Inflammation is a normal response by the body to threats like injury, infections, and toxins. Acute inflammation can cause local swelling, pain, redness, and an increase in temperature which can last for minutes or several days. Chronic inflammation, however, occurs when this process lingers and keeps the body on alert for months or even years.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
Low-grade chronic inflammation can be caused by a poor diet, untreated infections or injury, smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of movement, stress, and weight gain, according to Harvard Medical (1).
Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation
The symptoms of low-grade chronic inflammation can be subtle, and easy to overlook. For example, some common symptoms include skin rashes, achy muscles and joint pain, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, weight gain, fatigue, and mouth sores which can be mild or severe and occur over months or years. (1).
As chronic inflammation persists, it can lead to the damage of healthy cells, tissues, and body organs and over time can damage DNA which can then lead to the development of diseases like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes (1) (2).
Testing for Chronic Inflammation
One common test for chronic inflammation is C-reactive protein (CRP), measured in the blood, which assesses a protein produced by the liver that increases with inflammation (3). The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed rate) measures red blood cells and is another blood test commonly used to detect inflammation in the body (4).
Strategies to Reduce Chronic Inflammation
Here are a few strategies from The Harvard Medical School to help manage and reduce chronic inflammation in the body (1):
· Consume anti-inflammatory whole foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fatty fish
· Limit/avoid consumption of highly processed foods like hot dogs, candy, soda, and all foods high in simple sugars
· Get movement each day and include aerobic exercise and strength training sessions each week
· Maintain a healthy weight with diet and exercise
· Sleep 7-9 hours nightly
· Don’t smoke and limit/avoid alcohol consumption
· Reduce chronic stress with relaxation activities like deep breathing, yoga, and laughter