What is Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation results when acute inflammation fails to resolve and because of poor choices in lifestyle, diet and/or environmental factors. It is a major cause of chronic diseases and premature aging. Internists, cardiologists, oncologists, and nutritionists continue to find evidence linking chronic inflammation with chronic diseases and the diseases of aging. The effects of chronic inflammation accumulate over a lifetime to manifest themselves in a number of disorders, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, pulmonary disease, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Chronic inflammation is poles apart from normal acute inflammation. Acute inflammation is the familiar beneficiary response of our healthy immune system to such stimuli as injury, infection, or shock. Chemicals called cytokines are released by our cells to trigger local reaction, including redness, heat, swelling, and pain. In acute inflammation, the cytokines trigger the immune, complement, kallikrein, and clotting systems, which cause discomfort but rapidly restore the body to health.
Factors Influencing Chronic Inflammation
The failure of acute inflammation to resolve itself or “turn off” frequently is the beginning of chronic inflammation (also called silent, systematic, cellular, or low-grade inflammation). Chronic inflammation is frequently the result of our poor lifestyle, dietary, and nutritional choices as well as the environment that surrounds us. Over time, chronic inflammation has the ability to activate the genes we inherited, fueling chronic diseases and the early-aging process.
The contribution of smoking and obesity to chronic inflammation is well known. Less recognized factors influencing chronic inflammation include:
- Fat tissue is a source of cytokines
- Chronic minor infections, such as gum disease, stomach ulcers, and upper respiratory infections
- Sun exposure
- Lack of exercise
- Certain foods provide inflammatory fats
- Excess stress
- Sleeping disorders