Systemic Inflammation: What Is It and How to Manage It

systemic inflammation

Inflammation is a very important aspect to good health. Without it, your body wouldn’t be able to heal from injuries or heal infections. However, systemic inflammation is a condition that can negatively impact your long-term health and even lead to disease. 

How Inflammation Keeps You Healthy

When your body senses that something is amiss, whether it’s a stubbed toe or an invading virus, inflammation alerts your immune system to the issue. Proteins called cytokines are released and act as an alarm to make it known that specific tissue in your body needs attention. At that point, your immune system is activated and begins the process of healing the ailment.

Signs of inflammation include heat, discoloration, swelling, and pain. It can also limit mobility. For example, if you sprain your ankle, inflammation will likely make it more difficult to walk normally. But beyond the annoyance, inflammation promotes healing by releasing hormones that dilate blood vessels in order to improve blood flow. That allows more cells from your immune system to reach the damaged area and begin the healing process. The associated pain also serves a purpose, as it’s alerting you that an area of your body needs protection.

What Is Systemic Inflammation?

While inflammation is a natural and normal feature of your immune system and keeps your body functioning properly, systemic inflammation is a condition in which the inflammation is chronic.

Good to read: Chronic Pain Can Be Improved with Simple Lifestyle Adjustments

Your immune system remains active, even when there’s nothing in your body that needs healing. Beyond physical symptoms, a blood test can detect systemic inflammation by observing an increase in markers of an overactive immune system. 

How Systemic Inflammation Impacts Your Body

The false alarm of systemic inflammation causes an increase in immune system cells, specifically white blood cells. With nothing to fight, fix, or heal, those cells sometimes begin to attack healthy cells. The result can be damaged tissue or even compromised internal organs. 

If systemic inflammation isn’t controlled, your health may be forever altered. The John Hopkins Health Review says conditions including cancer and diabetes can be the end result as the inflammation damages how your body functions. According to the American Heart Association, systemic inflammation has been linked to heart disease and stroke. Other conditions including depression, autoimmune disorders, and even Alzheimer’s have been linked. 

How to Manage and Minimize Systemic Inflammation

In many cases, systemic inflammation is treatable. Over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin have anti-inflammatory properties. A doctor can also prescribe a corticosteroid, a steroid that controls inflammation by suppressing the immune system. Supplements are also an option. A study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that fish oil can help manage inflammation. In order to minimize systemic inflammation, a change in your diet may be in order. Foods that cause inflammation include red meat, refined carbohydrates, and sugary beverages. On the other end of the spectrum, anti-inflammatory foods include leafy greens, olive oil, nuts, and many types of fruit. 

Additionally, don’t overlook your microbiome’s role in systemic inflammation. Your microbiome is made up of microorganisms — trillions of them, in fact — ranging from bacteria to viruses to even parasites. These microorganisms, which are mostly located in your intestines, aid in digestion by breaking down food compounds, play a part in emotional and mental health and help stimulate your immune system. Keeping your microbiome healthy can help properly regulate your immune system, which in turn can manage systemic inflammation. To ensure that the right kinds of microorganisms are present in your microbiome, look into introducing prebiotics and probiotics via supplements or foods like yogurt and kefir.

To avoid damage to your body’s tissue and potentially deadly conditions, you should be proactive about managing systemic inflammation. By knowing the signs and what you can do to minimize inflammation, you can increase your chances of living a long and healthy life. 

This is a guest post written by Holli Richardson from A holistic health enthusiast who has experienced the benefits of the practice.