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Ever wondered what on earth inflammation is?

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

You hear this word bandied about a fair bit in the health and wellness arena. ‘Fight inflammation by eating the right food’, ‘reduce inflammation with sleep’ or ‘move more to reduce inflammation’! Which is all well and good but have you actually ever understood exactly what inflammation is and what it can mean to us?

I’m going to try and explain it as simply as I can but firstly we need to understand in a nutshell what our body’s immune system is along with its function, only then can we understand inflammation.

Our immune system is spread throughout our body and involves cells, organs, proteins and tissues, it is essential for our very survival. It’s our immune system that keeps us healthy and is a network of biological processes that protects us from disease. So without it our bodies would be open to attack from parasites, bacteria and viruses.

A life saving feature of our immune system is inflammation which happens in everyone. It’s one of the first steps of the body’s healing process and helps remove or repair harmful stimuli. So our immune system creates inflammation to protect the body from infection, injury or disease.

There are two types of inflammation:

Acute inflammation - this is a normal part of the healing process and is redness, warmth, swelling and pain around tissues and joints that occur in response to an injury. So when the body is injured the body releases white blood cells to surround and protect the area. It’s how our bodies fight infection and speed up the healing process. This inflammation is good because it’s protecting the body, this type of inflammation would also fight the common cold, a sore throat etc.

Chronic inflammation - this is when the inflammation response gets turned up too high and doesn’t switch itself off. The immune system continues to pump out white blood cells and chemical messengers that prolong the process and when this happens, white blood cells may end up attacking the healthy tissues and organs. Chronic inflammation has been linked to autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Alzheimer’s, inflammatory bowel disease) and it’s even been linked to chronic stress and being overweight.

The problem with chronic inflammation is that we often can’t see it, for example being overweight. If we are overweight we have more visceral fat cells (this is a thick layer of fat that surrounds our organs). The immune system can see those fat cells as a ‘threat’ and fight them with white blood cells meaning you are ‘inflamed’ but you don’t even know it.

Long term inflammation can eventually lead to a number of symptoms and affect the body in different ways:

  • Weight gain

  • Frequent infections

  • Gastrointestinal issues like acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea

  • Depression, anxiety or other mood disorders

  • Body pain

  • Fatigue or insomnia

Diagnosis of inflammation

There is no single test that can diagnose chronic inflammation or the conditions it causes, but if you have concerns this may apply to you be sure to make an appointment with your Doctor. They may choose to run certain diagnostic tests depending on your symptoms.

How best to avoid inflammation?

The best course of action is to avoid chronic inflammation and the symptoms it brings with prevention:

  • Move more

  • Treat any physical injuries with hot or cold treatment in order to recover quicker & avoid tipping into long term inflammation

  • Quit smoking

  • Reduce alcohol intake

  • Manage your stress levels

  • Take inflammation fighting supplements such as turmeric, ginger, spirulina, fish oil, vitamin D (check with your Dr first)

  • Get enough sleep

  • Eat whole foods where possible

Inflammatory fighting foods

By avoiding trans fats (found in shop bought pastries, baked goods, biscuits etc), sugar and processed foods you can put yourself on a path to improving how you feel. There are even anti inflammatory foods that you can eat so try and include these as much as you can in your daily food intake:

  • Berries

  • Cherries

  • Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel)

  • Broccoli

  • Avocados

  • Green tea

  • Mushrooms (portobello, shitake)

  • Spices (turmeric, ginger, clove)

  • Tomatoes

Hopefully this has gone some way to simplifying and improving your understanding of what inflammation is and how we can prevent it. Inflammation can often be silent which is why the best course of action is prevention and improving our daily healthy habits.

34 views2 comments


Such a good article to read! Thank you. This is something I tried to discuss with my orthopaedic consultant because of persistent bursitis in my shoulder.

Unfortunately he dismissed it immediately which I was really surprised about. Anyway I took matters into my own hands and have been working to lower my bodies inflammation With diet and now exercise.

Antonia Siegel
Antonia Siegel

Brilliant Anna, that's absolutely the next most helpful course of action you can take! Good work.

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