Updated: Jul 14
The inflammatory response, also known as inflammation, is the body’s way of responding to injury or protecting itself against factors seen as potential threats. Inflammation is a positive phenomenon when it’s controlled and short term because it allows the body to heal and grow.
In cases where it’s uncontrolled and chronic, it can negatively impact the balance of the body, which is known as homeostasis. In the long term, this can cause a variety of symptoms, which can even progress into serious health issues. For example, if you experience chronic headaches, joint or muscle pain, allergies, elevated blood sugar, brain fog, digestive issues, eczema, or mood issues you may have underlying inflammation in your body.
In Functional Medicine we look into the undying cause for this symptoms you are experiencing. Mark Hyman a leader in the Functional Medicine dives deeper in the article: Inflammation: How to Cool the Fire Inside you that’s Making you Fat and Diseased.
What is Inflammation?
In case of an injury or the presence of toxic substances in the body, your inflammatory response is activated. This leads immune and other cells present in the bloodstream to produce pro-inflammatory molecules known as cytokines. These inflammatory substances signal to the rest of the immune system that something is wrong. This causes an influx of immune cells toward the site or organ suffering from an injury or an infection.
It creates a chain reaction leading other immune cells to secrete inflammatory substances, which serve as a means of communication between cells in different organs or parts of the body. This is a perfectly natural and healthy response to injury. However, chronic production of these cytokines and inflammatory substances causes oxidative stress, and with time it causes the body’s inner balance to go away.
The inflammatory response can be positive in some cases. It is responsible for the healing of injuries and cuts, muscle growth after physical exercise, and even in the implantation of embryos to allow for a healthy pregnancy. In the long run, however, if chronic inflammation can have many serious consequences.
What are the consequences of chronic inflammation?
First, chronic inflammation can be responsible for uncomfortable symptoms such as constant chronic headaches, fatigue, bloating, skin rashes or itching, joint pain, irritability, brain fog, and low mood. This is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and it’s keeping it from functioning optimally.
With time, and if these symptoms go unnoticed or the state of inflammation isn’t resolved, more serious health problems will unfortunately develop. Most of the diseases that the world is suffering from today are caused, in one way or another, by chronic inflammation.
These health issues include dermatological disorders such eczema or dermatitis, rheumatologic conditions such as arthritis, joint pain, and other autoimmune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and diminished nutrient absorption or digestion issues, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders such as depression or schizophrenia and even some types of cancer.
How to know if I have inflammation?
Experiencing symptoms or suffering from conditions like the ones listed above are tell-tale signs that you may have an inflammation issue.
Some blood tests that can be ordered by your doctor can also objectively let you know that you suffer from an inflammation problem, these blood tests include:
Direct inflammation markers such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP) and other cytokines like Interleukine 6 (IL6).
Indirect inflammation markers such as high fibrinogen levels, anemia, high levels of iron stored in the body, or high levels of circulating homocysteine.
What can I do if I have inflammation?
Chronic inflammation is not a disease that you can simply cure with pills; instead, it requires a complete lifestyle makeover.
Dietary habits are one of the most important factors to change if you’d like to cure oxidative stress and limit inflammation within the body. In this regard, it’s important to limit inflammatory foods such as processed goods and animal products, and stick to a whole foods diet high in low-glycemic index foods and fresh produce, which are high in antioxidants, along with proper hydration.
Certain foods or ingredients can cause inflammation in people who are intolerant to this substance genetically predisposed to it. Such is the case with dairy and gluten. It can be helpful to conduct an elimination diet to see how these ingredients make you feel and how your body reacts when you consume them.
Other lifestyle measures like keeping a regular sleep schedule, getting plenty of exercise and managing stress are also necessary to heal inflammation within the body.
Seeing a functional medicine specialist is a great thing to do since your health is your most important asset. Not only will they help you identify the root causes of your inflammation, but they will also provide you with the guidance and assistance you need to improve your lifestyle habits.