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Underlying Reasons For Chronic Inflammation: How To Treat And Prevent It

Underlying Reasons For Chronic Inflammation: How To Treat And Prevent It

Underlying Reasons For Chronic Inflammation: How To Treat And Prevent It

Inflammation, even Chronic Inflammation, can be happening in the body long before we can diagnose any issues. But what is it exactly, and most importantly, how can we avoid it?

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is part of the body’s defence mechanism. It is the process by which the immune system recognises and removes harmful and foreign stimuli. When something damages your cells, your body releases chemicals that trigger a response from your immune system.

Inflammation can be either acute or chronic:

Acute Inflammation

Tissue damage due to trauma, microbial invasion, or noxious compounds can induce acute inflammation. It starts rapidly, becomes severe in a short time and symptoms may last for a few days for example cellulitis or acute pneumonia. Subacute inflammation is the period between acute and chronic inflammation and may last 2 to 6 weeks.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is also referred to as slow, long-term inflammation lasting for prolonged periods of several months to years. Generally, the extent and effects of chronic inflammation vary with the cause of the injury and the ability of the body to repair and overcome the damage. [1]

When there has been inflammation in the body for a long period of time, what follows is:

  1. too many pro-inflammatory cells and molecules are produced, such as tumour necrosis factor (TNF), interleukins (ILs), nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), prostaglandins, and free radicals.
  2. Damage to the body which can cause health issues and conditions, such as autoimmune disease. [2]

Chronic inflammation leaves your body in a constant state of alert.

What are the symptoms of chronic inflammation?

Some of the common signs and symptoms that develop during chronic inflammation are listed below.

  • Body pain, arthralgia, myalgia
  • Chronic fatigue and insomnia
  • Depression, anxiety and mood disorders
  • Gastrointestinal complications like constipation, diarrhoea, and acid reflux
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Frequent infections [3]

How can you tell if you are chronically inflamed

  • Increased belly fat will increase inflammatory chemicals in your body.
  • Increased levels of blood sugar will lead to inflammation.
  • Low levels of energy.
  • Gut dysfunction like gas, diarrhoea, bloating, constipation can lead to gut permeability issues and systemic inflammation.
  • Depression and anxiety can be a result of inflammation.
  • Fatigue and brain fog because if your cells are inflamed, they are unable to make energy for you. Cognitive decline and dementia in older adults is linked to inflammation.
  • You are gaining weight.
  • Allergies and you feel puffy.
  • Gum disease.
  • Skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, red or blotchy skin [4]
  • Excessive mucus production

Over time, this can lead to DNA damage, tissue death, and internal scarring and may lead to serious conditions and diseased states such as cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disorders, chronic kidney disease and neurological disorders.

Tests for chronic inflammation

There are three biomarkers that are tested for when looking for inflammation in the body:

  • white blood cell count – if you have a high white blood cell count, it could indicate that your immune system is working overtime to try to get rid of an infection.
  • sedimentation rate (ESR) measures how quickly your red blood cells settle in a blood sample. If they settle quickly, it may it indicate inflammation in the body.
  • high sensitivity c-reactive protein (hs-CRP) – if you have a high level of hs-CRP, it shows that you have inflammation in the body.

What causes chronic inflammation?

Several causes of low-grade systemic chronic inflammation (SCI) and their consequences have been identified. The most common triggers of SCI include:

  • chronic infections
  • physical inactivity
  • (visceral) obesity
  • intestinal dysbiosis
  • diet
  • social isolation
  • psychological stress
  • disturbed sleep and disrupted circadian rhythm
  • exposure to xenobiotics such as air pollutants, hazardous waste products, industrial chemicals and tobacco smoking. [5]

Inflammation can also be triggered by untreated causes of acute inflammation, like an infection or injury.

Plus, it can develop if you are sensitive to something that triggers an allergy.

How do you treat chronic inflammation?

For the most part, the above triggers for chronic inflammation are within our ability to control, so we can take steps to actively treat and prevent its development.

Diet changes and modifications

The number one thing you can do to reduce inflammation is to avoid processed foods, white flour, large quantities of meat, sugars, excess salt, and for some people, gluten.

Instead, focus on:

  • Whole, nutrient dense foods such as a variety of vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds.
  • Eat berries; and orange and yellow fruits often.
  • Eat dark, leafy greens. Swiss chard, kale and bok choy are among the most therapeutic leafy greens to eat with high levels of vitamins B, C, A and K that can help protect the brain from oxidative stress caused by free radical damage.
  • Cook with olive oil, ghee and unrefined coconut oil.
  • Increase your intake of omega-3s like wild salmon and herring, chia seeds and flax seeds. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids—especially eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid—modulate the expression of genes involved in metabolism and inflammation. [6]
  • Cook with anti-inflammatory foods and spices like garlic, turmeric and ginger.
  • Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage) contain potassium and magnesium which can work together with antioxidants to lower oxidative stress in the body. [7]

Caring for your microbiome

Research tells us that there are some bacteria in the gut at are associated with inflammatory molecules that may bring about inflammation in various body tissues. [8]

Microbiota-derived metabolites, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and Gram-negative bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS), exert anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory effects by acting on macrophages [9] (a type of white blood cell that surrounds and kills microorganisms, removes dead cells, and stimulates the action of other immune system cells).

There are a number of ways to keep your microbiome healthy, and to ward off inflammation. These include:

  • Cutting out all foods, toxins, and harmful chemicals that may cause inflammation or an imbalance in your gut bacteria. This includes pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and certain medications.
  • Ensuring you consume a wide variety of plant foods and specific supplements that heal your gut and support the microbiome.
  • Eat certain herbs, spices, and supplements that can replace stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and improve the quality of bacteria in your gut.
  • Repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria by eating probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods and supplements. [10] This may include taking a high-quality probiotic every day and eating foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha.

Eliminate toxins

Remove the below items from your diet, home and personal products.

  • Atrazine (often in produce, so buy organic)
  • Phthalates (cosmetics, plastic wrap with recycle label #3 on it, some plastic children’s toys and containers)
  • BPA (canned foods, so go fresh)
  • Dioxin (animal products, so reduce protein from animal sources)
  • Perchlorate (use a reverse osmosis water filter)
  • Fire retardants (padding in old carpet or old foam couches)
  • Lead (old and crumbling paint, water)
  • Arsenic (in drinking water and food)
  • Mercury (certain fish, sushi)
  • Per fluorinated chemicals, PFCs (non-stick cookware)
  • Glycol Ethers (paint, cosmetics, household cleaners)
  • Organophosphate pesticides (produce, so research which produce items that must be bought organic) [11]

Manage your stress

Look after yourself and reduce the amount of stress in your life, where possible. It is important to do the things you love, as well as taking time to rest, do yoga, meditation or something that you find relaxing.

Get enough sleep

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, chances are, there is inflammation in your body. Good quality sleep ensures your body can repair itself and be ready for anything that comes your way.


Exercise, in the long term, has shown to reduce inflammatory markers in the body. As long as you get your heart rate up, it will be beneficial. Think about incorporating it into you every day life so that it becomes something you do without even thinking about.

Take supplements

  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) is a substance that the body creates naturally. It plays an important role in the epigenetic regulation of genes. Studies tell us that SAM-e may help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with various types of arthritis and manage symptoms of depression.
  • Zinc is a potent anti-inflammatory that may support the immune system and reduce several markers of inflammation. [12]
  • Cat’s claw has the ability to inhibit the pro-inflammatory TNF-alpha pathway in the body. [13]
  • Fish oil supplement are a great way to fight inflammation as omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect by blocking cytokines and prostaglandins.

How we can help

Unfortunately, many people don’t know they have inflammation until it is running rampant throughout the body. Symptoms often appear when inflammation is well and truly underway.

At Advanced Functional Medicine, we can explore the underlying causes of inflammation after specifically designed exploratory tests and diagnosis. Functional Medicine assesses the body as a complex set of systems that are interrelated so by looking at the body as a whole, your lifestyle and any conditions, we can work towards repair and healing.

Get in touch with us to find out more.

The above information is intended to be general, educational advice only, on topics which are of interest to us. It is not intended to represent specific or individual health or medical advice and is not specific to your situation. The below information is educative and is not intended to advertise any service.

Before making any decisions in relation to your health, you should always discuss your individual situation with your own health practitioners to ensure that any advice you have read is right for you.

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.

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