What is Inflammation and How Can It Be Prevented?
A vital part of the immune response, inflammation is the body's way of attempting to defend against foreign invaders, heal injuries and repair damaged tissue. In certain instances, however, this process can become problematic, especially when it becomes chronic.
What is inflammation?
Characterized by swelling, redness, warmth, pain and/or immobility, inflammation occurs when the body receives "emergency signals" that prompt immune cells into action. Arteries dilate to increase blood flow and capillaries become permeable to allow white blood cells, hormones and nutrients to pass through and fix whatever problem has prompted the response.
Without inflammation, infections would become deadly and wounds would fester. That said, when things go awry, inflammation can result in a range of serious health problems.
Chronic vs. Acute Inflammation
When we get a cut, scrape, sprained ankle or a sore throat, acute, or short-term, inflammation kicks in to help us heal. On the other hand, chronic, or persistent, low-grade, inflammation occurs when the body remains in an "inflamed" state when the need has passed.
Persistent inflammation has been linked to a number of ailments, including heart disease, arthritis and diseases of the colon. Studies also suggest it could play a role in a number of other health problems. In fact, many experts believe we have just begun to unveil the far-reaching impact of chronic inflammation on mortality and long-term health.
How to Prevent Inflammation
These days, there are a number of medications that can reduce chronic inflammation. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, biologic drugs and other oral medications. At the same time, many experts now recommend low-inflammation diets, consisting of foods that appear to reduce overactive immune response.
Some potential inflammation-reducing foods include tomatoes, olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, green leafy vegetables and many fruits. Patients are also encouraged to avoid potentially problematic foods, such as soda, red meat, fried foods, refined carbohydrates, margarine, shortening and lard.
When to See a Doctor
Because chronic inflammation can lead to serious health problems, you should visit your doctor any time you experience any sort of troublesome symptoms that seem out of the ordinary. Because it can manifest in different ways, chronic inflammation can be somewhat difficult to diagnose. Most of the time, however, people will notice signs, such as fatigue, pain, swelling, stiffness and even stomach issues. Whatever the symptom, your doctor can perform tests to help identify whether you might benefit from anti-inflammation foods and medications.