What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a process that happens regularly throughout the body in response to various different factors like injuries, diseases, intense workouts, and even processed foods. It’s a natural bodily function that we all need in order to be healthy, especially with today’s modern lifestyles. It is generally a beneficial process but can be damaging when it occurs improperly in healthy tissues or goes on for too long. This is the primary difference between healthy short-term (acute) inflammation that occurs out of necessity, and harmful ongoing (chronic) inflammation which is a consequence of poor diet, lifestyle habits, and disease.
Short term inflammation which occurs over the span of hours or days, usually resolved in less than two weeks. This happens naturally in response to factors such as a cut on an arm, a sore throat, or a weight-lifting exercise. Symptoms such as swelling and redness begin to quickly appear as the body works to repair and restore itself back to a healthy condition.
The actual process happens by dilating blood vessels to increase blood flow and white blood cells to the effected areas in order to stimulate healing. The effected area then releases chemicals called cytokines to signal the need for additional immune cells, hormones, and nutrients. Depending on the cause, redness, swelling, and fever will likely follow. The inflammation slowly decreases as the recovery continues.
This is minor form of inflammation that occurs steadily over a longer period of time, often lasting for months or years. Chronic inflammation is typically triggered unnecessarily by perceived threats, where there are no injuries or infections that require the response. It is typically caused by diet, lifestyle habits, exposure to chemicals and pollution, and even medications. Smoking, alcohol consumption, and processed foods such as refined sugars and carbohydrates are among the most common causes of chronic inflammation.
The unneeded blood flow and white blood cells caused by inflammation can be harmful, promoting plaque buildup and an immune response which can attack healthy tissues and organs. This lingering form of inflammation is often linked to conditions and disease that include cancers, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and Alzheimer’s, in addition to symptoms like chronic pain and fatigue.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation can be triggered by many different factors. From minor injuries like scrapes or cuts to major wounds, infections, and diseases. In addition to these ailments, inflammation is caused by surprising sources.
Symptoms of Inflammation
NIH Inflammation report
WebMD on Inflammation
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