Inflammation is the body’s reaction to an injury or an illness. When you injure your body or you have an infection or other type of illness, your body launches biological warfare. For example, if you accidentally stab your finger with a thorn, the immune system activates and causes the tissue around the injury to swell. The signs of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling and pain. The same thing happens when a pathogen like a virus, fungus, or bacteria invades the body. The immune system can also mistakenly think your own tissues or cells are dangerous and attack itself, leading to chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Inflammation can either be acute or chronic. Let’s find out how the various types of inflammation affect your body.
Benefits of Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s innate response to outside threats, including toxic chemicals, stress, and infections. When the immune system thinks your body is in danger, it activates proteins that are used to protect your cells. Acute inflammation is a short-term inflammation that is designed to protect the body and promote healing.
Inflammation is used for wound repair as well as fighting off a fever. If you have ever experienced swollen lymph nodes or a fever, you have seen the inflammatory response in action. Another example of how inflammation works is the redness, warmth, and swelling that occurs when a cut gets infected. These signs are indications that your immune system has sent out nutrients, growth factors, and white blood cells to the injured area.
Inflammation also occurs when you experience emotional stress. However, rather than white blood cells rushing to the rescue, C-reactive proteins, which are inflammatory markers, get released into your bloodstream. These markers cause your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These two hormones help you escape dangerous situations and activates the fight or flight response.
Types of Inflammation
Chronic inflammation occurs when the immune response lingers long after the injury, danger, or infection has passed. Chronic inflammation is long lasting and can have a negative impact on your health. It can affect numerous systems throughout your body and can lead to autoimmune disorders. Inflammation in various parts of the body can lead to plethora of health issues. Different types of inflammation have their own characteristics, risks, and causes.
Your immune system is primarily housed in the gastrointestinal tract. Typically, your immune cells ignore the bacteria housed in the GI tract; however, when the immune system becomes overreactive, it can begin attacking the healthy bacteria housed in the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in inflammation.
When inflammation occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, you can develop inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel disease includes illnesses like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include diarrhea, cramping, and ulcers. If the condition gets bad enough, surgical removal of your intestines may be required.
Inflammation can occur in your joints, causing serious damage, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Both of these conditions are autoimmune diseases, caused by chronic inflammation and an overactive immune system that attacks the body. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include:
- Arthritis symptoms start in the smaller joints like your toes and fingers. Over time, it can affect larger joints like your wrists, ankles, knees, and hips.
- The symptoms are symmetrical, meaning it affects the same joints on both sides of your body.
- Stiffness usually occurs in the morning
- Low grade fever
- Weight gain
Psoriatic arthritis symptoms include:
- Arthritis symptoms occur in the fingers toes, back, and pelvis
- The symptoms are asymmetrical, meaning it only affects one side of the body
- Foot pain is common. The pain can be experienced in the sole of the foot and the back of the heel.
- Fingers may experience swelling
- Nails may flake and develop pits
Systemic inflammation can also damage your cardiovascular system, leading to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Chronic inflammation can even occur on the inside of your blood vessels.
When blood vessels become inflamed, the blood vessels weaken, and plaque can pull from the sides of the walls of your blood vessels. When plaque comes in contact with blood, it can trigger the formation of a blood clot. If the blood clot travels to an artery in the heart, it can trigger a heart attack. If it travels to an artery leading to the brain, it can cause an ischemic stroke.
Obesity and unhealthy eating habits increase inflammation in your body; however, it is important to note that chronic inflammation can also occur in healthy people.
Inflammation can also occur in the lungs. When this occurs, fluid can accumulate in the lungs and your airways can narrow, which can cause breathing difficulties. Lung infections, COPD (which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema), and asthma are caused by inflammation in your lungs.
Some of the most common causes of lung inflammation include:
- Air pollution
- Cured meat
- Being overweight
- Household chemicals
Chronic inflammation of your gums, periodontitis, is caused by an accumulation of bacteria along your gums. Periodontitis can cause your gums to recede and weaken or damage the skeletal structure of your jaw and teeth. Periodontal disease not only affects oral health. It also affects areas throughout your body. Gum inflammation has also been linked to dementia and heart disease.
Harvard University did a study on inflammation and found that consuming omega 3 fatty acids provide anti-inflammatory benefits and reduces inflammation in the gums. In addition to this, you can reduce inflammation by brushing your teeth and flossing daily.
Ready For Relief From Inflammation
The various types of inflammation cause damage throughout the body. Inflammation can weaken your bones, make weight loss difficult, result in skin problems (psoriasis, wrinkle formation, and early aging), contribute to depression and other mood disorders. If you are tired all the time, experience regular aches and pains, have swollen lymph nodes, or experience digestive issues, you may be suffering from systemic inflammation.
If you are battling chronic inflammation, it is important to act quickly. You can reduce your inflammation by practicing good lifestyle choices. Stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption, and try to get an ample amount of sleep. Exercise daily, practice stress relief, and follow an anti-inflammatory diet to improve your health and reduce inflammation in your body. The integrative physicians at Rose Wellness specialize in pain management and use a variety of holistic approaches to help decrease inflammation and reduce its effects on your body.