It's not surprising how symptoms of inflammation tend to leave us in a foetal position and taking on a “woe is me” attitude. Fever, runny noses and sore throats are all symptoms of “acute inflammation” — our body’s response to a sudden breach in its defence system. Common causes of acute inflammation include mild virus and bacterial infections. However, chronic inflammation is a whole other kind of deal. As its name suggests, the process accumulates over a longer time period and is thus much more insidious. Though patients suffering from chronic inflammation might not display severe symptoms initially, the effects will snowball and take a drastic toll on the body eventually. Here are some common culprits of chronic inflammation and what can be done to combat them.
Possible causes of chronic inflammation include auto-immune diseases (e.g. systemic lupus erythematous), genetic predisposition, prolonged exposure to irritants and a previously unresolved acute inflammatory condition. Additionally, recent studies have shown that other risk factors such as inactivity and obesity might increase a person’s risk of getting chronic inflammation.
How to fight them
Apart from improving insulin sensitivity and strengthening the heart, studies have shown that exercise can also reduce inflammatory processes at the joints, especially the knee. This can help to reduce symptoms of inflammation, such as pain, redness and swelling. As such, ensure that you incorporate regular strength training into your regimen as well as cardiovascular activities, so as to maximise the protective effects of physical activity. Additionally, practicing deep meditation and mindfulness exercises can help to better balance hormone regulation through stress relief, thus mitigating inflammatory reactions.
Apart from exercise, a varied and nutritious diet is another important preventive measure. The Mediterranean diet in particular, has been recently found to reduce the risk of chronic inflammation. Additionally, here are some other tips for a nutrition plan that can boost your body's natural anti-inflammatory capabilities:
- Increase your intake of fish, especially those which are rich in omega-3s and protein.
- Increase your intake of leafy vegetables and fruits.
- Avoid food with added sugar and trans-fats.
- Avoid excessively processed food.
- Go with whole grains whenever possible.
- Match your carbohydrate intake to your activity level.
Medical intervention is available and highly effective for patients suffering from chronic inflammation. A category of medication known as corticosteroids or glucocorticoids are typically prescribed in more serious cases. They block the production of inflammatory molecules in our body, thus helping to manage inflammatory reactions. However, systemic formulations of steroids might have unfavourable side effects with prolonged usage, so do be alert when taking prescribed steroids.
Chronic inflammation is a major concern in healthcare, due to the prolonged effects it has on its victims. If you think that you may be suffering from this condition, do seek an early diagnosis from your doctor. Remember, treatment is much more effective when it's done earlier rather than later!