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  • Writer's pictureKevin Fitzgerald

What is inflammation in the body?

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is part of the body’s defence mechanism and plays a role in the Healing Process.

Your immune system triggers inflammation when it detects an intruder. This could be a thorn, a chemical irritant, or a pathogen such as bacteria, viruses and other organisms which cause infection. Inflammation tries to remove these invaders.

Inflammation is also involved in tissue repair. When cells are damaged, white blood cells migrate to the site of injury or infection, to ‘eat’ germs and dead or damaged cells. Then different types of white bloods cells trigger the next phase, The Proliferation Phase, that begins to lay down a structure to repair the damaged tissue.

Types of inflammation:

Acute inflammation

Acute inflammation occurs when there is exposure to a substance, such as a bee sting or dust. It can also occur when there is physical trauma, a wound or an inflection.

Examples of Infections are:

  • Acute bronchitis, appendicitis

  • Ingrown toenail

  • Sore throat from a cold, influenza or virus

Chronic inflammation

Infection or injury, when untreated can lead to chronic inflammation. Interestingly exercising too frequently at maximum intensity or not exercising enough can lead to chronic inflammation. Other causes of inflammation are exposure to chemical irritants and sensitivities such as allergies.

Autoimmune disorders also cause chronic inflammation. These include:

  • e.g., psoriasis, lupus

  • Auto inflammatory diseases

    • e.g., Behcet’s disease

What are the symptoms of acute inflammation?

Symptoms of acute inflammation

Acute symptoms of inflammation presents themselves as swelling (also called oedema), redness of the skin (erythema), heat, pain and sometimes loss of function.

Symptoms of chronic inflammation:

Chronic symptoms of inflammation include the same symptoms as acute inflammation plus they spread out to cause pain in various regions of the body, constant fatigue, difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, weight gain or loss as well as gastrointestinal issues like constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux. They can also make you susceptible to frequent infections or persistent infections

What tests confirm you have inflammation?

C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests and a complete blood count CBC panel to measure white blood cells (WBCs) identify active inflammatory blood cells within the body. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Gallium scans and Computerised Tomography (CT) scans show images of inflammation in the body.

Inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions are identified by by investigative tests such as colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and upper endoscopy.

Why do you have inflammation?

There are numerous reasons why you have inflammation in your body. There can be one reason or multiple reasons. Most chronic and acute conditions that effect the body involve inflammation as part of your body's healing response. Recurrent episodes of acute inflammation can lead to a chronic inflammatory response. Having chronic stress and sleep problems lead to inflammation. Low sex hormones and slowing down of various body systems as we age can result in inflammation. Expose to irritants or foreign material your body can’t easily eliminate causes a inflammatory reaction.

Obesity effects nearly every part of the body and generates a chronic inflammatory response throughout the body. Some foods cause a inflammatory response in the body. They include:

  • Sugar

  • Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pastries

  • Alcohol

  • Smoking

  • Processed meats, hot dogs and sausage

  • Trans fats, fried foods like French Fries

What long-term diseases do doctors associate with inflammation?

There are many long-term diseases that are either the result of inflammation or result in inflammation. These include:

  • Cancer

  • Heart disease – cardiovascular disease (CVD)

  • Rheumatoid arthritis – arthritis and other joint diseases

  • Allergies

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Psoriasis

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Asthma

  • Cognitive decline and dementia (in older adults)

  • Chronic peptic ulcer

  • Tuberculosis

  • Periodontitis

  • Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease

  • Sinusitis

  • Active hepatitis

How long does acute inflammation last?

Acute inflammation is a normal part of the healing process and may occur when you’re experiencing a sore throat, a small cut on your skin, or an ankle sprain. Acute inflammation usually starts to reduce after 3 days unless it is not treated and not well managed.

If you have not visited your doctor and the inflammation is not reducing in 3 days, make an appointment to see your doctor. They can review your symptoms, run tests if needed, and determine if you need treatment for any underlying conditions.

Inflammation is part of the body’s protection and repair response, and it is not something to try and fight or stop. Taking measures to help resolve inflammation and the rest of the healing process can speed up repair and help the remodelling to be similar to prior to injury.

Gentle massage therapy when appropriately applied has been shown to support the resolution of the last three phases of the Healing Process helping the body heal quicker and cleaner. You may also like to read How to resolve Inflammation?

BOOK ONLINE if you would like to book a massage to help with your inflammation.

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