Chronic low-grade inflammation is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a type of inflammation that persists over a long period of time, even after an initial injury or infection has healed.
Unlike acute inflammation, which is critical to protect the body when injured or sick, chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of chronic diseases, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer. Understanding whether your symptoms are related to an unchecked inflammatory response can help you restore balance and begin to heal naturally.
In this post, we will explore how chronic low-grade inflammation develops and contributes to disease and provide hope for the path forward.
What’s the root cause?
A variety of lifestyle factors contribute to the development of this type of inflammation. They include a poor diet, chronic stress, lack of exercise, and exposure to environmental toxins.
When the body is exposed to these factors, it activates the immune system to respond, leading to the release of inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines are signaling molecules that promote inflammation and are responsible for symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, and gastrointestinal issues.
Lifestyle Factors Contributing to Chronic Inflammation
- A poor diet: Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is highly inflammatory. It’s filled with processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats all of which can promote inflammation. These foods disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, leading to a condition known as dysbiosis which is linked to poor health. In addition, these foods can promote the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are molecules that form when proteins and sugars react. AGEs are known to contribute to inflammation and the development of chronic disease.
- Chronic stress: Living in the world today, chronic stress seems almost a given. When we experience stress, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that helps us respond to stress. However, chronic stress can lead to high levels of cortisol, which promotes inflammation. Chronic stress also triggers the activation of the sympathetic nervous system which is our survival response. We’re not meant to live with perpetual sympathetic nervous system activation, and this heightened state for prolonged periods of time further contributes to inflammation.
- Lack of exercise: Exercise is linked to increased healthspan and overall longevity in part due to its ability to reduce levels of inflammatory cytokines. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle can promote inflammation by reducing blood flow and increasing oxidative stress both of which lead to cell and tissue damage.
- Exposure to environmental toxins, such as air pollution, chemicals, and heavy metals is the last contributor we’ll discuss. These toxins can promote the production of free radicals, which can damage cells and promote inflammation. In addition, exposure to certain toxins, such as heavy metals, can promote the development of autoimmune diseases.
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The link between inflammation and disease:
In time, a body under the stress of constant inflammation begins to exhibit symptoms, almost as if it’s talking, asking for relief.
Inflammation can contribute to the development of several chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. It does so by promoting the buildup of plaque in the arteries, impairing insulin signaling, and contributing to the development of brain plaques and tangles.
In addition to chronic diseases, chronic low-grade inflammation has been linked to autoimmune diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues, leading to tissue damage and further inflammation. This added inflammation can promote the production of autoantibodies, which attack healthy cells and tissues.
Finally, inflammation can promote the growth and spread of cancer cells by promoting the production of growth factors and enzymes that help cancer cells grow and invade healthy cells and tissues.
The path forward:
Fortunately, the body is miraculously capable of healing. Looking for the root cause of symptoms often begins by looking at diet, exercise, stress management, and exposure to toxins. Where issues are found, and subsequently addressed, the body responds.
There are several mechanisms whereby we heal and restore balance. Some of these mechanisms are:
- A reduction in cytokines: Cytokines are proteins that trigger inflammation. When inflammatory triggers are removed, the body reduces the production of cytokines, which leads to a decrease in inflammation.
- Increased production of anti-inflammatory cytokines: The production of anti-inflammatory cytokines counteracts the effects of the pro-inflammatory cytokines.
- Activation of the immune system: The immune system plays a critical role in fighting infections and diseases. When the inflammatory triggers are removed, the immune system activates in a positive way to repair damaged tissues and promote healing.
- Removal of damaged cells: Inflammation can cause damage to cells and tissues. The body has a process called apoptosis, where damaged cells are removed and replaced with healthy ones.
- Release of growth factors: Growth factors promote cell growth and repair. When the inflammatory triggers are removed, the body releases growth factors to stimulate tissue repair and healing.
- Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system: The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “rest and digest” response in the body. It helps reduce stress and inflammation and promotes healing and repair.
To sum up, chronic low-grade inflammation is a common occurrence in our modern life and is responsible for a whole host of problems if left untreated. With the right interventions, it is possible to manage and even reverse the effects. The result is renewed health and improved quality of life.
If you suspect you may be dealing with unchecked inflammation, seek the help of a qualified health professional.
For personalized guidance and support in identifying and implementing the lifestyle changes needed, let’s connect.
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