Signs of chronic inflammation you may be overlooking

Chronic inflammation – maybe not at the top of our list of concerns, but for long-term good health, it should be. Chronic inflammation is a type of inflammation that slowly develops and can last for prolonged periods of time from months to years. During chronic inflammation, the immune system perceives itself as being under constant attack by invaders wanting to harm you. To fight off this supposed attack, it will fight indefinitely by pumping out white blood cells and chemical messengers prolonging the process.

Unfortunately, this may lead the white blood cells to attack healthy tissues and organs. A good example of this is being obese. Obesity can result in an accumulation of visceral fat cells deep within the abdominal cavity.  The immune system may mistake these cells as a threat and send in white blood cells to attack them, creating chronic inflammation. Weight loss is the solution but it takes time to reach a healthy body weight when obese.  Therefore, the longer a person is carrying excess weight, the longer they are in a state of inflammation.

Long-term inflammation will eventually negatively impact the body.  This long-term state of panic is associated with the development of chronic diseases such as insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, skin issues, and digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Do you know if you are experiencing chronic inflammation? Here’s a look at signs possibly indicating inflammation. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment:

  • Muscle aches and joint pain

Systemic inflammation can be a common cause of your achy joints, sore muscles, and even low back pain. The immune system produces different types of immune cells and proteins to help with its job of defending and protecting your body. Cytokines are a type of protein released into your blood circulation or directly into tissues. If there is an overproduction of cytokines by the body, this can result in inflammatory symptoms and disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Elevated inflammatory cytokines will attack the tissues of muscles and joints that manifest themselves by swelling, redness, and pain.

  • Eczema, psoriasis, and hives

Both eczema and psoriasis are inflammatory skin conditions with symptoms of red, rough, and flaky skin. They both have ties to chronic inflammation or hypersensitivity of the immune system. Each has been linked to the body’s abnormal reaction from the body’s immune system leading to inflammation and flaking of the skin. Hives is another skin condition of raised, red, and itchy areas of skin that for some people may flare up and reoccur periodically. Hives are often triggered by histamine, an antibody normally released when an allergic reaction occurs from a substance, food, or insect bite.

  • Feeling constantly fatigued

If you get adequate sleep yet still have low energy levels, it may be a sign of chronic inflammation your body is battling. When your immune system is constantly at high alert, this leaves you feeling run-down and fatigued. Persistent fatigue has been associated with low-grade inflammation. A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience suggested that certain behavioral changes in people with chronic inflammation are caused by the infiltration of immune cells into the brain making them feel tired and listless.

  • Excess mucous production

Frequent throat clearing or needing to blow your nose may be more than just a cold.  It could be a sign of chronic inflammation. When the body is inflamed, your mucous membranes will produce thick phlegm with the intention of protecting epithelial cells that line your respiratory system.  This mucous production can be triggered by several types of inflammatory diseases such as chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

  • Digestive issues

If you frequently suffer from bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea, chronic inflammation may be to blame. Inflammatory diseases affecting digestive health include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which can be an indication of inflammation gone wild. A 2016 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that GERD may be a part of the body’s natural inflammatory response which could lead to damage to the esophagus.

  • Dry eyes

Your dry eyes may be due to more than just frequent use of staring at a computer. It could be a sign of an inflammatory condition called Sjogren’s syndrome, which affects the tear glands and salivary glands causing dryness. Other autoimmune diseases that can lead to eye inflammation include rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. Anyone experiencing dry eyes, blurry vision, burning or stinging of the eyes, a gritty feeling in one or both eyes, sensitivity to light, inflamed eyelids, or discomfort wearing contacts, should contact their doctor.

Steps to healing chronic inflammation

As stated earlier in this article, first start with your healthcare provider to properly diagnose any of the symptoms mentioned you may have and to discuss treatment for them.  However, there are steps you can take that may improve immune functioning and reduce inflammation helping you regain good health:

  • Eat at least 5 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables every day
  • Drink 1-2 cups of black coffee and/or green tea daily
  • Have lean red meat in moderation – a 3-4 ounce portion size once or twice a week
  • Limit refined grains – white flour, white bread, white pasta, and added sugars found in cookies, cake, candy, etc.
  • Eat more whole grains such as farro, buckwheat, bulgur, 100% whole wheat bread, and pasta
  • Limit processed meats – bacon, salami, sausage, hot dogs
  • Consider taking a multivitamin
  • Exercise at least 4 times a week for at least 20 minutes each time
  • Minimize stress
  • Avoid foods you are sensitive to
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