Inflammation happens when our immune system responds to damage done to our cells. This normal immune response can protect and heal our body, but when there is too much inflammation it can damage our tissues and harm our health.
If you've ever had a cut or bruise, you have likely seen inflammation at work. The swelling, burning, and redness that appears around a wound are all signs of inflammation. This is part of the body's process of repairing damage done to its tissues, and it eventually subsides when the wound is healed. But not all inflammation is visible. Just as it can happen on the surface of our skin, inflammation can also happen deep within our body tissues. If a tissue or organ is damaged, inflammation occurs as the body works to heal itself.
How Inflammation Impacts Your Health
Inflammation that happens for a short time in response to an injury or illness is normal, and not a cause for concern. It's inflammation that happens on an ongoing basis, called chronic inflammation, that may have an impact on your health. Chronic inflammation means that tissue damage occurs on an ongoing basis. Over time, this may lead to increased risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes, as well as some autoimmune conditions, neurological diseases, and cancer.
When the body is in a chronic inflammatory state, we can experience lowered immunity. Chronic inflammation can also cause tissue damage that makes us more susceptible to the development of certain diseases. Chronic inflammation is like the match that lights the fire to "turn on" the genes that are responsible for disease.
Chronic inflammation can also contribute to some pretty uncomfortable everyday symptoms like brain fog, indigestion, difficulty losing weight, and fatigue. Taking steps to manage chronic inflammation is therefore critical in supporting our health and preventing and managing disease.
Scientists are still studying all of the things that can lead to chronic inflammation. Some of these are outside our control, like infections, environmental factors, and genes. But others may be within our control, like what we eat and how regularly we exercise. Research also suggests that making certain changes, like getting regular physical activity, managing stress, and eating more fruits and vegetables may help manage chronic inflammation.