What is inflammation?
It is possible that you have heard more recently about inflammation and its role for overall health. But what exactly is inflammation?
Simply put, inflammation is the body's reaction to an injury or illness. Megan Wroe, St. Jude Medical Center's wellness manager, explained that inflammation can be described as "the body's response." As an example, a paper cut can cause reddening and swelling in the area, which is a sign that the body is beginning the healing process.
Wroe points out that inflammation is not just an outcome of external injuries. Inflammation can also occur inside the body as a response to pathogens, allergens, and irritants.
The purpose of inflammation is to heal. Janette Wong, a registered Dietitian at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, California, explained that inflammation is caused by the immune system's cells releasing inflammatory mediators. This causes small blood vessels to dilate in the affected tissue.
This chain of events causes redness and hot sensations. Wong says that the immune system also triggers white blood cell growth to fight infection. This may cause nerve irritation, which can lead to pain and swelling.
Chronic inflammation is when inflammation becomes chronic.
Chronic inflammation refers to prolonged inflammation that lasts several months or years. Chronic inflammation is a result of injury or poor body repair.
Inflammation can serve as a short-term defense mechanism that the body uses for healing injuries. However, too much inflammation can lead to problems.
"Chronic inflammation is harmful to the body because they increase the rate at which cells age," says Dana Ellis Hunnes (a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center), assistant professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and author of Recipe for Survival'.
Tracy Lockwood Beckerman is a New York City-based registered dietitian and author of "The Better Period Food Solution." She explains that chronic inflammation can result in 'inflammation to stay alive'.
Some symptoms of chronic inflammation include muscle soreness, stiffness, or joint pain. Chronic inflammation is often invisible.
Chronic inflammation can persist long after an activating injury or disease is resolved. Research published in Nature Medicine 2019 shows that chronic inflammation is linked to an increased risk of a number of conditions including:
Neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and other forms dementia.