What Does Inflammation Mean
Chronic conditions and inflammation go hand in hand, turning a good response by your body on its head. But you can take some simple steps to fight inflammation without relying solely on medications.
Inflammation is present in almost all chronic conditions.1 It’s a natural response our immune system sends out to fight bacteria and viruses that may enter our bodies. White blood cells course through the bloodstream to fight off foreign substances and help protect us from infections. When the number of cells and blood flow increase in a certain area of the body, you see the telltale signs of inflammation — redness, swelling, and pain.2
Still, we want our immune system to fight back. The trouble occurs when our immune system begins fighting when there is no need or when it misinterprets its need to attack. This is called chronic inflammation, and it can lead to autoimmune disorders and impact vital organs.
Inflammation Effects on Health
Chronic inflammation contributes to multiple conditions:
- Joint pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Low back and neck pain
How to Ease Inflammation
Research suggests that various lifestyle patterns — sleep, stress, nutrition, physical activity, and environment — can either promote or ease inflammation. That is not to say that lifestyle is the only factor, but it is one to consider. The CDC calls these factors pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory inducers.
Here are some pro-inflammatory inducers:
- Inactive lifestyle
- Poor nutrition
- Excessive processed food consumption
- Air pollution
- Poor water quality
Here are some anti-inflammatory inducers:
- Physical activity
- Healthy diet3
- Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats, fiber, lean protein, nuts, seeds
- Flavoring foods with herbs and spices, including garlic, vinegar, cocoa, paprika, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne
- Quality sleep
Talk with your doctor about treatment options. The doctor may recommend therapies, medications, and lifestyle changes to alleviate the inflammation. Not every treatment works the same for everyone. It’s important for you and your doctor to look at the big picture when it comes to your health. Take into account your physical health, habits, behaviors, and emotional health to create a treatment option that works best for you!
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Egger G. (2012). In search of a germ theory equivalent for chronic disease. Preventing Chronic Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2012/pdf/11_0301.pdf
2What is inflammation? (2016). WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/about-inflammation#1
311 food do’s and don’ts to tame inflammation. (2016). WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/psoriatic-arthritis/psa-17/slideshow-psa-inflammation-foods