Understanding How Inflammation Plays a Role in Your Chronic Disease

It’s long been understood that chronic illnesses are further irritated by things such as stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise. But have you considered how low-grade inflammation plays a role in chronic disease? Those very factors can make your illness worse, spiking inflammation in the body.

In a November AARP article entitled, “Could Decreasing Inflammation Be the Cure for Everything?” doctors and scientists explored just that. 

What is low-grade inflammation?

Low-grade inflammation is defined as “the chronic production, but a low-grade state, of inflammatory factors.” So, what does that mean? 

In essence, the body is always using inflammation as a defense mechanism against injury, and sickness to heal injured or sick cells. But, when that inflammation is constant, as it is in low-grade inflammation, it exists at all times, maybe not in excess, but enough to cause damage over time to healthy cells. 

Why does this happen?

Inflammation is like that friend that is always there for you but also gets you into trouble. But we now understand that some people are more likely to experience inflammation for a variety of reasons. 

  • Genetics: You may have been told you are genetically predisposed to certain illnesses such as diabetes or cancer which, coincidentally, are triggered by inflammation. This genetic component not only gives you the sickness, but studies now show that inflammation also can be passed along through generations. 
  • Lifestyle and environment: Outside factors like pollution can trigger inflammation in the body. But your lifestyle habits, such as poor diet and lack of exercise, may also make you more susceptible. 
  • Infection: Did you know that if you contract an illness like Lyme disease, the negative symptoms you face are more a result of the inflammation your body uses as a defense rather than a result of the illness itself. 

How does it become chronic inflammation?

It’s a relatively simple process of inflammation becoming a chronic issue. First, a trigger occurs in your immune system–illness, weight gain, stress, etc. Then, the immune system reacts with an inflammatory response which involves blood vessels expanding to increase blood flow. But then havoc is released, and the inflammatory response within the body cycles over, and over, and over again. 

What can I do?

Since everyone has inflammation inside of them to some extent, blood tests aren’t always useful when it comes to testing for chronic inflammation. But you can alter your lifestyle to promote healthy habits that limit inflammatory responses. 

  • Diet: Eat high-fiber, less fatty foods.
  • Stress: Practice healthy stress coping mechanisms. 
  • Exercise: Even though exercising can cause acute inflammation in joints, the benefits outweigh any soreness that may last a day or two. 

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NOTE: Content included here is not medical advice, and only is intended as information for adults. Always consult with your health care professional before making changes to diet, exercise, medication, or before use of any product or device.