What You Should Know About Chronic Inflammation

  • May 26, 2023
  • Diane Harrison

You may have heard the term chronic or systemic inflammation before, but didn’t really get the gist of what it means or the treatment options available to persons with chronic inflammation. Universal Health takes a look at some basic information that will shed some light on the topic for you.

What is it, anyway?

In general, inflammation is what happens when the body’s immune system responds to protect you from an illness, disease, or injury. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. With acute inflammation, the response is immediate and is usually easily attributed to something that happened shortly before the inflammation occurred. This type of inflammation is usually short-lived and will go away as soon as the injury is healed.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, lasts longer and the cause is not as easily determined. It’s possible for inflammation to persist past when an illness has been treated or an injury has healed. People can develop chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, if their chronic inflammation lasts a long period of time. Since inflammation is a product of the body’s immune system, there are also cases where autoimmune disorders will cause chronic inflammation by directing the immune system to attack the body’s healthy cells and tissue.

How do you know if you have it?

As you might expect, one of the signs of chronic inflammation is unexplained soreness or pain. According to Bustle, however, there are some other symptoms that you should be on the lookout for. These include:

  1. Persistant headaches
  2. Nasal congestion
  3. Digestion issues
  4. Sudden onset of acne or eczema

Worse yet, there’s a link between chronic inflammation and some serious noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and pulmonary disease. If you find yourself with any of these symptoms, you should definitely talk to your doctor. If your doctor shares your concerns, it’s possible that they’ll order specific blood tests to determine if you’re having an issue with inflammation. These tests can detect biomarkers related to inflammation, such as CRP and white blood cells. Each of them confirms systemic inflammation in different ways, and based on the results, your doctor may order further tests.

How Is It Managed?

If you have chronic inflammation, your doctor will be interested in finding out if the underlying cause can be treated. For example, if you have lupus, your treatment program might include medications such as corticosteroids and antibodies. In cases where the doctor is unable to find an illness at the root of the chronic inflammation, they will have to prescribe treatment for your symptoms.

Persons with chronic inflammation might be encouraged to get more rest. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and painkillers could also be prescribed.

Can Diet and Lifestyle Changes Help?

For some time now there has been an established link between what we eat and our overall physical and mental health as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. The balance of microorganisms in the stomach, otherwise known as the gut microbiome, can influence how certain systems, including the immune system, digestive system and emotions, work. A gut-friendly diet will encourage the growth of microorganisms that are beneficial to the microbiome balance.

According to Harvard Health, persons with chronic inflammation are encouraged to avoid foods that are highly processed and high in sugar while incorporating fatty fish, fruits and green leafy vegetables into their diet. There are also benefits from adding prebiotics and probiotics to your diet. Since they help you maintain a healthy gut microbiome, they won’t only help with chronic inflammation, they’ll also help to boost your general physical and mental health.

Another lifestyle factor to address is the reduction of stress, especially if you work in a position that causes higher than average amounts of stress. While some stress can be helpful in maximizing work output, performance will start to decline if you’re overstressed. Studies have shown a clear correlation between stress and chronic inflammation, so take steps to strip the stress from your home, the place where you spend most of your time. These steps aren’t difficult or time-consuming; start by cleaning and decluttering your living spaces, beginning with windows and doorways.

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can be a life-changing experience. However, you’ll likely find it easier to manage when you know what to expect and what you can do to keep your symptoms under control.