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As a natural and necessary part of our body’s defences, inflammation is something we all experience – even if we’re not aware of it. Inflammation can be a problem, however, if it becomes chronic, due to potential negative knock-on effects.


Please note – this article is for general informational purposes only and does not represent medical advice. If you have any medical concerns regarding inflammation, whether acute or chronic, please consult your doctor. 

Chronic inflammation, quite apart from the initial illness or injury, can cause real health problems. Knowing the root causes can help us to better understand the issue and help us with not only managing inflammation but also reducing its root causes, making it less mystifying and putting us back in control of our health.

What is Inflammation?

Simply put, inflammation is part of the body’s natural defence system. It involves increased blood flow to a part of the body, bringing with it various immune system cells and additional substances known as inflammatory mediators. These include hormones such as bradykinin and histamine, which dilate smaller blood vessels, allowing further blood flow to the affected region.

Think of inflammation as your internal SAS, trained to gather and organise the resources needed to deal with illness or injury and keep your body safe from long-term harm.

A short-term response to an injury or invader is ‘acute inflammation’ – the first response unit towards harmful stimuli. This is realised by increased plasma and leukocyte traffic into damaged tissues, followed by a procession of biochemical actions involving the immune and vascular systems.

It is the biological response to potentially damaging pathogens, substances, antigens or damaged cells. Ultimately, inflammation’s aim is to do away with the original source of injury or irritation and to cleanse necrotic (or dead) tissues and cells, which in turn should lead to the subsequent repair and regeneration of remaining healthy tissues.

Localised redness, loss of function, heat, pain and swelling are common indicators that inflammation is present in the body. Whilst chronic or acute inflammation can be unpleasant in the extreme and cause knock-on effects, little or no inflammation would ultimately result in severe damage to the body as illness or injury would not be dealt with effectively.

On the negative side, medical issues such as osteoarthritis, anaphylaxis and hay fever are common examples of excess inflammation.

Chronic inflammation

We have established that some level of inflammation is a positive and necessary aspect of good health and healing.

Chronic inflammation, however, can cause health issues. It is a pronounced modification in the type of cells present at the location of inflammation, and is regarded as an ongoing destruction and healing of tissue within the inflammatory procedure.

It can be viewed as fuelling itself in this respect, and is a common complaint that can cause more severe health problems over time, including acting as a precursor to heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

Common causes of chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation may start out as a necessary acute inflammation that does not subside, or it can be a health condition that develops more gradually.

Extensive medical research has found that lifestyle factors have the biggest impact on how our bodies create and deal with inflammation.

It is a universal truth that diet and behaviour have the most important impact upon our health, and illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cancer are also closely linked to inflammation.

They can all be better managed, if not avoided altogether by simple lifestyle and dietary changes.

We all now know that smoking and excessive alcohol have numerous potentially fatal side effects, and inflammation is a negative consequence that can be reduced or eliminated by reducing or ceasing use of these drugs.

However, perhaps the biggest hidden killers in all of our lives in the 21st century are the two ‘S’s’ – Stress and Sugar.

Stress triggers certain hormones such as cortisol, which at regularly elevated levels, can exacerbate inflammation.

In the same way, too much refined sugar in the diet has been shown by numerous studies, including this one by Alini Schultz et al, to increase levels of inflammation.

Reducing Chronic Inflammation

The good news is that there is much we can all do to understand why our bodies are reacting in this way. Doctors are able to test for inflammatory markers within the blood as a matter of routine, but while we are going about our daily business, we can all have a significant and, more importantly, preventative input into our own health.

Healthy levels of exercise (allowing adequate rest between sessions) can help to manage inflammation.

Stress management through mindfulness practices, meditation and yoga, as well as ensuring adequate levels of sleep, have also been shown to reduce levels of chronic inflammation.

Foods to Avoid

  • Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup
  • Refined carbohydrates (such as white breads, pastas and pastries)
  • Trans-fats (found in many processed foods, crisps, and packaged cakes)
  • Vegetable and seed oils (especially those with a high ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids)
  • Processed meats
  • And – while most fruits and vegetables are recommended for their many benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties, some people suffer increased inflammation from consuming plants from the ‘nightshade family’, which includes tomatoes, aubergines, bell peppers, jalapenos and potatoes.

Foods with anti-inflammatory properties

  • Fatty fish
  • Turmeric
  • Broccoli
  • Berries
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Grapes
  • Dark chocolate

Numerous health research organisations, including the US National Library of Medicine, have published studies like this one on the Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol (CBD).

The above article stated: “Clinical studies have confirmed that CBD reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, inhibits T cell proliferation, induces T cell apoptosis and reduces migration and adhesion of immune cells.

In Summary

Acute inflammation is one of your body’s natural self-defence and repair mechanisms.

Chronic inflammation is a long-term, excessive immune response. It is something you should try to deal with through diet and lifestyle changes, and if necessary, by seeking expert medical advice.