Inflammation Symptoms and Causes
There are more than 230 joints in the human body, and as many of you might guess the ankle is the one that is sprained most often. Nearly everyone’s sprained their ankle at some point. If you’ve sprained it badly, then the way you can watch your ankle swell to the size of a small grapefruit means you’ve seen the body’s inflammation response first hand. Swelling in response to injury is only one of many inflammation symptoms that can be seen in the body, it’s just that it’s the most easily identified.
Chronic inflammation symptoms are less identifiable, and are typically in response to low-level latent allergies. For example, a person who has a low-level allergy to casein (the hormone in milk and yogurt) may continue to consume it because of no major symptoms, but they’ll have brain inflammation as a result of the allergy and may suffer some level of mental debilitation as a result. Arthritis is a chronic inflammation condition.
Skin inflammation is more like swelling, if your skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant it will be hard to ignore the redness, heat, and / or itching. There’s more to discuss about the different types, but for some people it will be helpful if we start with what is inflammation exactly, and what causes inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is part of the human body’s immune response, and it’s a response designed to remove harmful stimuli and begin the body’s healing process. Without it, infections, wounds, and tissue damage would not be able to heal. So while that skin rash may be unbearably itchy and a serious nuisance, you should still be thankful that your immune system is working properly. Same goes for the seasonal allergy sufferer who’s sneezing incessantly. The inflammation symptoms may be unpleasant, but they’re entirely natural and very much necessary.
There are two types of inflammation; acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.
With both, chemicals from the body’s white blood cells are released into the bloodstream when the inflammation response is activated, and sent to the problem area of the body to counter the threat and restore balance. With acute inflammation, the response is situational and temporary. With chronic inflammation, it’s an ongoing response that leads to symptoms that do not subside over a period of time like they do with acute inflammation.
It is common for some of these chemicals to cause fluid leaking into the tissues, and this is what causes the pain associated with inflammation. When the inflammation is affecting a joint then the increased number of cells and inflammatory substances cause irritation, swelling of the joint’s lining, and over time a wearing down of the cartilage. This is a particular cause for concern in the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
What Causes Inflammation
As we touched on briefly above, it is the body’s immune system response that causes inflammation and leads to the development of inflammation symptoms. The sending out of white blood cells to the trouble site and having them work to either neutralize invaders or repair damaged tissue is behind the inflammation process. In some cases, however, the immune system’s response is a false alarm. In these instances there are no foreign and unwelcome visitors in the body, or any type of structural tissue damage.
This is nearly always what’s behind chronic inflammation conditions like rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic back pain, and autoimmune diseases like MS (multiple sclerosis), lupus, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), vasculitis, and pernicious anemia, among others.
Common Inflammation Symptoms
The inflammation symptoms you experience will depend on what type of stimuli has triggered your immune system response, as well as whether you are suffering from acute or chronic inflammation. For example, the person with seasonal allergies who inhales pollen will have acute inflammation symptoms with sneezing and itchy, watery eyes that last for a while, but eventually subside.
Conversely, a person with chronic inflammation will have their symptoms being a continuous affliction that may diminish but do not subside over time.
Acute inflammation symptoms can include:
- Skin redness
- Swollen joints that are sometimes warm to touch
- Joint pain
- Joint stiffness
- Impeded or debilitated joint function
- Fatigue / loss of energy
- Appetite loss
- Muscle stiffness
Chronic inflammation symptoms can include:
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Mouths sores
Countering Acute Inflammation Symptoms, and Chronic Inflammation
The most common treatment approach for inflammation symptoms is to take one of a few different anti-inflammatory medications, but there are also natural herbs and diet choices that can also be effective ways to treat inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed by physicians to allow patients to find relief from the pain of inflammation. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen are common ones.
NSAIDs should be used cautiously and only as prescribed by a physician as they can increase the risk of stomach ulcers, worsen asthma symptoms, cause kidney damage, or increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.
Corticosteroid medication is also an option for some arthritis sufferers, and they work to disable the mechanisms involved in inflammation. Corticosteroids, and Glucocorticoids in particular, are often a good choice for chronic inflammation conditions. The other type of these medications, mineralocorticoids, are less commonly prescribed but do work well for inflammation conditions caused by hormonal imbalances.
Natural herbs used to reduce inflammation symptoms include:
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) – a good general anti-inflammatory
Hyssop – used to treat lung inflammation conditions
Ginger – used to further reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain in conjunction with NSAIDs
Cannabis – A cannabinoid that occurs naturally in marijuana, cannabichromene, has been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties
Better Diet Choices for Reduced Inflammation Symptoms
It’s possible to eat better to reduce inflammation. We’ll conclude here with some basic guidelines on that. Eat more of:
- Olive oil
- Nuts like walnuts and almonds
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel
- Fruit like blueberries and oranges
Eat less of, or avoid:
- Fried foods, including foods high in saturated or trans fats
- White bread, pastries, and other foods with refined carbohydrates
- Soda and other sugary drinks
- Red meat
- Margarine and lard