Inflammation is the process whereby your immune system fight against harmful substances such as diseases, toxins, and chemicals that intend to harm the body. This process is protective and involves immune cells as well as blood vessels. It is an innate response (i.e it is not specific in the mechanism of action) compared to an adaptive response.
The response involves the release of antibodies and proteins to the target area. However, in some cases, the immune system releases antibodies to an area where there is no invading organism leading to an immune disorder known as ‘Autoimmune disease’. Hence, the body fights against its tissue thinking it’s an infected tissue.
There are five cardinal signs of Inflammation;
- Heat (Latin; calor)
- Pain (dolor)
- Redness (rubor)
- Swelling (tumor)
- Loss of function (functio laesa)
Types of inflammation
Inflammation can be acute (short-lived) and chronic (long-lasting). In the case of acute inflammation, the symptoms are mild and noticeable (e.g redness, swelling, etc). But in the case of chronic inflammation, the symptoms are difficult to detect making them even more harmful. Chronic inflammation can last for months and years.
Causes of chronic inflammation
Autoimmune disorder – where the immune system mistakes healthy tissues for infectious ones thereby attacking the healthy ones.
Long-term exposure to chemicals/irritants
Malnutrition are some causes of chronic inflammation.
According to the National Institutes of Health (2014), 60% of Americans have at least one chronic inflammation condition and 42% have more than one.
Chronic inflammation is hazardous to the body. This is because an inflammatory response can trigger the killing of healthy cells and tissues in the body. This condition can lead to cell and tissue death and can lead to the development of diseases like; Cancer, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation
Chronic inflammation is invisible, unlike acute inflammation. Many people may have it without their knowledge. Primary symptoms are; Weakness of the body, obesity, constipation, diarrhea, weight loss, depression, and constant infection.
Diagnosis of chronic inflammation
When you feel like you are experiencing any chronic inflammation symptoms, it’s best to talk to your doctor. Many people don’t know they’re down with chronic inflammation until other medical conditions arise. This is why you need to speak with your doctor on time.
But how do you test for inflammation? A blood test is a good source most especially the one with protein produced by the liver C-reactive protein (CRP). This protein rises to infection or inflammation in the general body. A CRP level of 1 and 3mg/l of blood tells a chronic level of inflammation. Also, the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) responds to inflammation of the heart.
Complete Blood Count (CBC) – an increase in white blood cells is a test to diagnose inflammation. This occurs in response to viral pathogens like bacteria, fungi, etc.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) – a high ESR is an indication of inflammation. This test measures the rate at which red blood cells separate from the plasma and fall into the test tube.
1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) – NSAID used over the years to reduce inflammation and pain. They include drugs like; Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Acetaminophen, and Indomethacin. However, long-term use of NSAID is traced to some medical complications like kidney disease.
2. Corticosteroids – These reduce inflammation by suppressing the activity of the immune system. These are very helpful when the immune system is fighting against healthy tissues. They are synthetic drugs similar to the hormone cortisol produced by the body. Osteoporosis and high blood pressure are some of the medical complications linked to long-term use.
3. Supplements; many supplements like fish oil and lipoic oil may help to reduce inflammation.
How does diet help you manage inflammation?
Certain foods help you manage inflammation. Also, there is food that encourages inflammation.
Foods with anti-inflammatory properties (foods to eat) are; fruits, olive oil, leafy greens, tomatoes, nuts, and fatty fish.
Foods that encourage inflammation (foods not to eat) are; refined carbohydrates like white bread, processed meat (eg hotdog), and fried foods.
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