Effects of Inflammation in the Body
Inflammation is a natural defense of your body. But when it lasts for too long, it can cause tremendous damage to your health.
This article talks about the effects of inflammation in the body and how to avoid them.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body´s immune system´s response to injury or infection. Possible signs of inflammation are: 1
More severe inflammation can cause fever and make you feel sick and exhausted. This happens because the metabolism increases and the body produces more immune cells to fight the infection.1
Types of Inflammation
Inflammation can be either chronic or acute. Acute inflammation is how your body fights infections so that you can heal faster.2
This type of inflammation starts quickly, can become severe in a short time, and the symptoms usually last a few days. One example is when you have pneumonia. 2
Chronic inflammation is slow and lasts several months or even years. Its effects vary depending on the causes and the body´s ability to repair the damage. 2
Common signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation are:
- Body pain
- Mood problems
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Weight gain/loss
- Frequent infections
What Inflammation Does to Your Body
Chronic inflammation can cause several changes in your body, such as: 2
- Blood vessels expand, increasing blood flow.
- Blood capillaries become more permeable.
- White blood cells (macrophages and lymphocytes) and plasma cells infiltrate the infected tissue, producing inflammatory substances called cytokines, growth factors, and enzymes, causing further tissue damage.
What are the Consequences of Inflammation in the Body?
A shift from short to long term inflammation causes changes in all tissues and organs, affecting the cell´s physiology. Furthermore, the impaired immune function increases the susceptibility to infections.3
Many health conditions have a known inflammatory component. Some of them are pretty common such as metabolic syndrome, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer´s, Parkinson’s, and depression.3
Over time, chronic inflammation can cause health problems that account for most disability and mortality worldwide. 3 More than 50% of all deaths are due to inflammation-related diseases like cancer, ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, auto-immune, and neurodegenerative conditions. 3
Some people have higher chances of developing chronic inflammation throughout their lives. The principal risk factors are: 2, 3
- Increased age - associated with higher levels of pro-inflammatory molecules due to free-radical accumulation over time.
- Obesity – the fat tissue secrets inflammation-promoting substances and cytokines.
- Poor diet – diets rich in saturated fat, trans-fat, and refined sugar are associated with higher levels of pro-inflammatory molecules.
- Cigarette smoking – reduces the body´s production of anti-inflammatory substances and induces inflammation.
- Sleep restriction – people who don´t sleep enough are more likely to have chronic inflammation.
- Stress – is also associated with increased chronic inflammation incidence.
- Exposure to air pollutants, industrial chemicals, and hazardous waste products.
- Chronic infections – cytomegalovirus, Epstein–Barr virus, hepatitis C virus, HIV virus.
What Can You Do to Stop Inflammation?
The treatment depends on the type of inflammation. Acute inflammation does not always require treatment. Rest, ice, and wound care are enough most of the time.4
Chronic inflammation may require medical treatment with anti-inflammatory medications and nutritional supplements. 4
The best thing you can do to avoid the complications of chronic inflammation is to develop healthier lifestyle habits. This includes: 4
- Keeping a healthy weight.
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet and drinking plenty of water.
- Quitting smoking.
- Practicing daily physical activity.
- Limiting alcohol intake.
- Managing stress and anxiety.
- Sleeping at least seven hours per night.
The effects of inflammation in the body can be devastating. However, you can prevent these negative consequences by adopting healthier habits.
- org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. What is inflammation? 2010 Nov 23 [Updated 2018 Feb 22]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/
- Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2021 Sep 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
- Furman, D., Campisi, J., Verdin, E. et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med 25, 1822–1832 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0
- Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21660-inflammation. Access: 01/29/2022.