Six Ways To Reduce Your Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal response which affects us all at some point in our lives. It can result as an acute response to injury, or it can reflect a more serious long term condition.
Discover why inflammation occurs, the signs to look for and how you can reduce your inflammation levels.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation, from the Latin inflammare (to inflame, to set on fire), is a general immune response that occurs whenever the body is exposed to harmful stimuli, such as injuries or infections.1 The environment created by an inflammatory response helps immune cells to fight infectious organisms, remove any damaging agent, and repair the tissue afterwards.
Inflammation occurs as a result of the following process:
- First, the immune system accumulates fluids and white blood cells in the inflamed site (swelling);
- These immune cells produce chemical substances (chemokines, bradykinin, and others; some of which cause pain).
- Blood flow and metabolism are increased (redness and heat).
- Finally, loss of function may result from the previous mechanisms, such as intense pain, swelling, and scar formation.1
As detailed, inflammation can be described by five signs: redness, swelling, heat, pain, and loss of function. While ‘inflammation’ has changed from being considered a beneficial body response in ancient times to an inherently unhealthy one today, the real picture is a little more complex.1 To understand this, it is essential to differentiate between acute and chronic inflammation.
What is acute inflammation?
Acute inflammation is a self-limited, short-lived immune response that everyone has experienced at some point in their lives. During an acute inflammatory response, the immune system works to eliminate the threat.2 Once the harmful agent is eliminated, the tissue may recover, and the inflammation subsides.2,3
In most cases, acute inflammation is a protective reaction required for an adequate immune response.
However, inflammation may become problematic if unregulated,4 such is the case of anaphylaxis and septic shock.
What is chronic inflammation?
Chronic inflammation occurs when inflammation is unresolved, becoming long-lasting; however, it may occur without acute inflammation.1 It is usually associated with multiple risk factors like smoking, old age, obesity, unhealthy diet, and stress.5 This type of inflammation may last for months or years; it also promotes the development and deterioration of a myriad of conditions (atherosclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and many others).5
Measuring the level of inflammation in your body is a simple way of determining if acute or chronic inflammation is present.
Is it normal to have inflammation in your body? How common is inflammation?
Inflammation is a normal response from the immune system; its three main objectives are:
- defending against infection,
- adapting to stress,
- repairing injured tissues.4
In normal circumstances, an adequate inflammatory response should be self-limited (go away on its own) and well-regulated (protect the tissue instead of damaging it). The elimination of the harmful stimulus is a necessary step for a successful inflammatory response. Inflammatory signals have to be lessened, and proinflammatory substances have to be broken down and removed from the body.3 As we will discuss in the next segment, inflammation may become harmful if these steps are not achieved.
Considering that it is a natural body response, acute inflammation is frequent across all ages and geographical areas. However, chronic inflammation is also common. Most chronic diseases can be partially caused or worsened by chronic inflammation, making it a major problem of modern medicine.5
Is inflammation bad for you?
Inflammation can become unhealthy whenever the response is unregulated (excessive or ineffective). Harmful inflammation usually results from the failure to defend, repair, or adapt. The consequences are varied and may lead to different conditions, such as autoimmunity, tissue damage, fibrosis, and tumour growth.4
Autoimmunity is an immune response against the body’s healthy cells and molecules. Autoimmunity can occur during chronic infections because microorganisms may prompt the immune system to confuse normal structures with foreign ones.6 At the same time, autoimmune diseases help to perpetuate inflammation.5
If unregulated, acute and chronic inflammation may lead to tissue damage, which can permanently impair the structure and function of an organ. For example, upon a cardiac injury like a heart attack, inflammatory responses can be intense and damaging.7 Similar mechanisms are seen in:
- autoimmune diseases (psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus),
- allergic conditions (anaphylaxis, asthma),
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
- various infections (hepatitis C, Helicobacter pylori gastritis, sepsis).2
Chronic inflammation or repetitive episodes of acute inflammation may cause the affected tissue to change its structure. After an injury, the body tries to repair itself. This healing process normally involves producing connective tissue (elastin and collagen); when unregulated, it may lead to excessive and permanent scarring.8 After viral infections or irresponsible alcohol intake, inflammation may lead to severe scarring of the liver tissue, damaging it irreversibly and causing liver cirrhosis.2
Ultimately, inflammation can result in tumour growth, cancer, and metastasis. Evidence suggests that chronic inflammation promotes DNA mutations, which may result in tumours and cancer; at the same time, growth factors produced during inflammation may encourage the development of mutated cells.9
Identify the presence of inflammation & its severity.
What are the symptoms of chronic inflammation?
Inflammation can manifest itself with varied symptoms. The five cardinal signs of inflammation (heat, redness, swelling, pain, and loss of function) are usually associated with acute inflammatory responses. Nevertheless, conditions characterised by chronic inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, may present episodes of acute and localised inflammation.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation can be very vague, to the point that many people live with them without noticing they can be caused by inflammation. These symptoms include:
- Feeling tired.
- Sleeping problems.
- Stiff or painful muscles.
- Body pain.
- Loss of appetite.
- Undesired weight loss or gain.
- Feeling unwell.
- Joint pain.
- Gastrointestinal problems (constipation, diarrhoea, or both).
- Mood disorders.
- Long-lasting or frequent infections.
What causes chronic inflammation?
Chronic inflammation can occur through multiple mechanisms; in many instances, chronic inflammation will lead to conditions that perpetuate the inflammatory response.
Protecting the body from infection is a fundamental objective of inflammation. Some infectious organisms can overcome the immune system and resist eradication, such as certain bacteria, viruses fungi, and parasites.1,5
Repetitive episodes of acute inflammation may lead to chronic inflammation, which can be seen in some people with recurrent episodes of asthma. However, chronic inflammation can develop without previous acute inflammatory responses.5
The immune system should recognise the healthy structures of the body, attacking the foreign ones. However, due to acquired or hereditary alterations, it may attack the body’s normal cells.5,8 Autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and many others.5
Increased production of pro-inflammatory substances:
Sometimes, cells produce chemicals that may be toxic for the body, such as free radicals; in certain situations, the production of these toxins increases. This may be an important cause of chronic inflammation among the elderly, smokers, and people with obesity, unhealthy diets, or stress.5
Exposure to irritants and allergens:
Allergens, toxic compounds, and other substances cannot be broken down or easily eliminated from the body. Extended exposure may result in a long-term inflammatory response.1 This may be the case of exposure to industrial substances or construction materials like silica dust.5
Altered inflammation components:
The inability to make a coherent response may result in persistent inflammation. Such is the case of people that present a hereditary condition known as familial Mediterranean fever.5
Is there a blood test for inflammation? What do the results mean?
There are many ways to test for inflammation. A valuable way to examine inflammation levels is the C-reactive protein (CRP) test. CRP blood tests may be requested alongside erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), which is another inexpensive test that detects inflammation. Measuring specific inflammatory markers (tumour necrosis alpha, interleukin-1 beta, interleukin-6, and interleukin-8) is helpful in particular situations; however, they are expensive and unnecessary for most people.5
CRP is a protein produced in the liver that can rise a thousand-fold whenever inflammation is detected. Its concentration increases so quickly that it can be detected before any other evident sign of inflammation, such as pain or fever.
A regular CRP test detects significant inflammation, which can be seen in conditions with acute inflammatory responses; it measures CRP levels from 0.8 to 100 mg/dL. A high sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP) test measures from 0.3 to 10 mg/dL. The hs-CRP test is valuable for detecting chronic inflammation, which is usually lower than acute responses; it is also employed to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease.10 The exact reference ranges may vary between laboratories and populations:11
- Less than 0.3 mg/dL means your CRP is normal.
- From 0.3 to 1.0 mg/dL, you have a mild elevation that can be normal but can also be seen in patients with diabetes, obesity, depression, and smokers.
- From 1.0 to 10 mg/dL, you have a moderate elevation, seen in autoimmune conditions, some types of cancer, and other conditions associated with chronic inflammation.
- More than 10 mg/dL means that the CRP is high; this finding is common among people with acute inflammation. Results over 50 mg/dL are usually related to significant bacterial infections.
- It is essential to remember that higher does not necessarily mean worse. These results have to be correlated with your signs, symptoms, and medical history. Most people will have an elevated CRP during acute infection, which will fall back to normal after recovering. On the other hand, some people present a mild or moderate elevation for a long time, which may increase their risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and other conditions.
Buy a Vitall CRP test kit online to measure your inflammation levels from the comfort of your own home.
How to reduce inflammation quickly?
Inflammation can be reduced through multiple methods. To find the most effective one, you may begin by identifying the cause of the problem. Before making any significant change in your lifestyle or taking any medication, it is recommended to discuss it with your GP.
You may use anti-inflammatory agents (such as ibuprofen) for quick relief of acute inflammation. However, if the inflammatory response is severe, you may need medical treatment in a healthcare setting.
If you have chronic inflammation or want to avoid it, there are many long-term strategies to put into practice:
- Avoid diets with a high-glycaemic load and fat.5,12
- Consume more vegetables and limited amounts of fruits.5,12
- Incorporate fibre, green tea, nuts, and curcumin into your diet.5,12
- Do more physical activity.5,13
- Avoid smoking.5
- Seek professional help if you are feeling too stressed or unhappy most of the time.5
If you already have a chronic inflammatory condition, it is crucial to follow your GP’s indications. Depending on the condition, you may be prescribed metformin, statins (atorvastatin), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen), corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone), or other anti-inflammatory drugs.5
Get Yourself Tested With Vitall's Home Test Kits
Article Reviewed By
Ben Starling MSc. |Chief Executive
Six Ways To Reduce Your Inflammation: References & Citations
- Ferrero-Miliani L, Nielsen OH, Andersen PS, Girardin SE. Chronic inflammation: importance of NOD2 and NALP3 in interleukin-1beta generation. Clin Exp Immunol. 2007;147(2):227-235. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2249.2006.03261.x. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2249.2006.03261.x
- Nathan C. Points of control in inflammation. Nature. 2002;420(6917):846-852. doi:10.1038/nature01320. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12490957/
- Feehan KT, Gilroy DW. Is Resolution the End of Inflammation?. Trends Mol Med. 2019;25(3):198-214. doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2019.01.006. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30795972/
- Medzhitov R. Origin and physiological roles of inflammation. Nature. 2008;454(7203):428-435. doi:10.1038/nature07201. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18650913/
- Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
- Root-Bernstein R, Fairweather D. Complexities in the relationship between infection and autoimmunity. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2014;14(1):407. doi:10.1007/s11882-013-0407-3. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926441/
- Frangogiannis NG. Inflammation in cardiac injury, repair and regeneration. Curr Opin Cardiol. 2015;30(3):240-245. doi:10.1097/HCO.0000000000000158. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4401066/
- Nathan C, Ding A. Nonresolving inflammation. Cell. 2010;140(6):871-882. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2010.02.029. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2010.02.029
- Grivennikov SI, Greten FR, Karin M. Immunity, inflammation, and cancer. Cell. 2010;140(6):883-899. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2010.01.025. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866629/
- LabTestsOnline. C-Reactive Protein (CRP). Accessed 2 September 2021. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/tests/c-reactive-protein-crp
- Nehring SM, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. C Reactive Protein. [Updated 2021 May 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441843/
- Sears B, Saha AK. Dietary Control of Inflammation and Resolution. Front Nutr. 2021;8:709435. Published 2021 Aug 10. doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.709435. Available from: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.709435
- Suzuki K. Chronic Inflammation as an Immunological Abnormality and Effectiveness of Exercise. Biomolecules. 2019;9(6):223. Published 2019 Jun 7. doi:10.3390/biom9060223. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628010/