How To Know If You Have Chronic Inflammation

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chronic inflammation in the body

Do you wake up with achy joints? Is it hard to find the energy to get through the day?  Do your sniffles last well beyond cold and flu season? Or maybe your belly is constantly bloated, or you keep gaining weight in that area. If these symptoms sound familiar to you, then you may be suffering from chronic inflammation.

Inflammation itself is an immune response triggered by the body when a toxin or pathogen is detected. And this is not just limited to infections, injury, or illness. Research shows that an imbalance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the body can also lead to inflammation and can in turn impact the health of the entire body right through to your skin.

This theory, known as the brain-gut-skin axis states that any stress can trigger changes in the gut microbiome.  When the gut microbiome becomes imbalanced, then this can trigger inflammation that can lead to what is known as oxidative stress in the body. When this type of stress occurs, unpaired electrons go around the body stealing electrons from body tissues, so they can become paired up. This in turn leads to cell damage that can lead to increased risk of chronic conditions.

So, how do you know if these changes are going on inside of you?  Read below for signs that your body may be experiencing chronic inflammation.

12 Signs of Inflammation in the Body

1. You have a chronic condition such as heart disease or diabetes

inflammation and heart disease

When you think of heart disease or diabetes, you may consider them as diet-related illnesses that can be prevented or corrected with lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. Although this may be true for the most part, these conditions are also inflammatory conditions that may be caused by a variety of factors outside of diet and exercise like smoking, family history of the disease, or stress. A recent study shows that low-grade systemic inflammation is found in many individuals with heart disease and diabetes. Although inflammatory markers in lab results like C-reactive protein can reveal any chronic disease-related inflammation, this study shows that heart disease and diabetes may have other unique inflammatory markers that can help better identify those at risk for these chronic conditions.

2. You suffer from asthma or have allergies year-round

asthma and inflammation

Asthma is a condition in which breathing can become impaired by inflammation of the airways. People who suffer from asthma can experience such asthma “attacks” when their airway is triggered by an external stimulus.  In those with a condition known as allergic asthma, asthma attacks can be triggered by allergens like pollen, dust, mold, or animal dander. Those with this condition may also be prone to other inflammatory conditions like atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition. Allergic disorders such as these, along with conditions like hay fever, food allergies, and anaphylaxis, can lead to chronic inflammation after repeated exposure to trigger allergens.

3. You find it hard to fall asleep

sleep problems and inflammation

Insomnia is a condition in which people have trouble falling asleep at night. Over time, this condition can cause severe fatigue, increased risk of chronic disease like heart disease and depression, as well as impairment of cognitive functions. Research shows that insomnia is linked to low-grade systemic inflammation in the body. In fact, a recent study shows that upon treatment for insomnia, individuals have improvements in other inflammatory conditions such as joint pain.

4. Joint Pain

joint pain and inflammation

If you live with achy joints or arthritis, then you are likely dealing with chronic inflammation. Arthritis, which literally means “joint inflammation” refers to any condition involving the joints, or where two bones meet such as with the knees or elbows. Research shows that low-grade systemic inflammation plays a role in osteoarthritis.  Other forms of inflammatory joint disease include ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, to name a few.

5. You are prone to infections

If you find yourself getting infections often such as ear infections, sinus infections, or urinary tract infections, to name a few, then you may be dealing with chronic inflammation.  This is because inflammation itself is triggered by a toxin, pathogen, injury, or yes, an infection. However, if you deal with chronic infection, researchers suggest that antibiotic use be limited to reduce risk of antibiotic resistance, and they suggest new methods be developed to fight the inflammatory markers of infection with low antibiotic use.

6. You suffer from acid reflux

Although avoiding acidic foods can help reduce symptoms of acid reflux, acid itself is not the cause of acid reflux. Instead research has found that inflammation in the esophageal mucosa is in fact highly involved in the development of this erosive condition. The inflammation involved in the severe form of reflux, known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), has been linked to the release of proinflammatory markers like interleukin-8 (IL-8) in the esophageal mucosa.

7. Gut health issues like gas, bloating, constipation, or abdominal cramping

inflammation and bloating

If mealtime has become a stressful time because of food intolerances or digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), then you are likely dealing with inflammation. This is because digestive conditions like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and IBS are inflammatory conditions in which digestive symptoms occur as a result of an immune response being triggered. With IBS and celiac disease, these triggers can be foods or stress. However, research shows that the inflammation in such conditions may also be due to dysbiosis, or an imbalance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut which leads to this inflammation, and in turn leads to damaging effects on the gut mucosa.

8. Fatigue that won’t go away

We all get tired occasionally, but fatigue is a whole different story.  Fatigue is a level of tired in which your lack of energy starts to affect your quality of life. It can be caused by a variety of conditions, so its cause can be hard to spot. However, recent research shows that fatigue may be related to inflammation although the mechanism of this is still unclear. A study of those with type 2 diabetes did show though that the diabetes-related fatigue in those individuals was linked to a low-grade systemic inflammation.

9. Weight gain concentrated in your belly area

If you have trouble losing weight and each pound you gain seems to trend towards your belly, then you may be dealing with chronic inflammation. Visceral obesity, which is an accumulation of fat around the organs behind the belly cavity, is pro-inflammatory. Furthermore, a 2016 study shows that weight gain in pregnant women seemed to be related to higher levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein. Also, other research shows that those who consumed a pro-inflammatory diet high in refined grains and meat and low in fruit and vegetables had a greater risk of obesity than those who consumed a more anti-inflammatory diet. These study findings suggest that weight gain and inflammation are closely related.

10. Skin issues like acne, eczema, or psoriasis

psoriasis and chronic inflammation

If your skin is always itchy, red, dry, or all of the above, then you may be suffering from chronic inflammation. This is because research shows that there may be a connection between stress in the brain, inflammation in the gut and incidence of inflammatory skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and acne. This theory known as the brain-gut-skin axis all goes back to the imbalance of the gut that can be caused by anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. This imbalance can then trigger an immune response, and the inflammation that commences can negatively impact the skin.

11. Your gums bleed when you brush

If your gums are red, swollen, and bleed when you brush, then you may have the inflammatory condition known as gingivitis. This type of inflammation is triggered when the bacteria in plaque infects the gums.  Left untreated, inflamed gums can lead to periodontitis, which can recede the gums and lead to tooth loss. So, if you want to keep all your teeth and avoid bleeding gums, be sure to brush your teeth and floss every day to keep bacteria away.

12. You suffer from anxiety or depression

chronic inflammation and anxiety

If you suffer from a mental health condition, then you are also dealing with chronic inflammation. This is due to several factors such as patterns of inflammation being related to depression as well as inflammatory-related factors like obesity and pro-inflammatory diets being related to depressive symptoms. And going back to the brain-gut-skin axis, research shows that antioxidants may be a future treatment option for those with mental health conditions since they could help combat some of the oxidative stress associated with such inflammatory conditions.

If you notice any of these signs, then your body is trying to tell you that it needs help, and fast. Therefore, be sure to see your healthcare provider to share your concerns and have testing for inflammatory conditions that may be causing your symptoms. In the meantime, start making changes to your lifestyle to help you stop your inflammation today.

 

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Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN
Staci Gulbin is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, health editor, and founder of LighttrackNutrition.com. Staci Gulbin has been a registered dietitian with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2010 and has over a decade of experience in the nutrition and dietetics industry. She has graduate degrees in Biology, Human Nutrition, and Nutrition and Education from New York University, the Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition, and Teacher’s College, Columbia University, respectively. Staci has treated thousands of patients across many wellness arenas such as weight management, fitness, long-term care, rehab, and bariatric nutrition. She has helped them prevent and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and digestive conditions, among other things with practical changes in their eating habits and lifestyle.