There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to inflammation, and understandably so. Since most of us don’t have advanced medical degrees, it’s easier for us to consume information as black or white; something is either big or small, right or wrong, bad or good. When it comes to inflammation, the fact is, it can be a bad thing, and it can be a good thing. Confused? Learn why inflammation is bad for your body….and good for your body too!
Here’s what inflammation is
According to Harvard Health Publishing, inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself against harm. Think of it as a defense mechanism in the body. The immune system recognizes damaged cells, irritants, and pathogens, and it triggers the healing process. There are two types: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation occurs when you cut yourself, bang or jam a finger, bump a knee, etc. Your immune system sends out white blood cells to surround and protect the injured area, creating visible redness and swelling. Something similar happens if you have an infection like the flu or pneumonia. In these cases, inflammation is a good thing… essential actually; without it, injuries could fester, and small infections could be deadly. Symptoms are normally only present for a few days but may continue for a few weeks in some cases.
The other type of inflammation is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation refers to long-term inflammation and can last for several months and even years. It can eventually cause several diseases and conditions including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis periodontitis, and hay fever.
How do you know when inflammation is good or bad?
There are a few ways to determine if the inflammation you’re experiencing is good or bad (acute or chronic). First, acute inflammation is typically a short-term condition as the body strives to heal itself. Again, think about the flu, cutting your finger, or banging your knee or shoulder. It may get red and sore, but that’s a sign that the body is actively trying to heal itself. It’ll last a few days to a few weeks, and then the body prevails, and the condition is resolved. Here are a few examples of when inflammation is good for you:
- Bee sting
- Sprained ankle
- Post workout
- Exposure to a bacteria, virus or toxin
Bad inflammation (acute) lasts longer; sometimes years. It’s an ongoing condition that doesn’t get better and may even get worse over time; think asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, or Crohn’s disease. Here is a larger list of diseases caused by inflammation:
- Arthritis (both osteo and rheumatoid)
- Heart Disease/Vascular disease
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Autoimmune disease
- Crohn’s, IBS, Ulcerative colitis
- High cholesterol (specifically LDL over 140)
- Multiple Sclerosis
What to do if you suffer from chronic inflammation
If the inflammation you’re experiencing is not acute (short-term) but instead has been hanging around weeks, months or even years, there are a few options you can pursue. A few options (depending on the cause of inflammation) are medications, rest, and exercise. Medications can include pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs, or you can pursue a more natural alternative such as turmeric. Turmeric has long been known for its health benefits and medicinal qualities in treating a host of physical symptoms and ailments but has more recently been recognized in the medical and alternative community for reducing inflammation within the body, and for easing the joint pain and swelling that accompany osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. According to Dr. Weil, some clinical studies show turmeric extract can improve symptoms of osteoarthritis by reducing pain and improving functionality. It also helps reduce the use of NSAIDs and other pain medications for OA.
Now that you have a better understanding why inflammation is bad for your body…and good for your body, you can more easily recognize which you may be suffering from. If you’re suffering from short-term inflammation due to a cut or injury, rest assured that the discomfort you’re feeling is your body using inflammation to help heal your body, and that’s a good thing! If your pain and discomfort extend beyond a few days or weeks, it may be time to look further into the cause and find solutions that will help relieve the chronic inflammation. If you’re unsure, your best bet is to consult a medical professional to determine if your inflammation is acute or chronic.