What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a defense mechanism brought on by your body and plays a vital role in the healing process. You can think about inflammation as the gate that protects a castle. If an intruder is trying to get into the castle, the guards are notified so they can do their best to defend it and remove the attacker.
In the case of your body, the attacker is anything that is foreign to what already exists in your body or cells. It could be a splinter, an irritant, or a pathogen (bacteria, virus, or anything else that causes infection). When this external object tries to damage your cells, your body instinctually releases chemicals that trigger a response from your immune system. This response typically includes the release of antibodies, proteins, and increased blood flow to the damaged area, hence why your finger becomes puffy and red if you get a splinter.
The whole process can last for a few hours, up to a few days, depending on the circumstance and type of inflammation.
Types and Symptoms of Inflammation
There are two types of inflammation. One is acute, and the other is chronic.
Acute inflammation is usually caused by an injury or an illness and is known to be short-lived. There are four common symptoms of acute inflammation, which can include:
Pain in the area that was affected. It can occur for a period of time or only when the area is touched.
Redness surrounding the affected area. This happens due to an increase in the blood supply to the capillaries in the area.
Swelling can develop if fluid builds up in the affected area.
Heat - Increased blood flow can leave the affected area feeling warm or hot
In addition to the above, you might also have a general flu-like feeling--aches, fever, or tiredness.
If your symptoms last longer than a week, it is advised that you speak to a medical professional, as this could mean other underlying conditions exist.
Unlike acute inflammation, which only lasts a few days, chronic inflammation can continue for months or even years. Common symptoms of chronic inflammation are usually subtler, making them easier to overlook. Symptoms include:
The symptoms of chronic inflammation can range from mild to severe, and because chronic inflammation has links to various diseases, it is crucial to monitor your symptoms. The linked diseases can include:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is caused by an unknown physical factor that triggers an immune reaction. When an area is inflamed, it doesn’t always mean that an infection is happening; however, an infection can cause inflammation. The causes of acute and chronic inflammation are different and can result in more severe health issues if not properly treated.
Causes of Acute Inflammation
When you’re suffering from acute inflammation, this can be a result of exposure to a substance, like a bee sting or dust, an injury, or an existing infection. When the body detects damage, your body triggers an immune reaction.
These immune system responses can include:
An accumulation of plasma proteins leads to fluid buildup and can result in swelling.
Neutrophils (type of white blood cell) are released and move to the affected area. These cells contain molecules that help fight off infection.
The small blood vessels enlarge and enable plasma proteins to get to the affected area more quickly.
Signs of acute inflammation can appear within hours. Depending on the cause and individual factors, the inflammation can lead to infection. Some factors and infections that can ultimately lead to acute inflammation include bronchitis, an ingrown toenail or fingernail, sore throat, or physical trauma.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
Like acute inflammation, there are many things that cause chronic inflammation, such as an untreated infection or injury. Long-term exposure to irritants like chemicals or overly polluted air can also cause chronic inflammation.
There are many experts that believe smoking, obesity, stress, and alcohol are major contributors to chronic inflammation. However, more research needs to be conducted to make this a sourced claim.
Treatments for Inflammation
Depending on the cause and severity of your inflammation will be heavily dependant on the treatment you seek. Often, especially if you’re dealing with acute inflammation, there is no need for treatment. However, it is always a good idea to monitor your symptoms, as untreated inflammation can potentially result in life-threatening symptoms. For example, if you’re experiencing an allergic reaction, inflammation can cause significant swelling, which may close your throat’s airways.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
A doctor may prescribe Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help relieve any pain, swelling, or fever by countering an enzyme that contributes to the inflammation.
Prescription NSAIDs, like Meloxicam, are available from your PCP. If you don’t have a PCP or simply don’t care to leave your house, many online doctors can write you a prescription from the comfort of your own home. Companies like Push Health and Blink Health are Digital Clinics that have board-certified doctors available at the ready to meet you virtually if you’re experiencing symptoms of inflammation.
Other NSAIDs are available OTC and include naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. You can purchase these online or at your local pharmacy or supermarket.
Common pain relievers, like acetaminophen (Tylenol), can relieve pain, but unfortunately, they don’t reduce the inflammation, which in some cases isn’t a negative thing, as inflammation play a huge role in the healing process.
Corticosteroids, like cortisol, is a steroid that affects the mechanisms involved in inflammation. They are typically available as tablets, injections, or creams.
If you’re not into medications, there are a few herbal remedies known to manage inflammation. These supplements include:
CBD (explore online CBD companies, here)
Herbal and dietary supplements can be found in most health food stores or online. D2C companies like HUM offer their customer a large variety of supplements, including supplements that alleviate inflammation.
We’re sure you’ve heard of the Paleo diet or only eating Keto-friendly foods, but have you heard of the anti-inflammatory diet? We’re not sure if there’s an actual diet meant for those suffering from inflammation, but there are certain foods that contain nutrients that are known to reduce inflammation. Including:
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel)
Leafy greens (kale, spinach)
High-quality olive oil
High fiber foods (celery, whole grains)
Nuts (almonds, walnut)
Fruit (blueberries, citrus)
On the contrary, there are also foods that you should avoid if you’re prone to inflammation, such as fried food, red meat, and highly processed foods.
It is important to know that diet alone can’t tackle inflammation, but making healthy choices when it comes to the things you’re putting in your body can definitely prevent it from worsening.