Do you know the signs of inflammation?
More often than you think, your body is in an inflammatory phase. Inflammation can occur when you have a common cold, when you stub your toe, or when you get a paper cut.
While acute inflammation, like the example listed above, is totally normal, chronic inflammation can lead to debilitating diseases and other health conditions. If you have chronic inflammation, the best thing you can do is educate yourself on the symptoms and signs in order to find treatment.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, inflammation happens in everyone. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself against harm. It is spurred by the immune system in order to protect the body from disease, infection, and injury. It is a very complex process, involving a variety of cell and signaling proteins that will attack foreign substances, like bacteria and viruses, that can enter the body. Without inflammation, your body would not be able to properly heal itself from many kinds of injury or disease.
Inflammation is not always a pleasant process. But knowing the signs of inflammation can help you to stay aware of when your body and the immune system are doing their job. Knowing the signs of inflammation can also help you discern whether you have “normal” or “abnormal” inflammatory responses.
What are the kinds of inflammation?
While there are several different kinds of inflammation, the two main types are acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation- This is the kind of inflammation that most people are familiar with. It is often accompanied by redness, warmth, swelling, and pain in the tissues and joints that respond to an injury or illness. Acute inflammation is a good thing! It’s a sign that the body is undergoing its natural healing process. Examples of conditions that cause acute inflammation include:
Acute bronchitis (which will cause inflammation of the airways that carry air to the lungs)
A sore throat caused by a cold
An infected hangnail
Physical trauma like a cut or burn
Sinusitis (which causes short term inflammation of the nose and nearby sinuses usually a result of a viral infection)
Chronic inflammation- This kind of inflammation is the less desirable one. Essentially, chronic inflammation is too much of a good thing. Your immune system turns the dial up too high and causes the body to remain in an inflammatory state for too long. In chronic inflammation, the white blood cells react as if the body is constantly under attack. Chronic inflammation can happen anywhere in the body and can trigger a number of chronic diseases. Conditions that can cause chronic inflammation include:
Asthma → This condition causes inflammation of the airways that carry air to the lungs. In response, the airways will become narrow and breathing will become difficult.
Inflammatory bowel disease → This term refers to ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease. Both of these conditions cause chronic inflammation in the GI tract that will eventually lead to damage.
Inflammatory arthritis → This term covers a group of conditions distinguished by inflammation in the joints and tissues. It includes lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Periodontitis → This condition causes inflammation of the structures that support the teeth, including the gums. It is caused by bacteria that trigger local inflammation.
What are the signs of inflammation?
If you’re currently experiencing the signs of inflammation, it could be a sign that your body is fighting off a foreign attacker. Or, it could also be a sign you’re suffering from an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation. Below are just some of the many signs your body is currently experiencing inflammation:
Stages of inflammation?
If you understand the stages of inflammation, that can also be helpful in understanding if and where our body is in the process of fighting off potential harmful invaders. Knowing the stages of inflammation will also help you to recognize if what you’re experiencing is actually chronic inflammation.
These are the three stages of inflammation:
Phase 1: Inflammatory Response → In this stage, vascular changes will increase blood flow to the region to mobilize and transport the healing white blood cells. The damaged cells will be removed and new collagen will be placed in the injured regions. The symptoms you will notice are pain, swelling, warmth, and the others above.
Phase 2: Subacute → This stage is also known as the repair and regeneration phase. This is when the body starts to rebuild the damaged tissue. More collagen is laid down in a disorganized manner that will begin to form a scar.
Phase 3: Chronic → This stage is also known as the remodeling and maturation stage. Less collagen is being formed, but there is an increase in the cellular organization of the existing collagen, creating stronger bonds.
While knowing the stages can be helpful, the only way to truly know if you’re suffering from chronic inflammation is through a thorough case history and bodily assessment.
As described above, chronic inflammation occurs when the process of inflammation (the release of antibodies, proteins, and white blood cells to attack a foreign substance or repair damage) will not stop. This leaves the body in a constant state of alert and over time will cause a negative impact on your organs and tissues. Some researchers suggest that chronic inflammation could potentially play a role in a range of deadly conditions, from stroke to cancer.
Chronic inflammation often has very subtle symptoms that can be hard to notice. Some of the symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
Chronic inflammation can also cause other, more surprising symptoms due to the widespread and versatile effects of inflammation throughout the body. Lesser-known symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
Balance problems → Some forms of chronic inflammatory diseases can cause your body to attach itself. For example, for those with multiple sclerosis, their immune system attacks nerve coatings. This will cause it to be more difficult for nerve signals to move throughout the body. Walking may be difficult and dizziness is common.
Muscle weakness → Chronic inflammatory conditions like myositis occur when the immune system attacks the muscles. This can cause muscle fibers to break down and muscle to weaken. It usually occurs slowly, most often in the hips, shoulders, and torso.
Insulin resistance → Inflammation can affect how well insulin controls blood sugar levels. Though, researchers aren’t totally clear as to how this occurs.
Diarrhea → Inflammatory bowel disease causes the immune system to overreact and inflame the small intestines and colon this will cause diarrhea and other symptoms like joint pain, fever, skin rashes, and nausea.
Lower back pain → In some cases, like ankylosing spondylitis, chronic inflammation attacks the spine, neck, knees, and chest. This can cause pain and stiffness in the lower back. More serious cases can lead to a loss of motion.
Chronic inflammation can be caused by a number of factors. These include:
Long-term exposure to irritants (like polluted air or industrial chemicals)
An autoimmune disorder
Untreated causes of acute inflammation
Foods that can cause inflammation?
If you have been reading our blogs, you know that the food you eat has a great impact on every part of your body, especially the immune system. Some foods can significantly affect inflammation throughout your body. Experts believe the foods that cause inflammation include:
Sugary foods → Added sugar, in the form of natural sugars and high fructose corn syrup, can all increase inflammation and lead to disease. A diet full of sugary foods can lead to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and even cancer.
Vegetable and seed oil → Soybean oil and other vegetable oils can promote inflammation. This is because of their high amount of Omega-6 fatty acids.
Refined carbs → While carbohydrates are not inherently bad, refined carbs can further inflammation in the body. The fiber in refined carbs has largely been removed. They are found in candy, pasta, bread, pastries, and sugary soft drinks.
Artificial trans fats → Many researchers believe that artificial trans fats are the most unhealthy fats you can eat. This type of fat can cause inflammation and increase your risk of disease.
Excessive alcohol → While moderate alcohol consumption can have some health benefits, excessive use of alcohol can lead to inflammation.
Luckily, there are dietary changes that can be made to decrease inflammation, these are known as anti-inflammatory foods. Such foods have high antioxidant and polyphenol content. They include:
The Mediterranean diet has been found to be the most effective overall diet in decreasing levels of inflammation and promoting overall health. A 2018 study found that those who follow the Mediterranean diet have lower markers of inflammation. This diet focuses on eating plant-based foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. It also promotes eating whole foods and few processed foods. You could consider the Mediterranean diet to be more of an eating pattern than a diet, as it doesn't have such strict restrictions.
Emphasizes olive oil and other healthy fats such as avocados
Emphasizes nutrient-rich foods
No need to count calories or carbohydrates
Lower intake of sugar due to the amount of other fresh foods
At the Johnson Center, we take a comprehensive deep dive to find the true root of your inflammation before beginning treatment. The root is most often in the gut.
After finding the true cause of your inflammation through testing, we will begin treatment from there. Dr. Johnson is committed to curing you of inflammation, not just giving you pills or supplements to mask the supplements.
To learn more about how we treat inflammation, here to contact us or call 276-235-3205 to schedule your complimentary discovery call.
The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!