Chronic inflammation has been closely studied for many years as researchers seek to more deeply understand its negative effect on human health, as well as its potential connection to most major diseases.
But although inflammation generally gets a pretty bad reputation, most people don’t know that it actually serves an essential survival function when experienced in the right amounts.
Inflammation is actually an essential part of your immune system and is the primary way that your body responds to infection and injury.
In other words, if you never experienced inflammation, your immune system would never receive the life-saving signals needed to heal damaged tissue and protect against foreign invaders.
In fact, having strong inflammatory responses is vital for staying healthy and fending off potentially life-threatening infections.
This actually means that healthy inflammatory responses are an excellent indicator of good health!
Inflammation only begins to become problematic when these inflammatory responses go on for too long and your body remains in this inflamed state for a prolonged period of time.
This “chronic inflammation” is the illness-causing type of inflammation that we’ve all heard about in relation to so many of our health concerns.
It’s important to remember that not all inflammation is the same. There are two main types of inflammation that can have both a positive and negative impact on our health.
This is the “good” short-term inflammation that occurs after an injury of some sort, and that targets only one specific location.
Acute inflammation will likely cause redness, swelling, and tenderness only in the specific area that has been injured, such as a sprained ankle, cut, scrape, or sore throat.
When a body part is injured, chemicals and hormone-like substances such as cytokines and prostaglandins are released by the damaged tissues to promote healthy clotting and send for more “help'' from immune cells, certain hormones, and restorative nutrients. White blood cells also rush in to surround the area in order to facilitate faster healing.
Once the injury is fully healed, the localized acute inflammation lifts and the body can once again return to homeostasis.
Rather than being localized in one specific area, chronic inflammation generally has a whole body effect and occurs when there is constant, low-grade inflammation that never ceases.
Chronic inflammation is persistent in nature and can have negative long-term effects on overall health that lead to the development of many diseases.
In other words, the inflammation “off” switch is never turned off and this elevated state of your immune system continues in overdrive and eventually takes a major toll on your health. This ultimately wears down your immune system and leaves you more susceptible to illness and disease.
One Harvard newsletter article even suggests that chronic inflammation has “created a shift in medical thinking” and may be the closest thing we have to a “unifying theory of disease.”
There is more research to be done, but chronic inflammation may be the common underlying cause of all major degenerative diseases that medical professionals have been searching for. Pretty incredible!
Although there is still a long way to go before experts truly understand the full impact that chronic inflammation can have on illness and disease, one thing is already clear: Chronic inflammation can wear away at our body over time and produce some pretty serious damage to our health.
As one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, arthritis and its related rheumatic conditions affect over 54 million American adults.
It’s now estimated that one in four Americans has been diagnosed with a rheumatic condition like arthritis, and of those individuals, 27% experience severe joint pain.
When it comes to these conditions, the immune system experiences an “inflammatory malfunction” that then causes it to attack the membrane lining the joints and wear down important joint cartilage and tissues.
The body’s reaction to this malfunction is usually categorized by ongoing joint swelling, pain, stiffness, increased joint fluid, and cartilage, bone, and muscle loss.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, inflammatory joint pain is often caused by one of these factors:
Unfortunately, many individuals suffering from joint inflammation and chronic illness have been unfairly labelled as ‘lazy’ or ‘unmotivated’ by family, friends, doctors, or others closest to them.
But there’s actually a scientific reason behind this stigma that causes so many sufferers of joint pain to feel isolated and ashamed.
Recent studies have revealed that along with the usual symptoms of arthritis (such as fatigue), chronic joint inflammation also has a negative impact on the areas of our brain most responsible for feelings of self-worth, drive, and you guessed it… motivation.
This area of our brain is called the dopaminergic signaling system and when dopamine levels drop, it’s normal to also see plummeting motivation and drive in sufferers.
When chronic inflammation causes our immune system to constantly work on overdrive, it diminishes efforts from the part of the brain that connects effort to a sense of reward.
In other words, if someone close to you is struggling with these issues, it may signal more serious underlying health concerns that are best addressed by a doctor.
Most importantly, it's best to reach out in a sympathetic and understanding manner, as this lack of drive may potentially be out of their control and due to chronic inflammation.
Battling joint pain and inflammation doesn’t need to hold you back from doing the things you love and living a full, happy, and active life.
While rheumatic conditions can be severe in some cases, mild to moderate joint pain can be effectively supported by a number of natural approaches.
Putting together a proactive anti-inflammatory game plan and taking control of the power that you do have is the best way to begin fighting joint inflammation.
First and foremost, this means committing to a healthy lifestyle that includes moderate exercise, anti-inflammatory foods, plenty of rest and water, regular checkups, and healthy stress management.
Some of these anti-inflammatory dietary choices that have been shown to be most effective are closely aligned with the Mediterranean approach and include plenty of vegetables, fresh fruits, fish, omega-3 fats, and very little red meat or foods high in saturated and trans fats.
Certain dietary supplements may also play an important role in an effective inflammation-fighting game plan. Some of these dietary supplements that have been used throughout history to help support healthy inflammatory responses include turmeric (curcumin), boswellia, ashwagandha, vitamin C, magnesium, type II collagen, white willow bark, and more.
Although there is more research to be done when it comes to natural treatments, many ancient medicinal healing herbs have been used for centuries for their healing and health-supporting benefits, and are still largely being used and researched to this day.
It’s not unusual for chronic inflammation to sometimes go unnoticed by us or to be swept to the side in our busy lives.
It’s believed that due to our modern lifestyles, we all have some amount of chronic inflammation in one form or another, and may only discover this after taking a blood test or completing our yearly physical.
That makes it even more important to listen to our body and to pay closer attention to sudden changes or new aches and pains.
Sometimes, there is a slight difference between the “normal” amounts of inflammation caused by our more toxic modern environment, and chronic inflammation that can leave us at risk for a number of illnesses.
By remaining mindful of how you feel from day to day, you can more effectively stay ahead of inflammation and take back control over your health.
When it comes to choosing an effective supplement to help alleviate joint discomfort, it’s important to remember that the ingredients and their quality is absolutely essential.
This is why a large portion of joint health supplements are not able to deliver the benefits they so often promise.
Be sure to look for high quality ingredients with safety tests and no artificial fillers or synthetic ingredients to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your supplements.
By staying informed, mindful, and consistent in your healthy anti-inflammatory routine, there is hope and a real possibility of greatly decreasing joint discomfort and inflammation. We're with you every step of the way!
TOGETHER, WE CAN OVERCOME CHRONIC INFLAMMATION AND LIVE HAPPIER, MORE ACTIVE LIVES.
IT'S ABOUT YOU. IT'S ABOUT YOUR HEALTH. IT'S ABOUT RECONNECTING.