Inflammation is your body’s first line of defence. How this is the case is what this article will focus on. Continue reading to better understand this commonly used term and what it is all about.
If you are a health blog reader, then you have probably heard the term “inflammation” used numerous times. You might also have heard doctors or dietitians talk of an anti-inflammatory diet. Inflammation, as stated previously, is the body’s way of defending itself against infections, injuries and toxins.
How does inflammation occur?
Inflammatory response occurs when body tissues are injured by trauma, toxins, heat, bacteria or other causes, and the body releases chemicals like histamine that alert the immune system which then sends inflammatory cells causing blood vessels to leak fluid into the injury site which leads to swelling, pain and redness.
The two types of inflammation are:
- Acute inflammation which is what most people know about and is a type of inflammation that is short-lived, usually lasting for hours or days. It is often triggered by germs like viruses and bacteria and objects like insect stings, sprains and splinters. Its symptoms appear quickly and restore the body to its normal state when there was no injury or illness.
- Chronic Inflammation on the other hand lasts longer going for months or years. It is generally slower and less severe as compared to acute inflammation. It can occur even in the absence of injury and continue after an injury or illness has healed. This type of inflammation is linked to long-term exposure to irritants like polluted air, autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, or even stress.
How to know you have inflammation
Inflammation symptoms depend on the cause of the inflammation and which body part or organ is affected. Aside from the common inflammatory signs (pain, swelling, redness, heat and loss of function) long-term inflammation can lead to several symptoms that affect the body in many ways.
These symptoms include:
- Frequent infections,
- Weight gain,
- Anxiety, depression and other mood disorders,
- Body pain,
- Constant fatigue and insomnia, and
- Gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux, diarrhoea and constipation.
The symptoms can also be classified according to the inflammatory conditions as follows:
- Inflammatory bowel disease which affects the digestive tract. Symptoms may include:
1. Bleeding ulcers
2. Stomach pain or cramping
- Rheumatoid arthritis which attacks the joints causing symptoms such as:
1. Joint pain
2. Numbness and tingling
3. Limited range of motion
5. Loss of joint function
6. Joint stiffness
- Multiple sclerosis, a condition that attacks the myelin sheath which is a fatty tissue protecting nerve cells. Symptoms caused by this condition may include:
2. Cognitive problems like brain fog
3. Blurry, double or partial vision
4. Problems with balance
5. Tingling and numbness of the one side of the face, arms and legs
Apart from autoimmune disorders and exposure to irritants, other factors like certain medications and foods such as refined carbohydrates, alcohol, processed meat and sugar, can also cause inflammation.
Can Inflammation be Diagnosed?
As there is no single test to diagnose inflammation, a doctor will make a diagnosis based on the symptoms you are experiencing. After knowing your symptoms, the doctor might order the following tests:
- Blood tests: By checking specific markers in the blood, it can help to determine whether a person has inflammation. These tests are, however, non-specific to what is exactly causing the inflammation. They include:
1. Serum protein electrophoresis (SPE): Too much of certain proteins in the liquid part of the brain can indicate certain issues.
2. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): This test is used to indirectly measure inflammation by measuring the rate at which red blood cells sink in a tube of blood. The quicker these red blood cells sink, the more likely that a person is experiencing inflammation. However, this test is rarely done alone as it does not tell the exact cause of inflammation.
3. C-reactive protein (CRP): This protein is naturally released in the liver in response to inflammation and therefore, a high level of CRP in the blood means you may be suffering from inflammation.
4. Plasma viscosity: Since inflammation can thicken plasma, this test is used to measure the thickness of blood.
If your doctor suspects that the inflammation is due to a specific cause or if your symptoms are more specific to certain conditions, other tests like imaging tests including X-rays, MRI’s, and CT scans can be carried out.
In an instance where your symptoms are more specific to gastrointestinal conditions, tests such as an upper endoscopy, colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are more likely to be done.
Can Inflammation be Diagnosed?
Before going into the details about how inflammation can be treated, it is important to know that not all inflammation is bad, unless it is chronic. For instance, exercise is an inflammation-inducing activity, but it has a clear benefit, so instead of getting rid of that kind of inflammation, you need to find a
Inflammation plays an important role in how the body’s immune system keeps the body healthy and safe. Rather than worrying about it, all you need to do is:
- Eat healthy; have more vegetables especially the dark leafy greens like kales, more fruits like berries, nuts, fibre-dense foods like beans and whole grains and oily fish like salmon. Cabbage is a great antioxidant and phytochemical-rich vegetable which is good for protection against inflammation.
- Exercise regularly.
- Practise other healthy lifestyle changes like not smoking or consuming alcohol excessively, maintaining a healthy body weight and managing stress better.
- You should also ensure that you seek treatment for conditions that increase the risk of inflammation.
So, as much as inflammation is talked about, which might have made it seem like such a bad thing to experience, it is actually helpful and only proves that your body is alert, resilient and self-sustaining in ensuring you continue to thrive.
However, if you experience chronic inflammation, it is important to seek medical assistance as it could actually be due to something serious. International Medical Treatment Ltd (IMT) can help you seek treatment for inflammatory-related conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease at some of our partner hospitals around the world. Our partner hospitals have highly advanced speciality centres that are equipped with the latest state-of-the-art medical technology enabling precision in diagnosis and treatment of a variety of inflammatory-related health conditions.
To find out more or book your appointment with a Specialist at some of the leading hospitals in the world, contact IMT today.