Inflammation: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

By now, many of us have heard that inflammation is bad, but why?

Essentially, there are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is the one you are probably most familiar with. It is a necessary and important aspect of your immune defense system, designed to protect you and help you recover.

Inflammation is your body’s natural response when you have an injury, wound, or infection and enables you to heal. Symptoms may include pain, heat, redness, and swelling.

Chronic inflammation is a bit more complex. It can result from unresolved acute inflammation that puts your immune defenses on high alert.  In autoimmune disorders for example, the body becomes confused about what is self and what is other, and attacks healthy tissue, mistaking it for a foreign invader.

Chronic inflammation occurs overtime on a systemic level. It can result from prolonged exposure to a multitude of internal and external threats to the body.

Why is it so harmful and what can I do?

Chronic inflammation, left unchecked, leads to damage throughout the body. It may also settle into particular areas that may be more vulnerable. It is a primary contributing factor in most chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune conditions, cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, depression, asthma, fibromyalgia, arthritis, skin conditions, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.

The degree and impact of the inflammatory process in the body can be helped or hindered through lifestyle factors. These include stress, nutrition, sleep, movement, and chemical exposure.

There are many health-promoting activities to limit inflammation. Among the most critical are: having a whole-food-based, anti-inflammatory diet; regular moderate activity; well-managed stress levels; sound sleep for 7-8 hours; and minimizing exposure to chemicals.

Individually and collectively, these steps will go a long way in preventing and addressing your inflammatory load.

How can I reduce my risk?    

  • Start to notice the signs and signals from your body. This is a simple first step in understanding that your body is trying to communicate with you. Listen and respond to the whispers before they become shouts. Do not assume aches and pains, fatigue, rashes, or brain fog are a natural part of aging. These are not just a “normal” part of growing older.


  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Learn which foods are pro-inflammatory and which are anti-inflammatory. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation. Have a regular sleep routine that leaves you feeling refreshed. Increase your activity level. This does not have to mean an hour at the gym if that’s not for you. Take a walk or just focus on getting up from your desk or couch every hour to do some simple stretches. Limit your exposure to chemicals starting with those in poor quality food, such as pesticides, preservatives, artificial ingredients, and antibiotics. From there, consider “greening” your cleaning and personal care products, as well as cookware and plastics.


  • Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol use, social isolation, obesity, and prolonged stress. Inflammation is highly correlated with mood disorders. Process your emotions and any experiences of trauma, grief, or loss. Have you heard the phrase “your issues are in your tissues?”  Unresolved emotions and trauma can impact you physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Maintain your annual check-ups and speak openly with your doctor about any changes or concerns.


Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice or replace treatment or intervention by a qualified medical or mental health professional.

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