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What Is Inflammation and Why Is It Important?

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Brandi Goodman

What Is Inflammation and Why Is It Important?

Inflammation is everywhere. So many of the things we put into our body and the lifestyle habits we follow cause inflammation. Yet chronic inflammation is one of the worst things for our bodies; it can lead to pain, poor sleep, high stress, and chronic conditions. Learning what inflammation is and what causes it can help you understand how to prevent it.

What Is Inflammation and How Does It Occur in the Body?

There are two types of inflammation. Acute inflammation is the body’s response to injuries or damage. It may cause some discomfort, such as pain, bruising, or swelling, but it is necessary for the body to heal you. It typically lasts no longer than a few days. Sometimes, it only lasts for a few hours. This type of inflammation is necessary and should not cause lasting consequences.

Chronic inflammation occurs when signals are sent to white blood cells that damage has happened even when it hasn’t. These cells may then attack healthy tissues, resulting in serious health conditions. It’s common in things like arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, and other chronic diseases.

Potential Causes and Triggers of Chronic Inflammation

There are many causes of chronic inflammation.

A Poor Diet

A poor diet is one common cause of chronic inflammation. Fatty and sugary foods can cause inflammation, as can alcohol and soda. If you consume these foods and beverages and notice they trigger certain symptoms, then they should be eliminated from your diet. You can see if enjoying them in moderation works for you or if they need to be cut out completely. Certain foods may not bother you if you enjoy them once per month, for example, compared to daily or even weekly. Others may upset your stomach or cause issues for you after just one meal.

Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

Exposure to toxic chemicals may seem to be an obvious cause of inflammation. If your skin becomes irritated after using certain ones, avoid using them in the future. You may need to find non-toxic, green cleaners and products to use instead. You can also try a detox bath using Epsom salt and baking soda to help rid it from your system.

Untreated Acute Inflammation

Leaving acute inflammation untreated, such as symptoms from a common cold or the flu or a lasting injury that won’t heal, can also lead to chronic inflammation. If you have a lasting cough, recurring sore throat, a cut that continues to bleed, or other symptoms, see your doctor to get to the bottom of it.


Inflammation automatically increases as people age. Once you reach 50, you may notice more inflammation than usual. By 60, your risk is even more heightened. It’s vital to find ways to reduce inflammation in your younger years so it does not become such a significant problem as you get older.

Potential Health Consequences of Chronic Inflammation

Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to chronic illnesses. Signs that you have chronic inflammation may include the following.

  • Feel minor aches and pains
  • Notice itchy or red skin
  • Have minor memory impairment
  • Deal with digestive issues.

If left unchecked, inflammation leads to more serious health consequences. You’ll experience accelerated aging, tissue scarring and damage, and reduced functioning of one or more body systems.

If chronic inflammation damages your blood vessels, it’s likely to lead to cardiovascular disease. If it damages your cells, it can lead to cancer. If food is the reason for your inflammation, it can lead to weight gain and overall obesity, which puts you at further risk for certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease.

How Diet and Lifestyle Choices Influence Inflammation

Diet and lifestyle play significant roles in inflammation. There are things that work to increase inflammation and things that help to reduce inflammation. The trick is knowing which is which.

Foods That Cause Inflammation

Certain foods cause inflammation within your body. This means you’ll need to take these foods off your menu if you want to keep inflammation at bay as much as possible. Sugar is a common culprit of inflammation. Whether you’re drinking soda daily or regularly consuming sugary snacks, your body is likely to suffer the consequences over time.

You should also avoid:

  • Red meat
  • Processed meat
  • Fried foods
  • Saturated fats
  • Processed foods
  • Refined carbohydrates

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Rather than simply avoiding bad foods, you should be focusing on good foods that offer anti-inflammatory properties. These won’t just keep inflammation at bay. They’ll actively work to reduce it. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, for example. Leafy green vegetables are a great option. You’ll also want to consume nuts, seeds, and berries. A healthy diet rich in antioxidants and vitamins can be a huge help in reducing inflammation. Many people choose to follow the Mediterranean diet or a similar anti-inflammatory diet because of this.


Stress raises your cortisol levels. Although some cortisol is necessary in the body, too much of it can cause serious issues. You may find yourself having trouble falling asleep, gaining weight, experiencing muscle weakness, and having hypertension. Plus, your inflammation levels can rise. If you routinely wake up between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., it could be a sign that your cortisol levels are high. Work to reduce your stress and inflammation so you can get better sleep. Poor sleep has an impact on inflammation as well, causing you to continue in this unhealthy loop.

Drinking and Smoking

Smoking and drinking cause inflammation. If these are part of your lifestyle habits, make changes to avoid the health consequences they bring. Gradually wean yourself off of them rather than quitting cold turkey so you can limit withdrawal symptoms. You’re also more likely to be successful.

Natural Supplements or Alternative Therapies to Reduce Inflammation

There are anti-inflammatory supplements you can take. These provide vital nutrients that work to reduce the inflammation you already have. Just be sure to speak with your doctor to be sure it’s right for you. Fish oil is a good option. It contains omega-3 fatty acids that also provide anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric and curcumin are also beneficial in this regard

Add Chiropractic Care to Your Anti-Inflammatory List

To further reduce inflammation, add chiropractic care to your list of preventative measures. An adjustment can ease discomfort, correct joint restrictions, and help the body stop producing cytokines that have been building up and causing inflammation. Stop in at The Joint Chiropractic to learn more. Doctors at The Joint are your partners in health and understand the importance of reducing inflammation to get the optimal performance out of your body.

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