Acute and chronic inflammation
Inflammation is part of your body’s immune response to harmful substances. Infections, wounds, and damage to any tissue would not be able to heal without an inflammatory response. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic inflammation.
Acute inflammation comes on very quickly and usually resolves in two weeks or less. During this process, your body responds to harmful substances, repairs damage to cells and carries away dead cells. It results in symptoms like:
Examples of conditions that involve acute inflammation include acute bronchitis, a sore throat from a cold or flu or an infected ingrown toenail.
Chronic inflammation is a slower and generally less severe form of inflammation. It can happen when your body can’t remove the harmful substance or heal an injury and this means your body stays in a state of inflammation for several months or even years. It can also happen if the harmful substance is gone but the body still stays in an inflammatory state.
Some of the symptoms of chronic inflammation can include:
- body pain
- constant fatigue and insomnia
- depression, anxiety and mood disorders
- problems with digestion
- weight gain
- frequent infections.
Research suggests there is a link between chronic inflammation and some chronic diseases. These chronic diseases include cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and type 2 diabetes.
5 risk factors for chronic inflammation
If your diet is high in saturated fat, trans fat, or refined sugar, you’re more likely to have higher levels of inflammatory markers in the body. On the other hand, a 2018 study found that a diet similar to a traditional Mediterranean diet can reduce the level of inflammatory markers in your body.
- Stress and sleep disorders
If you’re experiencing physical or emotional stress, you’re more likely to be in a state of inflammation. Stress can also lead to sleep disorders and there is a link between irregular sleep patterns and an increase in inflammation in the body.
Smoking, or breathing in second-hand smoke, encourages an inflammatory response. Often the immune system overcompensates for the intake of these toxins, which can mean that the white blood cells - rather than healing the damaged tissue - work on the offensive. This increases the risk of lung cancer.
The older you are, the more likely you are to have higher levels of inflammatory molecules. This may be due to free radical accumulation to increase and other age-related risk factors like and increase in visceral fat.
6 ways you can fight inflammation
- Eat your veggies and fruit
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables is one of the best ways to avoid chronic inflammation. Vegetables are full of anti-inflammatory nutrients, including magnesium, carotenoids, antioxidants and lycopene.
The following vegetables and fruits are particularly anti-inflammatory:
- olive oil
- green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
- fruits such as strawberries, blueberries.
- Limit these foods
The following foods have been found to increase inflammation in the body:
- refined carbohydrates like white bread and pastries
- fried foods
- red meat and processed meats
- margarine, shortening and lard.
- Eat more fatty fish
Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can be anti-inflammatory. You can try adding fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines to your diet.
- Exercise regularly
Regardless of your weight, regular exercise can help prevent chronic inflammation and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
- Get more sleep
It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you’re not getting adequate sleep, you’re likely to be a higher risk of inflammation. Read more about tips to getting a good night’s sleep
People with anxiety or depression can lower their inflammation markers simply by getting treatment. Lowering stress of any kind is going to lower your risk of inflammation.
- Foods that fight inflammation at Harvard Medical School
- Understanding inflammation at Harvard Medical School
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified health care professional.
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