If you’ve ever been concerned about chronic inflammation, you’ve likely had two questions:
1) What causes inflammation in the body?
2) What are the top signs of inflammation?
But not all inflammation is bad. Inflammation is one of the ways your body protects itself.
Now, there’s been a lot of emphasis on this normal response from your immune system, especially due to increasing concerns about the toll chronic inflammation has on your body.
So, let’s take a few moments to discuss what causes inflammation in the body and some of the top signs you may have chronic inflammation.
What Causes Inflammation in the Body?
There are two main kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation usually lasts for a few hours or days, while chronic inflammation can last many months or years.
Subacute inflammation is the last type of inflammation. It’s not a hot topic because it describes inflammation that doesn’t meet the criteria for acute or chronic inflammation, and it only last between two and six weeks.
Inflammation happens when your immune system produces cytokines, enzymes, and other chemicals. They work together to widen your blood vessels and increase blood flow to allow your immune system to facilitate healing.
You’re probably familiar with acute inflammation, which is swelling, redness and other immediate symptoms immediately following an injury or infection.
It can also cause a fever, and may make your skin warm to the touch. This type of inflammation only lasts for a few days before resolving and it usually doesn’t cause long term consequences like chronic inflammation.
The way your body experiences chronic inflammation is often different from acute inflammation. It comes on slowly, so you may not realize that you’re experiencing inflammation.
Autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain chemicals, and the presence of bacteria, fungi, and other infectious organisms are some of what causes inflammation in the body.
The Top 6 Signs Your Body is Inflamed
Since chronic inflammation isn’t always obvious, it’s important to know which symptoms to look out for. Here are some signs that you’re experiencing chronic inflammation.
1. Body pain
There are several autoimmune disorders that cause painful chronic inflammation. Ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis are both autoimmune disorders that cause chronic inflammation and pain. While ankylosing spondylitis affects your spine, rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in your body. 
2. Fatigue and insomnia
People who have rheumatoid arthritis, which is what causes inflammation in the body in many cases, also experience fatigue. Studies suggest that higher levels of cytokines interact with changes in your central nervous system to cause fatigue and insomnia. 
3. Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
Chronic inflammation is also linked to mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Theories suggest that the low-grade inflammation associated with these illnesses results from oxidative and nitrosative stress.  This also suggests that anti-inflammatory medications may help to ease depression symptoms. 
4. GI issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux
Many different factors cause gastrointestinal issues, many of which are the result of inflammation. Inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can cause diarrhea, bloody stools, and sores throughout your digestive system. [5, 6]
These illnesses also cause a great deal of discomfort and pain, in addition to other symptoms.
5. Weight gain or weight loss
Studies show a link between weight and inflammation. People who carry excess fat on their bodies may suffer from chronic inflammation. This is because cytokines circulate through fatty tissues in your body.
Since this is oftentimes what causes inflammation in the body, it’s no surprise that chronic inflammation also decreases with weight loss. 
6. Frequent infections
There are several infections that can lead to chronic inflammation, because your body is unable to fight off the viruses that cause them.
Hepatitis and HIV are two of the most common culprits. While there are treatments that can cure some types of hepatitis, there isn’t a cure for HIV, so it may result in chronic low-grade inflammation for a large portion of your life. 
Complications of Untreated Inflammation
Chronic inflammation can complicate your health if it’s left untreated.
Recent studies indicate that inflammation plays a key role in the formation of many types of cancer.  It’s also associated with autoimmune diseases and immunosuppression.
These advanced conditions can lead to serious illness and decreased quality and length of life. As a result, it’s important for your healthcare provider to diagnose and treat your chronic inflammation.
If your healthcare provider suspects you have chronic inflammation, there are several tests they might run to confirm it.
When people are in a state of chronic inflammation, their liver produces more C-reactive protein (CRP). A blood test can detect this, as well as other higher protein levels through erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and plasma viscosity (PV) tests.
Together, these tests can help doctors identify what causes inflammation in the body.
How to Treat Inflammation
The way your doctor treats your chronic inflammation depends on the cause. Tried and true treatment protocols for conditions that cause chronic inflammation like Crohn’s disease, hepatitis, and HIV, can help ease your symptoms.
Your doctor may prescribe medications or surgical interventions once they identify the cause of your inflammation.
You can also take steps on your own to prevent inflammation. Avoiding inflammatory foods can go a long way to reducing chronic inflammation in your body.
But you can also eat anti-inflammatory foods to reduce inflammation, too. Here are some foods you should avoid and some you should eat more of if you’d like to start an anti-inflammatory diet.
Foods that produce an allergic reaction or intolerance in your body can cause inflammation. Some of the most common foods that can initiate this chain reaction include dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Symptoms of dairy allergies or intolerance can include gas, bloating, or stomach cramps. 
Sugar can also be what causes inflammation in the body. One study fed three groups of mice different diets: high-fructose, high-sucrose, and standard. The mice that consumed the high-fructose and high-sucrose diets had higher levels of inflammation than the mice that ate the standard diet.  Therefore, people who wish to consume an anti-inflammatory diet should avoid added sugars.
Trans fats are also responsible for increased inflammatory response. One study placed men on diets that included different sources of fat: cholesterol, trans fats, other kinds of fat. The men who consumed higher levels of trans fat had increased CRP levels, indicating an inflammatory response. 
There are several foods you can incorporate in your diet to reduce inflammation. Quinoa is a great example. It contains an anti-inflammatory compound called chenopodin, which can reduce inflammation in your intestine. 
And it’s easy to incorporate more quinoa into your diet! You can prepare it as part of a savory meal or a sweet treat after dinner.
Did you know that spaghetti squash is a good source for omega-3 fatty acids? These are loaded with health benefits, one of which is anti-inflammatory properties. So, these make a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet.  You can use it as a substitute for pasta, or as an easy and nutritious side to any meal!
Simple, nutrient-dense snacks are a healthy choice, but pumpkin seeds are especially great for people on an anti-inflammatory diet.
One study separated mice into groups that ate different sources of fat: cocoa butter, refined pumpkin seed oil, or virgin pumpkin seed oil. The mice who consumed virgin pumpkin seed oil experienced significantly reduced inflammation. 
Whether you have a condition caused by chronic inflammation or you just want to eat as healthy a diet as possible, choosing an anti-inflammatory diet may benefit your health in numerous ways.
It can help manage the symptoms of inflammatory illnesses, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Make sure you discuss what causes inflammation in the body with your doctor, so they can help you decide the best treatment and lifestyle choices for your situation.
- There are three types of inflammation: acute, subacute, and chronic.
- Acute inflammation only lasts for a few hours or days. Subacute inflammation lasts between two and six weeks. Chronic inflammation can last many months or years and can have a lasting impact on your overall health.
- Chronic inflammation causes many diseases and increases your risk for cancer, heart disease, and other serious illnesses. It’s not always obvious, but it’s important to identify what causes inflammation in the body. This allows your doctor to prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.
- There are several foods that can cause inflammation throughout your body. Avoiding them can help improve the symptoms of chronic illnesses that are linked to inflammation. Eating anti-inflammatory foods like onions and quinoa can help, too!