Inflammation has become a popular topic in mainstream health. Although you might have a general idea of what inflammation is, most people still don’t understand the implications it has on long-term health and disease prevention.
The fact is that inflammation contributes to a wide range of illnesses and dysfunctions. This makes it a key component in overcoming common issues and restoring your health for improved function and wellbeing.
Understanding what inflammation is and knowing how to identify when you’re in an inflamed state gives you the information you need to stay healthy and vital.
What is Inflammation?
Chances are that you’ve experienced inflammation first-hand. You’ve felt the throbbing pain and swelling that occurs after stubbing your toe or cutting a finger. It’s the body’s natural response to some form of stress or injury.
Inflammation is a component of the innate immune system, which manages the body’s nonspecific response to injury, pathogens, and other stressors.
Given that there are many types of stress, it’s easy to see how inflammation plays a vital role in keeping you healthy. But chronic inflammation has a negative impact on health.
Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation
Acute, or short-term, inflammation is typically seen as swelling at the affected site. But the same reaction occurs on a systemic level, which results in a generalized swelling of the tissues.
Chronic inflammation is a long-term exposure to the inflammatory response and can last from months to years.
Chronic inflammation is typically a result of not eliminating the root cause of an illness or dysfunction. It can also occur as an autoimmune response, whereby your own immune system begins to attack healthy tissues.
Over time, chronic inflammation leads to damage of the tissues and more severe health issues.
The following are some of the illnesses related to chronic inflammation:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Autoimmune disease
- Pulmonary disease
- Crohn's disease
When acute inflammation occurs, you’re more likely to see the five signs of inflammation.
The 5 Signs of Inflammation
There are five indicators that help you determine when inflammation is present:
- Loss of function
These are seen when experiencing acute inflammation. However, during chronic inflammation, you may not see these directly, but they may still exist on a systemic level.
Other Signs That Let You Know You’re Inflamed
As mentioned above, stress comes in many different forms. There are physical, mental, emotional, nutritional, and other types of stressors that you can experience.
If you’re under some form of stress for long periods of time, then you’re likely in an inflammatory response. This can lead to other symptoms of inflammation and can cause long-term health problems.
Chronic exposure to stress disrupts the ability of cortisol, which is one of the many stress hormones, to manage the inflammatory response. The tissues become insensitive to cortisol, which allows inflammation to become more severe.
Feeling fatigued can sometimes feel like the norm for people these days. But if you experience low levels of energy, mental lethargy, and an inability to get out of bed with the same enthusiasm as you used to, then you may be inflamed.
Healthy individuals are energetic and have a positive outlook on life. When chronic inflammation persists, they quickly lose the ability to power through their days without using pick-me-ups such as coffee or sugar.
Skin problems related to inflammation include itching, redness, and rashes. They can also manifest into more serious conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
Acute skin inflammation can be addressed quickly. But chronic inflammation of the skin can lead to more serious damage and is often a sign of more systemic inflammation occurring throughout the body.
Millions of people experience skin conditions related to chronic inflammation, making it one of the more common signs of inflammation.
Pain is one of the five signs of inflammation listed above. Research has shown that the physiological changes that occur as a response to stress increase the body’s sensitivity and leads you to experience chronic pain.
This is important to remember if you’re experiencing unexplained chronic pain that isn’t a result of some injury or other trauma. It’s most likely a symptom of a chronic inflammatory response.
Stress has a negative impact on your ability to sleep. In addition, lack of sleep is a form of stress, which makes this an issue that’s especially detrimental to your health. So you won’t be surprised to learn that there is a link between inflammation and sleep health.
A recent study on sleep and inflammation found that the inability to sleep is directly related to high levels of inflammation. This has been linked to more serious health concerns including strokes and cardiovascular disease.
If you’re experiencing issues related to the quantity and quality of sleep, then you may be inflamed and putting yourself at risk for other health problems.
Understanding how to identify inflammation is essential to living a healthy and vital life. Knowing what to look for gives you the tools to overcome inflammation, prevent disease, and optimize your health and wellbeing.