Is your body on fire and screaming for help? How would you know if your body was inflamed anyway? It turns out the answers are not cut and dry, and you may not even be aware that something dangerous is brewing under the surface. The symptoms of chronic inflammation are often subtle and could be attributed to numerous other causes. After all, who doesn’t feel fatigued sometimes? However, understanding the possible signs of chronic inflammation may help ward off significant health issues down the road.
Inflammation gets a bad rep
We all strive to have robust immune systems. This complex system defends our body against invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other foreign substances. It also works to heal injured tissues in the body.
When we hear the word inflammation, it often conjures up a negative response. However, inflammation is the body’s response to an injury or invader. It’s a vital part of the immune system, and without it, we would not exist.
How inflammation protects
If you’ve ever healed from a sprained ankle or a bee sting, you have inflammation to thank for the help. An acute injury causes the body to jump into action. As white blood cells rush to the scene, the first signs of healing begin to appear: heat, redness, swelling, and pain.
While our first instinct may be to stop the symptoms, it’s important to realize that our brilliant bodies know exactly how to heal. For example, our bodies release hormones such as histamine and bradykinin in response to a rolled ankle. These chemicals cause small blood vessels in the tissue to widen, allowing for more blood flow, and thus more white blood cells, to the area. For this reason, the area turns swollen, red, and hot. In turn, the additional fluid puts pressure on the nerves, creating pain.
In the short term, inflammation serves a vital role by prompting our body’s defense system to kick into high gear. Once the immediate danger has subsided, the immune system typically settles down. However, if the inflammatory process goes on for too long, it can become problematic.
Chronic inflammation: where the trouble begins
While inflammation begins as a helpful process to ward off invaders or injury, it can quickly turn dangerous. The immune system does not know when to dial back for some individuals. As a result, it sends inflammatory cells, even when there is no longer an obvious need. For example, individuals with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, experience chronic inflammation of their joints and organs.
While chronic inflammation may seem to occur for no apparent reason, it always has an underlying cause. Some reasons for chronic inflammation include:
- Unknown bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other parasites – Sometimes bacteria or viruses evade the immune system and remain in the body for extended lengths of time. Failure to identify and remove them may cause chronic inflammation.
- Toxins, heavy metals, or other pollutants – Chemicals, toxins, and heavy metals fill our world. Long-term, low-level exposure to these toxins can result in chronic inflammation.
- Food sensitivities – Many individuals have food sensitivities (gluten!) and intolerances and don’t even know it. As 70 percent of our immune system resides in our gut, constant exposure to foods that our bodies can’t tolerate is a leading cause of chronic inflammation.
- Mold mycotoxins- Water-damaged homes lead to mold growth and mycotoxin exposure. This situation is a major source of inflammation.
- Stress – Long-term stress can cause disruptions in the endocrine and nervous system. Stress also triggers the release of specific white blood cells, leading to chronic inflammation.
If left untreated, chronic inflammation can lead to a whole host of health problems. For example, research has linked chronic inflammation to bowel disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, dementia, mood disorders, asthma, and obesity.
Signs of inflammation in the heart
Chronic inflammation is a significant cause of heart disease. As plaque builds in the arteries, it triggers inflammation. Inflammation then irritates blood vessels and can dislodge plaque deposits that cut off blood supply to the heart.
For decades, doctors and scientists believed that cholesterol was the cause of heart attacks. However, studies have found that inflammation is the primary driver behind heart disease.
Inflammation can also impact the heart directly. For example, myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle itself. It can be caused by exposure to viruses, bacteria, medications, and toxins. Endocarditis is inflammation of the inner covering of the heart, while pericarditis impacts the outer sac that surrounds the heart.
Cardiac signs of chronic inflammation vary depending on the source of the heart problem. Still, they can include high blood pressure, heart palpitations or arrhythmias, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
What does chronic inflammation in my body feel like?
It can be challenging to know whether or not you have chronic inflammation in your body, especially since many symptoms are subtle and overlap with other health issues. How inflammation manifests itself varies from person to person. Some signs of chronic inflammation include:
- Unexplained fatigue or exhaustion
- Cough or excess mucus production
- Low-grade fever
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Depression or anxiety
- Brain fog
- Digestive problems
- Weight gain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Dry eyes or dry mouth
Can my doctor detect inflammation?
If you are concerned about inflammation, a visit with your doctor is in order. Your physician may detect inflammation based on your health history and physical exam. However, since signs of chronic inflammation are sometimes challenging to identify, blood lab work may be necessary.
There are a few critical lab markers that help to determine the level of inflammation in the body. Your liver makes C-reactive protein (CRP) in response to inflammation. Most doctors check for CRP using a high-sensitivity test (hsCRP), which detects CRP in the bloodstream. High levels of hsCRP in the body point to increased inflammation.
Other labs that might indicate inflammation include white blood cell elevation, elevated myeloperoxidase, oxidized LDL (these are damaged lipid particles), phospholipase A2, just to name a few. , homocysteine, erythrocyte sedimentation (ESR), A1C, and certain interleukins, to name a few.
Our bodies are inherently intelligent and have incredible healing abilities. However, inflammation from poor diet, stress, toxins, and lack of sleep puts stress on your body and makes it less effective. By optimizing health, your body can spend excess energy ridding itself of harmful toxins and supporting your 100 Year Heart.
Make an appointment with Natural Heart Doctor to help get your inflammation under control. Using the philosophy of “test, don’t guess” and comprehensive lab panels, we can test for chronic inflammation markers and provide lifestyle strategies to help you regain your health.
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Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD