What Is Inflammation in the Body?

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Inflammation results when the immune system is activated for long periods of time and/or the immune response becomes dysfunctional. Long-term uncontrolled inflammation can damage cells, connective tissue, arteries, joints, and even organs, so it’s important to know the underlying causes behind the inflammation and treat them accordingly. In many cases, unbeknownst to most people, it can originate from the gut when intestinal permeability is compromised and a condition known as “leaky gut” develops.

Causes of Inflammation in the Body

Inflammation that lasts for a short period of time is generally a good thing. Let’s say you’re walking in town when suddenly you twist your ankle. Within minutes to hours, your ankle swells, indicating that the immune system has been activated. Immune cells are deployed to break down inflammatory mediators and bring in fresh blood and nutrients to facilitate healing at the injured site. The acute condition ensues and will eventually subside after the ligaments are repaired.

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But what happens when the ligaments are not healed, and the ankle continues to stay inflamed with redness, swelling, and pain? This unrelenting chronic inflammation can actually cause more harm than good as the immune cells inadvertently damage surrounding cells.

Outside of a physical trauma, there are many other causes of inflammation. Below is a short list of contributors:

  • Environmental toxin and toxicant exposures. Some examples include:Pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides
  • Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, etc.
  • Other environmental chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, flame retardants, etc.
  • Pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds
  • Mold and mycotoxins
  • Dust
  • Physical, emotional, and/or psychological stress
  • Infections from various bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, parasites, worms, etc.
  • Insomnia or lack of restful sleep
  • Over-exercise
  • Foods

Signs and Symptoms of Inflammation in the Body

Inflammation can present in many different ways in the body, and how it manifests really depends on the trigger or underlying cause, genetic predisposition, and the body’s immune response. For some, their joints ache and are noticeably swollen. Many complain of frequent headaches. Others can present with mucous membrane inflammation, which may cause sinus congestion and stuffy nose, itchy eyes/ears/throat, GERD, diarrhea, and even fissures or hemorrhoids.

Unfortunately, most inflammation occurs beneath the skin, so assessing for the classic inflammation signs and symptoms is not enough to determine if an underlying tissue, vessel, or organ is inflamed. Most signs and symptoms are a result of an aberrant inflammation response, or dysfunctional immune system. Again, any condition that ends in “itis” usually means that chronic inflammation is present.

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