Manage Chronic Inflammation: The Sooner the Better

September 20, 2021

Manage Chronic Inflammation: The Sooner the Better

In this article:

  • The role of healthy inflammatory response vs. chronic inflammation complications
  • Where to draw the line? Signs your body is suffering from too much inflammation
  • Risk factors and common causes of chronic inflammation
  • Tips to manage inflammation naturally

Healthy inflammatory response vs. Chronic Inflammation Complications

Inflammation is the body's defense mechanism. The inflammatory process is part of the immune response and helps to heal damaged tissues. In short-term inflammation, also called “acute inflammation,” the immune system responds to bacteria and tissue injury by releasing white blood cells. These cells trap invasive substances and stop them from spreading and go to work healing the tissue. The redness, swelling, and pain you can experience from this temporary inflammation (think the swelling around a twisted ankle or even a pimple, or the fever you get from a cold) is caused by the blood vessels leaking fluid into the site of the injury. Though troublesome and annoying at times, acute inflammation is short-lived and is a necessary and effective part of the body's healing process.

With chronic inflammation, however, your body is constantly on high alert, overproducing inflammatory cytokines, enzymes, and other biomarkers which can attack healthy tissues and lead to many chronic inflammatory diseases. Research has shown that chronic inflammation is associated with inflammatory disorders or may contribute to disease progression in:

  • Cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Joint Disorders such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, Gout, and Rheumatoid Arthritis,
  • Autoimmune Diseases such as Antiphospholipid Syndrome, Sjogren's Syndrome, and Lupus
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Scleroderma
  • Bowel Diseases like Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and ulcerative colitis
  • Kidney Disease

Where to Draw the Line? Signs You Have Too Much Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a HUGE public health concern. According to a 2021 peer-reviewed summary on chronic inflammation, "The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks chronic diseases as the greatest threat to human health. The prevalence of diseases associated with chronic inflammation is anticipated to increase persistently for the next 30 years in the United States. In 2000, nearly 125 million Americans were living with chronic conditions and 61 million (21%) had more than one. In recent estimates by Rand Corporation, in 2014 nearly 60% of Americans had at least one chronic condition, 42% had more than one and 12% of adults had 5 or more chronic conditions. Worldwide, 3 of 5 people die due to chronic inflammatory diseases like stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes."

If the inflammatory response is normal and even healthy at times, when do you know you've gotten too much of a good thing? Or, what signifies you've crossed the threshold from acute, low-grade inflammation to potentially dangerous chronic inflammation?

The signs of inflammation are widespread and differ from person to person. Its most notable characteristics are:

  • Body pain
  • Chronic fatigue and insomnia
  • Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
  • Gastrointestinal complications like constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • Frequent infections

Sneakier, confounding signs of chronic inflammation can also include:

  • Red or itchy skin (such as in eczema and psoriasis)
  • Excess belly fat
  • Food intolerances
  • Persistent headaches and/or migraines
  • Brain fog

Blood tests that detect the markers of systemic inflammation can help to identify and diagnose chronic inflammation and begin your journey to further diagnoses and treatments.

Risk Factors and Common Causes of Chronic Inflammation

Several risk factors promote an inflammatory response including:

  • Age: Increased age, possibly due to mitochondrial dysfunction or free radical accumulation, is a known risk factor of chronic inflammation.
  • Obesity: Studies have shown excess fat stimulates the tissue to release inflammatory mediators such as interleukin 6, which then causes the liver to produce C-Reactive Protein (CRP). This contributes to cardiovascular diseases including coagulation, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes mellitus.
  • Diet: Foods containing high amounts of saturated fats, trans-fats, and refined sugar are pro-inflammatory.
  • Smoking: Smoking lowers the production of anti-inflammatory molecules.
  • Low Sex Hormones: Sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen play an important role in suppressing many pro-inflammatory markers, thus maintaining healthy sex hormone levels is crucial.
  • Stress: Stress affects the body in many ways. Both physical and mental stress is known to increase inflammatory cytokines, which can lead to many inflammatory conditions.
  • Sleep Disorders: Studies have shown that those with poor sleep schedules are more likely to have chronic inflammation than those with consistent sleep schedules.

Tips to Manage Inflammation Naturally

Since getting to the root of inflammation can be tricky, rather than a risky procedure or complex prescription, simple lifestyle changes are recommended to start you off on your journey.

  • Stop smoking: Speak to your doctor about a smoking cessation plan that will be the most effective for you.
  • Go sober: Excess alcohol consumption can dampen your immune system and send inflammation skyrocketing. Consider joining the sober movement or go sober-curious by decreasing your weekly alcohol consumption. Consuming a maximum of one to three drinks per week may provide relief from inflammation depending on your current consumption habits.
  • Add a natural-inflammatory supplement like boswellia to your diet: Many people use nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen to manage the swelling and pain associated with inflammation. However, over time, chronic NSAID use has been shown to increase the risk of peptic ulcer disease, acute renal failure, and stroke/myocardial infarction and may even exacerbate a number of chronic diseases, including chronic inflammatory disorders. Instead, natural supplements like Boswellia Serrata (especially when used alongside turmeric supplements) are known to have anti-inflammatory effects without the long-term side effects associated with chronic NSAID use.
  • Adopt a healthy plant-based diet: Many western diets that are high in carbohydrates, fats, and sugars can increase risk factors of chronic inflammation and add undue inflammation to the body. Years of clinical trials have shown that consuming a plant-heavy, anti-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean Diet may decrease an individual's risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, improve metabolic syndrome, and promote weight loss.
  • Get your cholesterol tested: High amounts of cholesterol can trigger an inflammatory response in the arteries, thus restricting blood flow and increasing blood pressure. To prevent heart attack and any other related diseases or side effects of cardiovascular disease, make sure to get a grip on your cholesterol levels.
  • Add antioxidants: Antioxidants can help to eliminate the buildup of free radicals which can lead to chronic inflammation. Glutathione, the body's master antioxidant, supports the immune system in doing its job of fighting infections, while supporting detoxification of the liver and increasing energy levels. Check out Amandean's Liquid Reduced Liposomal Glutathione and read about how you can add it to your favorite drinks and mocktails!
  • Make time to exercise: Exercise sessions as short as 20 minutes have been shown to stimulate the immune system and produce an anti-inflammatory cellular response. Exercise also attacks inflammation by reducing weight and fat which, if left untouched, increases the production of pro-inflammatory interleukin 6. Exercise is nature's best anti-inflammatory!
  • Reduce stress: Easier said than done, but by practicing mindfulness or avoiding stressful scenarios, you are looking out for your mental and physical health! As an added bonus, eliminating stress can benefit your sex life too!
  • Be sure to get your Omega-3s: Some studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids may have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to being a staple "heart-healthy" supplement, taking a daily omega-3 supplement may help to manage rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis and migraines. Dietary sources of omega-3s, such as fatty fish, can be unreliable and restrictive to plant-based or vegan diets, but algal-oil based vegan omega-3 supplements are available and provide both DHA and EPA to support total body wellness.

If your inflammation has gone out of control or caused other complicated disorders, talk to your doctor about a more robust treatment plan. In any case, the above tips can help you get a handle on your overall wellness and help to manage inflammation of any level.

Summary Points

  • Chronic inflammation means your body is constantly on high alert, overproducing inflammatory cytokines, enzymes, and other biomarkers which can attack healthy tissues and lead to many chronic inflammatory diseases
  • Natural supplements like Boswellia Serrata (especially when used alongside turmeric supplements) are known to have anti-inflammatory effects without the long-term side effects associated with on-going NSAID use
  • Glutathione, the body's master antioxidant, supports the immune system in doing its job of fighting infections, while supporting detoxification of the liver and increasing energy levels
  • Taking a daily omega-3 supplement may help to manage rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis and migraines

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