Chronic inflammation, its causes, and treatments

Infrared light and inflammation

The inflammation may be either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is a part of the body’s healing process but chronic inflammation may cause major health issues. Anodyne Therapy shares how infrared light therapy is often used to reduce inflammation. 

What is acute inflammation?

Acute inflammatory response is the body’s way of protecting itself from infection after an injury. It is also the body’s way of beginning the natural healing process in response to an injury. Acute inflammation begins almost immediately after an injury as the body releases chemicals, proteins, and antibodies to the damaged area. Blood flow increases to provide oxygen and nutrients for healing.

Typical signs of acute inflammation include redness, swelling, warmth to the touch, pain, numbness, or other abnormal sensations. Acute inflammation usually lasts for 2 weeks or less depending on the extent of the injury. 

What is chronic inflammation?

Chronic inflammation occurs when acute inflammation and its immune response lingers. The body’s immune system then begins attacking healthy cells, blood vessels, nerves, and other tissues. Eventually, chronic inflammation may be harmful to nerves, joints, tissues, and organs. Research suggests that chronic inflammation may be involved in many disease processes and could also play a role in a range of conditions like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and many others. 

Symptoms of chronic inflammation are not as easy to recognize as acute inflammation, which makes chronic inflammation easy to miss.  Also, symptoms might not appear for years. Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include fatigue, fever, mouth sores, rashes, chronic pain, and sensory dysfunction (like numbness or tingling) in the feet, hands, and other parts of the body. 

What causes chronic inflammation?

Sometimes, the cause of chronic inflammation cannot be easily determined.  Also, every individual is different – so a stimulus that causes chronic inflammation in one person may not have any impact on another. Several things can contribute to chronic inflammation:

  1. An acute inflammation that is unresolved by treatment.
  2. An autoimmune disorder that results in a person’s immune system attacking healthy cells.
  3. Long-term exposure to certain chemicals, air pollution, or smoking
  4. Obesity
  5. Alcohol
  6. Chronic stress
  7. Diet

How to treat chronic inflammation?

It’s important to keep chronic stress under control to reduce the risk of long-term damage. Some of the options that have been explored for managing chronic inflammation include the following:

1. Infrared light therapy

Published research shows that one of the most reproducible positive effects of infrared light therapy is an overall reduction in chronic inflammation. Important benefits of infrared light therapy have been reported in medical journals. Reduced inflammation has been observed in nerves, joints, brain, abdominal fat, wounds, lungs, and spinal cord. There are few, if any, side effects of infrared light therapy, which is a drug-free option. 

2. Medications

Over-the-counter NSAIDs (ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve), are useful for acute inflammation but less effective for chronic inflammation. Long-term use may increase the risk of side effects and drug interactions.  

Common prescription medications include steroids. Corticosteroids are a type of steroid hormone. They decrease inflammation and suppress the immune system, which is helpful when it starts attacking healthy tissue. But long-term use provides various health risks that can be explained by a doctor or pharmacist. 

3. Nutritional supplements

Certain supplements may help to reduce chronic inflammation. These include fish oil, curcumin, ginger, garlic, Coenzyme Q10, and other antioxidants.

4. Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress thereby decreasing chronic inflammation. 

5. Exercise and diet

Many foods contain high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols which have anti-inflammatory properties. Foods generally considered to be anti-inflammatory include leafy greens, tomatoes, nuts, fatty fish, fruits & berries.

Foods that may lead to an increased chronic inflammatory response include refined carbohydrates, fried foods, processed meat, and saturated fats.

The bottom line

Chronic inflammation is unhealthy. Infrared light therapy, certain medications, nutritional supplements, exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet, no smoking, limited alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and stress reduction can contribute to lowering chronic inflammation.