cells and they grow larger, and can form blood clots, which can cause a person to have a heart attack or a stroke.
Obesity and unhealthy eating also increases inflammation in the body, but even healthy people who experience chronic inflammation because of an autoimmune disorder—such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or celiac disease—appear to have a higher risk of heart disease, regardless of their healthy weight or healthy eating habits.
It’s linked to a higher risk of cancer
Cancers of the lung, esophagus, cervix, and digestive tract and others have been conclusively linked to chronic inflammation.. A 2014 Harvard University study found that obese teenagers with high levels of inflammation had a 63% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer during adulthood compared to their thinner peers. The inflammation may be due to obesity, a chronic infection, a chemical irritant, or chronic condition; all have been linked to a much higher cancer risk
It’s Not Good For Your Lungs
If inflammation occurs in the lungs, it can cause fluid accumulation and the narrowing of the airways thus making it very difficult to breathe. Infections, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which also includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis all have inflammation in the lungs.
It damages gums
Inflammation can also cause much damage in your mouth in the form of periodontitis (gum disease) which is a chronic inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria accumulation. This disease causes the gums to recede and the bone structure around the teeth become weakened and or damaged.
Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect mouth health. Many studies have shown that inflammation of the gums is linked to heart disease and dementia as well, since bacteria in the mouth may also trigger inflammation elsewhere in the body since it can be spread through the blood vessels in the mouth.
It Makes Weight Loss Much Harder
Obesity is a huge cause of inflammation in the body, and losing the weight is one of the most effective and beneficial ways to fight it. Because elevated levels of inflammation-related proteins can also make weight loss more difficult than it should be, that’s sometimes easier said than done, . For beginning, chronic inflammation can influence and control hunger signals and can also slow down the metabolism, so you will eat much more but you will burn fewer calories so you end up getting hit at both ends.. Inflammation can also increase insulin resistance (which raises your risk for diabetes) and has been shown to affect future weight gain possibilities.
It Damages Bone Growth And Development
Inflammation throughout the body can interfere with normal bone growth and even promote increased bone loss.,
Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (as with the inflammatory bowel diseases) can be especially harmful to bone health and growth because it can prevent the absorption of the important bone-building food vitamin nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Another inflammatory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, can also have negative implications because it severely limits people’s physical activity and can keep them from performing the weight-bearing, bone-strengthening exercises that are needed for normal bone growth ad development.
It Will Affect Your Skin Negatively
The effects of inflammation aren’t just inside the body They can also be affected on your skin. Psoriasis, for example, is an inflammatory skin condition that occurs when the immune system causes skin cells to grow too quickly. So scaly, hard patches of skin develop on the outside of the skin.
Chronic inflammation has also been shown to contribute to faster cell aging in animal studies, and some experts believe it also plays a role (along with UV exposure and other environmental effects) in the formation of wrinkles and visible signs of aging.
It’s linked with depression
Inflammation in the brain may be linked to depression, according to a 2015 study published in JAMA Psychiatry; specifically, it may be responsible for depressive symptoms such as low mood, lack of appetite, and poor sleep. Previous research has found that people with depression have higher levels of inflammation in their blood, as well.