Many of us have heard the term “chronic inflammation” used a time or two. However, what does it mean and how is it affecting us? In the most basic sense, the word “chronic” means “persisting or taking place for an extended period of time”. Illnesses that are said to be chronic (like chronic back pain for example) are often seen as being permanent, ongoing, or in many cases having no cure. In other words, chronic illnesses are often life long ailments. The word inflammation on the other hand, describes a process that your body uses to respond to tissue damage or illness like bacterial infections and viruses. The process is characterized by swelling, increased blood flow, redness and heat (think about what happens to your skin when you have a mosquito bite). Inflammation happens all the time in our bodies to keep us healthy. As a general rule, inflammation has huge benefits in fighting off illness, keeping us healthy and keeping us alive. However, sometimes our bodies are exposed to certain factors that cause the inflammatory process to go into overdrive. When your body is constantly in an inflammatory state, this is called “chronic inflammation” and can lead to several detrimental health problems.
It’s no secret that most Americans consume a diet high in sugars (simple carbohydrates) and saturated fats. This type of diet is said to be “pro-inflammatory”. As the name suggests, pro-inflammatory diets cause the body to become inflamed (Learn more about pro-inflammatory diets in next week’s post!)3. Eating a pro-inflammatory diet for an extended period of time (several years) can cause the body to enter into a state of chronic inflammation3. (It is now also suspected that chronic inflammation may be related to a viral infection that your body is unable to fully fight off – but that’s a-whole-nother story for another time!). As was mentioned above, this can lead to a number of health problems. Digestive disorders, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis have all been associated with chronic inflammation1.
As we can see, putting our bodies in a state of chronic inflammation can have some pretty serious long-term effects on our health and life expectancy. This is just another reason why proper diet is so vital to leading a healthy lifestyle. Making more informed food choices and choosing a diet that does not promote inflammation – which we will discuss in detail next week! – will allow you to live a happier, healthier and longer life!
1. Khansari, N., Shakiba, Y., and Mahmoudi, M. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress as a major cause of age-related diseases and cancer. Recent Pat. Inflamm. Allergy Drug Discov. 2009; 3(1): 73-80.
2. Karin, M., Lawrence, T., and Nizet, V. Innate immunity gone awry: Linking microbial infections to chronic inflammation and cancer. Cell. 2006; 124(4): 823-835.
3. Galland, L. Diet and Inflammation. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. December 2010; 25(6): 634-640.
4. Photo Credit: http://www.peertrainer.com/gfx/Inflammation.gif
5. Fleming, Alesha. Natural Health and Wellness Chiropractic, LLC. 2016. www.nhwchiro.com