Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. It is a beneficial process designed to protect, care for and heal the body. In its initial stages inflammation is doing you well but if it persists and becomes chronic it actually starts doing you harm.
Inflammation is one of the ways the body attempts to protect and defend itself. The processes of inflammation are designed to bring about healing and to remove harmful stimuli, including bacteria, viruses, pathogens, damaged cells, irritants and toxins. When something harmful or irritating affects a part of your body, there is a biological response to try to remove it – this is inflammation. Inflammation does not mean you have an infection, as an infection is caused by a bacteria, virus or fungus, while inflammation is the body’s response to it. The signs and symptoms of inflammation, specifically acute inflammation, show that the body is attempting to heal itself.
When we have a wound or injury it is inflammation that helps the body heal; without it wounds and infections would never get better. However, there are times when inflammation can cause further inflammation and it becomes self-perpetuating – more inflammation is created in response to the existing inflammation. This is called chronic inflammation.
The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Inflammation
The main difference between acute and chronic inflammation is that acute inflammation is usually short lived and aides to heal the body whereas chronic inflammation can last several months and even years and causes more damage to the body.
Acute inflammation – starts rapidly and quickly becomes severe. The signs and symptoms usually only last a few days. The signs of acute inflammation are pain, redness, swelling, heat and immobility. Acute inflammation occurs when you have a sore throat or a cut on the skin, after exercise – especially intense training, due to an injury or blow to the body, in cases of acute appendicitis, acute tonsillitis, acute toothache and so on.
Chronic inflammation – this is long-term inflammation, which can last for several months and even years. It is caused by a failure to eliminate whatever was causing acute inflammation, autoimmune conditions where the immune system attacks healthy tissue, or a chronic low-intensity irritant that persists. Chronic inflammation is associated with conditions like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic gum disease – periodontitis, chronic sinusitis etc.
Acute inflammation is beneficial as it helps to repair and heal the body. Chronic inflammation left unchecked can eventually cause several diseases and conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancers. Inflammation itself is not the issue, without it infections, wounds and any damage to our tissues would never heal causing more and more damage until the body eventually perishes. It is the underlying issue or cause of inflammation that needs to be addressed and resolved.
How to Reduce Inflammation
The focus has always been to reduce acute inflammation, however as this is how your body heals itself, switching off acute inflammation is no longer considered desirable or beneficial.
In the case of chronic inflammation the methods used to reduce inflammation normally rely on taking anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen or steroids.
More natural approaches use diet, herbs and supplements like turmeric, fish oil, alpha lipoic acid, green tea, tart cherries and antioxidants such as vitamins, minerals and foods high in phytochemicals.
The effects of chronic inflammation can be reduced by making changes to your diet and lifestyle – which will be covered in the next blog post.