Systemic inflammation refers to a physical condition in which the body's immune cells release cytokines, molecules that trigger an inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation occurs when the issue persists for months or even years and has been linked to an increased risk of many serious illnesses, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and even depression. Find out how systemic inflammation hurts your body and what you can do to combat it.
The impact of systemic inflammation
When your body perceives a threat, like a virus, the disease-fighting immune system kicks in. With systemic inflammation, this reaction is triggered even though there is no injury to heal or disease to fight. White blood cells end up overproducing, swarming the body's internal organs and other healthy tissues. This influx of cellular activity can actually end up causing damage, since the white blood cells don’t have any disease or injury to heal and instead attack the body.
Take rheumatoid arthritis, for instance. An inflammatory condition, this is a systemic
autoimmune ailment that impacts the entire body. A person's immune system mistakenly targets the healthy tissues and organs, and kicks into high gear with an inflammatory response, which can impact the joints, heart, lungs, or even eyes. This results in general fatigue, loss of function, pain, and swelling.
Signs and symptoms of systemic inflammation
Systemic inflammation can't be diagnosed definitively, but your doctor can look for signs using a blood test. An elevated white blood cell count would be one indicator, for example. Scientists are working to better identify the precise biomarkers that could pinpoint systemic inflammation, including C-reactive protein, hemopexin, and progesterone.
When it comes to symptoms you can perceive yourself, you may notice that you experience aches and pains with no apparent cause regularly. Pain may be worse in the morning, after you have been largely immobile for the night. Symptoms also tend to worsen with age. Researchers have also discovered that persons with systemic inflammation appear to be more prone to depression. This appears to be especially true among women.
Steps to combat systemic inflammation
Diet plays a major role in fighting off systemic inflammation. Your gut is filled with billions of bacteria, which are responsible for regulating everything from immune function to digestion through their interactions with your body. It even affects the way you feel. In the case of depression, for instance, researchers have shown that individuals who have been diagnosed with depression are lacking in mood-boosting bacteria Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus.
Nurture your microbiome with an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of tomatoes, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, nuts, fatty fish, and olive oil. Avoid foods that cause inflammation including red meat, margarine, and refined sugars and carbohydrates. Adding probiotics and prebiotics, which contain the “good” bacteria you want in your gut, can help as well. These are available in capsules, powders, or even plain yogurts.
Losing weight can also combat inflammation in the body, according to MyFitnessPal. In addition to following a healthy diet, this means getting regular exercise. In the short term, exercise causes an inflammatory response. In the long term, however, the body experiences an overall anti-inflammatory effect from regular physical movement.
Massage is another weapon in the battle against chronic inflammation. Some studies suggest that touch therapy can relieve pressure on muscles caused by fluid build up and improve nervous system function. There are also changes that take place at the cellular level that reduce inflammation. A weekly deep tissue massage is an enjoyable complement to other forms of therapy.
Even if you do not have any indications that you are affected by systemic inflammation, prevention is important. Given the serious illnesses that it can lead to, like cancer, you are best off avoiding this ailment altogether to mitigate the risk of such potentially incurable diseases. Leading an overall healthy lifestyle as described above by following a healthy diet and exercise plan lays the groundwork for physical and emotional well-being.
Photo Credit: Pexels.com