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Chronic Inflammation and Nutrition

Asthma, lupus, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, glomerulonephritis, allergies as well as other chronic conditions are all characterized by inflammation. Inflammation is a normal bodily response to protect us from trauma, toxins, heat, or infection from foreign organisms such as bacteria and viruses. The damaged cells release various chemicals including bradykinin (causes blood vessel dilation), histamine (causes contraction of smooth muscle and dilation of capillaries), and prostaglandins (causes inflammation, pain, and fever as part of the healing process).

The swelling caused by the dilation of blood vessels and capillaries is part of the immune system’s ability to sequester the foreign matter, thereby isolating it from further contact with other tissues. The chemicals released during an inflammatory response, signal and attract phagocytes (white blood cells) to the damaged cell site to start the healing process.

Acute inflammation is short-term and beneficial to the body as part of a normal healing process; however, chronic inflammation can be destructive to the body. Chronic inflammation occurs due to a malfunction of the immune system not turning “off” when it should. Chronic inflammation destroys healthy tissues and can play a role in the development of various diseases.

Chronic inflammation can occur anywhere in the body and is very damaging because it acts like a slow-burning fire that continues to stimulate pro-inflammatory immune cells.² Excess immune cells and their signaling molecules circulating in the body can damage blood vessel linings (in atherosclerosis), pancreatic tissue (diabetes), and joint tissue (in arthritis).² Chronic inflammation also occurs in autoimmune diseases such as lupus, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and allergies.

Over time, chronic inflammation can cause changes in DNA and can lead to cancer. For example, people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, have an increased risk of colon cancer. People who are overweight and/or obese also experience chronic inflammation which lends itself to weight gain, due to the water retention.

Inflammation can cause people to feel pain, stiffness, distress, discomfort and even agony depending on the severity. Inflammation primarily causes pain because the swelling pushes against nerve endings which sends pain signals to the brain. Living with chronic inflammation and pain can be debilitating and can lead to depression.

There are many treatment modalities for chronic inflammation.

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1. â•œFoods That Fight Inflammationâ•š Harvard Health Publishing, August 13, 2017.
2. â•œWhat Is Chronic Inflammation?â•š Dr. Amber Hayden DO, 2017.
3. Want X, et. al â•œInflammation Markers and Risk of Type 2 Diabetesâ•š Diabetes Care Vol. 36, January 2013.
4. Minihane A. et. al. â•œLow-Grade Inflammation, Diet Composition and Health: Current Research Evidence and Its Translation. British Journal of Nutrition 114 (999-1012) 2015.
5. Calder P. â•œLong Chain Fatty Acids and Gene Expression in Inflammation and Immunityâ•š  Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care  16 (425-433) 2013.
6. â•œImmune Responseâ•š  Medline Plus
7. Nordqvst C. â•œEverything You Need to Know About Inflammationâ•š  Medical News Today Nov. 24, 2017.
8. Rowe B. Davis L., â•œAnti-Inflammatory Foods For Health: Hundreds of Ways to Incorporate Omega-3 Rich Foods Into Your Diet to Fight Arthritis, Cancer, Heart Disease and More. 2008.
9. International Journal on Inflammation
10. The Journal of Inflammation

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