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Inflammation: Types, symptoms, and solutions

Inflammation tends to get a bad reputation. And when talking about chronic inflammation, it's for a good reason! Chronic inflammation can lead to serious diseases and other detrimental health conditions. Thus, knowing your body’s signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation is essential in the journey to optimal health.

In this blog, you’ll learn the causes of chronic inflammation, the signs and symptoms, and foods you can eat to decrease it!

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Inflammation 101:

Whether you’re aware of it or not, inflammation happens. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself against harm. It is spurred by the immune system 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.

The type of beneficial inflammation described above is also known as acute inflammation, and it’s the kind 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 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. 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.

Moreover, several conditions can increase your risk of chronic inflammation, these 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.

But you don’t necessarily have to have one of the conditions above to still have chronic inflammation. In fact, chronic inflammation can be caused by lifestyle factors. You may be more likely to develop chronic inflammation if you:

  • Experience chronic stress

  • Smoke

  • Drink alcohol in excess

  • Are overweight

  • Exercise too much, or not enough

Furthermore, eating an unhealthy diet can also lead to chronic 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- which plays a key role in inflammation.

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.

What are the signs of inflammation?

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.

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 or partaking in lifestyle habits that cause inflammation.

Chronic inflammation often has very subtle symptoms that can be hard to notice. Some of the symptoms of chronic inflammation include:

  • Fever

  • Mouth sores

  • Rashes

  • Abdominal pain

  • Chest pain

  • Fatigue

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 muscles 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.

Foods to help fight inflammation:


Not only are berries delicious, but they’re also packed with fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Further, berries also contain a type of antioxidant called anthocyanin. These compounds have strong anti-inflammatory effects that could potentially decrease your chronic inflammation.

Several studies have found that adults who consumed blueberry powder every day produced significantly more natural killer (NK) cells than those who did not have the powder. NG cells help promote immune function and fight against unnecessary inflammation.

Another study found that adults who ate strawberries every day had lower levels of inflammatory markers. Specifically, the researchers were looking at inflammatory markers that are associated with heart disease.


Not only are avocados loaded with fiber, magnesium, potassium, and monounsaturated fats, but they’re also high in carotenoids and tocopherols. These two compounds have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and other conditions.

One study found that those who ate avocados consistently for 12 weeks had a reduction in multiple inflammatory markers.


Broccoli has a great reputation for a good reason. It’s one of the healthiest vegetables. Along with cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and kale, broccoli is considered to be a cruciferous veggie.

Eating lots of cruciferous vegetables has been associated with a lowered risk of heart disease and cancer. This is likely due to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain.

Broccoli contains a high amount of sulforaphane, an antioxidant that reduces your levels of cytokines. Cytokines are one of the main drivers of inflammation in the body. Thus, if you lower cytokines, inflammation levels are sure to follow.

Green tea:

Green tea is undeniably one of the healthiest choices when it comes to a beverage. Research has found that drinking green tea every day is associated with a reduced risk of:

  • Heart disease

  • Cancer

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Obesity

  • And several other conditions

Green tea has these benefits because it contains a high amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds reduce inflammation by prohibiting cytokine production and protecting the fatty acids within your cells.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

We all love olive oil, especially because it’s one of the healthiest fats you can eat. Research has found that extra virgin olive oil has been linked to a reduced risk of brain cancer, heart disease, and other serious health conditions.

These health benefits are likely due to an antioxidant found in EVOO called oleocanthal. This antioxidant is so powerful that it's been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen!

Keep in mind that the kind of olive oil you drink will impact the benefits you will receive. Organic, extra virgin olive oil is the best olive oil you can buy, and will come with all the anti-inflammatory benefits and more!

Click here to learn more about the best kinds of olive oil.

Fatty fish:

Fatty fish are a great source of protein and several omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, that help fight inflammation. While all fish contain some omega-3s, these fish are the best sources:

  • Sardines

  • Herring

  • Salmon

  • Mackerel

  • Anchovies

DHA and EPA can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. This is because your body metabolizes these omega-3s into compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects.

Several studies have demonstrated that consuming EPA/DHA supplements or eating salmon can cause a reduction in several inflammatory markers.

An anti-inflammatory diet:

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

  • Whole grains

  • Legumes

  • Leafy greens

  • 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!


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