Inflammation is your body’s protective response to an injury or irritation. When your body suffers an external trauma, it responds by releasing white blood cells, whose chemicals enter your blood or tissues, defending against harmful agents.
The body’s immune system also releases inflammatory cells and cytokines to the injured tissue to trap the offending agent and help with the healing process. During this process, small blood vessels in the tissue become wider to allow blood flow in the injured tissue, causing the inflamed area to turn red and feel hot.
Types of inflammation
There are two types of inflammation:
- Chronic Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is characterized by a prolonged inflammatory process lasting several months to years in response to an external or internal inflammatory stimulus. Chronic inflammation is linked to arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and bowel diseases.
- Acute Inflammation: Acute inflammation refers to the immediate physiological response to tissue damage. It is usually short-term and is characterized by a release of plasma proteins, fluids, and leukocytes from the blood to the injured area.
Symptoms of inflammation
Symptoms of inflammation include:
Causes of inflammation
The most common causes of chronic inflammation include:
- Exposure to toxins: Toxins from pollution and industrial chemicals could get absorbed into your body and cause lung inflammation if they get too far into the lungs.
- External injuries like scrapes: Inflammation is bound to occur shortly after sustaining wounds like cuts and scrapes to protect the injured tissue from infection.
- Autoimmune disorders: Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can also cause inflammation of the connective tissue in the affected organ in the body.
What you eat and how you live also go a long way in contributing to body inflammation. Dietary and lifestyle factors that may increase the risk of inflammation include:
Reducing inflammation in your body
It is possible to control and even reverse inflammation in your body. A healthy, anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle can be a powerful weapon against all signs of inflammation. If you already have an inflammatory disease, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet may reduce the risk of early death. Ways of treating this condition include:
- Exercise: By being physically active, your body releases cytokines that are crucial elements in the growth of immune system cells and blood cells. In the long run, you reduce the risk of chronic metabolic and cardiorespiratory diseases.
- Stress management: Practice mindfulness, take a walk, or do yoga to help boost endorphins that fight stress.
- Eat more anti-inflammatory foods: An anti-inflammatory diet includes plant-based food such as fruits and vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other anti-inflammatory foods include grapes, olive oil, walnuts, salmon, tuna, and spices like ginger and turmeric. Limit unhealthy fats from food such as butter and red meat.
- Take a break from alcohol: Long-term heavy drinking can lead to intestinal inflammation responsible for organ dysfunction throughout your body, especially the lungs. The surest way to reduce inflammation from alcohol is by cutting back on your intake.
- Control your blood sugar: Eating too much sugar causes a spike in blood glucose levels, and the body responds by releasing the hormone insulin, which works to bring the glucose levels back to normal. However, if you regularly have too much glucose in your body, cells become insulin-resistant, a proinflammatory state that could cause damage throughout your body.
- Quit smoking: Smoking damages blood vessels by constricting them, which limits the amount of blood that flows into your organs. When you give up smoking, an increase in anti-inflammatory receptor levels occurs, reducing your risk of developing heart disease.
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Your doctor may use a range of medications, rest, exercise, and surgery to treat inflammation. Without treatment, some infections can enter the blood, causing life-threatening conditions like sepsis. For acute inflammation, your doctor may prescribe medication to remove the cause of inflammation and manage the symptoms. For chronic inflammation, your doctor may recommend:
- Supplements: Vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin D play a huge role in boosting immunity and reducing inflammation.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): These are drugs that relieve pain, decrease fever, and (in higher doses) decrease inflammation. Your doctor may prescribe aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
- Steroids: Cortisone injections are often recommended for people with rheumatoid arthritis to decrease inflammation in joints or muscles. Steroid shots also reduce redness and swelling while relieving pain and stiffness.
- Biological agents: These are biological response modifiers that belong to a group of medications administered to people with rheumatoid arthritis. These disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or DMARDs include such drugs as abatacept , adalimumab, anakinra, certolizumab, etanercept, golimumab, infliximab, rituximab, sarilumab, and tocilizumab.
If medication is not effective, surgical options for inflammatory arthritis include synovectomy, arthroplasty, joint fusion, and tendon repair.
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Cleveland Clinic: "How is inflammation treated?", "What is inflammation?"
Europe PMC: "Chronic Inflammation - Abstract."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Understanding acute and chronic inflammation."
Journal of Inflammation: "The Journal of Inflammation."
Mayo Clinic, Rheumatoid arthritis: "Diagnosis & Treatment."
Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care: "What is an inflammation."
Scripps: "Six Keys of Reducing Inflammation."
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