What is Inflammation?
In order to define chronic inflammation, we first have to define what acute inflammation is. Once we have a running definition of inflammation, then we can talk about what chronic inflammation is and why it’s so detrimental to your health.
What is Acute Inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s normal and healthy response to a foreign intruder or as a response to exercise or injury. When the body senses something foreign to the body, it reacts by sending white blood cells to dispel the foreign material.
Intruders can include things like:
- Organisms that cause infections
In the case of acute inflammation, the body reacts for a short amount of time. So, for example, when you’ve had an intense workout, you may experience inflammation in the muscles and joints that were worked more than normal.
Another example would be a bee sting. When you’re stung by a bee, the body reacts by sending white blood cells to the area that was stung. The white blood cells release chemicals to fight off the poison from the bee sting. The chemicals damage the tissue around the bee sting causing inflammation and redness – but work to get rid of the poison.
Other types of acute inflammation may be caused by an injury such as a cut or pulled muscle. You may also experience inflammation when you’re fighting off a virus or when you have a sore throat.
With acute inflammation, after a short period of time, your body returns to normal and there is no more pain, swelling, or redness. Acute inflammation is a good and natural response that helps heal the body.
What is Chronic Inflammation?
As suggested by the name, chronic inflammation works differently. Instead of working quickly in response to an intense workout, injury, sickness, or bee sting, the body stays in an inflamed state for a long period of time.
Chronic inflammation is a slow, long-term inflammation that can last for months or even years. The inflammation may be localized, but more often it affects the whole body.
Sometimes an inflammatory response is triggered when the body thinks there is a threat. This can happen with people who have allergies as their body perceives certain foods or pollen as foreign intruders that need to be removed from the body.
Other times chronic inflammation occurs because of an autoimmune issue when the body begins to mistakenly attack healthy tissues. Chronic inflammation can also be in response to long-term exposure to irritants or as a result of untreated acute inflammation.
The challenge with chronic inflammation is that the natural healing process of inflammation is prolonged for too long.
The body is on a constant state of high alert trying to fight off something in your body to return to a normal state of health. This can lead to a host of other issues.