What Exactly Is Inflammation and What Is It Doing to My Body?

Inflammation is a word that is tossed around quite a bit in the health space, but not everyone has a clear understanding of what that actually means. For example, you may have thought you had inflammation at one point but were unclear on what to do about it. This guide will help you understand what inflammation is, how to spot it, and what to do if you end up with inflammation.

What Is Inflammation?

The first thing you need to understand about inflammation is that there are two types: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is when you get symptoms like redness, pain, swelling, immobility, and heat that come on rapidly and become serious quickly. This type of inflammation will usually disappear within a few days or weeks. However, chronic inflammation results from an irritant building up over time and can continue for months or years.

Chronic inflammation can be caused by:

  • Autoimmune disorders where your body attacks healthy tissue
  • Exposure to an irritant like food intolerances, allergies, pollutants, or industrial chemicals
  • Untreated causes of acute inflammation
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Chronic stress
  • Alcohol consumption

Inflammation is your body attempting to protect itself, so it isn’t necessarily bad.

Some Examples of Inflammation

If you believe you are suffering from chronic inflammation, these are some symptoms you might experience. Typically, you might have these symptoms mildly or severely, and they can last months at a time or even years.

  • Body aches and pain
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent infections
  • Gastrointestinal issues like constipation or diarrhea
  • Weight gain
  • Congestion
  • Dry eyes
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Skin outbreaks

Certain people are at a higher risk of developing chronic inflammation.

  • You have a family history of autoimmune or chronic diseases.
  • You are overweight or obese.
  • You have a poor diet.
  • You have depression.

None of these examples necessarily mean you will have chronic inflammation, but they increase your odds of getting it.

How to Tell If Something in Your Body is Inflamed

If you suspect you are suffering from chronic inflammation, you can get a blood test called the hsCRP test. This test measures C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation. However, many doctors don’t recommend this test as long as you’re young, healthy, and at low risk for heart disease. Typically, knowing the test results won’t change the way you are being treated. Instead, you can look at the common symptoms of chronic inflammation and plan with your doctor on how to treat it.

Why Is Inflammation Talked About So Much?

Inflammation has become such a massive buzzword because it can indicate worse things. For example, when you have chronic inflammation, the inflammatory response can begin to damage tissues, organs, and healthy cells. This can cause DNA damage, internal scarring, and tissue death with time.

These effects can also lead to the development of other diseases, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Cognitive decline and dementia if you are older

Is Inflammation Always Bad?

As long as inflammation is treated before it begins to cause damage, it is not necessarily bad. Inflammation is your body’s attempt to deal with something happening, such as exposure to toxins or a cut on your body. A little bit of inflammation can help you feel better, but if it is chronic, it needs to be treated before it causes further damage.

How to Reduce Inflammation

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to reduce inflammation in your body.


One of the first steps to treating chronic inflammation is taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Some common examples of these medications are ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve). These drugs will help reduce inflammation and help you manage pain. However, you don’t want to overdo the NSAIDs because they can lead to kidney disease and peptic ulcer disease.

Watching Food Intake

If you have an inflammatory response to certain foods, you should cut them out of your diet. Some common foods that can lead to inflammation include gluten, sugar, processed meat (sausage and hot dogs, for example), saturated fats, peanuts, refined carbohydrates (like pastries and white bread), fried foods (french fries), and alcohol.

Along with avoiding certain foods, you will want to enrich your diet with foods that help keep the inflammation at bay. Here are some examples of good foods to include in your diet.

  • Berries like blackberries and blueberries
  • Oily fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, and tuna (at least three portions a week)
  • Herbs like chamomile and fennel
  • Cold-pressed flaxseed oil
  • Olive oil
  • Pineapple for its enzyme bromelain
  • Seeds such as flax, sunflower, hemp, and pumpkin
  • Leafy greens such as spinach and kale
  • Nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Eight glasses of water a day


You might also be prescribed corticosteroids. They lower inflammation and suppress the immune system, which stops your body from attacking healthy tissue. However, this isn’t a long-term solution as it can cause high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and vision issues.


Exercising for just twenty minutes can help reduce inflammation. In addition, exercise can help you feel less stressed and help you lose weight. Since both factors can cause inflammation, it will help reduce the risk of developing more inflammation.


Your doctor might also suggest you start taking certain supplements to reduce the inflammation in your body. Here are some common ones to get you started.

  • Fish oil
  • Curcumin
  • Lipoic acid

Along with those supplements, several spices can help with inflammation.

  • Garlic
  • Cayenne
  • Ginger

Lifestyle Changes

It might also be recommended that you make specific lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Getting more sleep
  • Losing weight
  • Dietary changes (such as a low glycemic diet and less saturated fats)
  • Brushing your teeth more to avoid periodontal disease (periodontal disease can link to other chronic inflammatory conditions)

Gut Health

Not all bacteria are harmful; the bacteria in your gut are a great example. One of the jobs of your gut bacteria is fighting inflammation, and you can help keep that happening by adding prebiotics and probiotics to your diet.


You may be familiar with the term inflammation. It is a bodily response that can be either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation causes redness, pain, and swelling, while chronic inflammation comes with many symptoms, including fatigue, frequent infections, weight loss or gain, and congestion.

Acute inflammation generally disappears quickly, while chronic inflammation can last months or years. If you suffer from chronic inflammation, you can do several things to improve your symptoms. For example, you can adjust your diet, take certain supplements, use NSAIDs, and keep plenty of prebiotics and probiotics. If you think you have issues with inflammation, be sure to talk to your doctor before you take any new steps.

About the Author

Samantha Hardin

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