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Inflammation: What You Need to Know
Experts at Harvard Medical School confirm:
Unchecked chronic inflammation plays a central role in some of the most challenging diseases of our time, including: rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and even Alzheimer’s.
There are two forms of inflammation:
Acute inflammation is a normal and necessary process that allows the body to attack hostile invaders such as bacteria, fungi and other foreign substances anywhere in the body. Acute inflammation often comes on rapidly and subsides once the body has neutralized the threat and healed.
Common conditions that result in acute inflammatory reactions include:
- A sore throat related to a cold or flu
- Acute bronchitis
- Scratches or cuts to the skin
- Physical injury or trauma
Unlike acute inflammation, which is short-lived, chronic inflammation can linger, lasting months or even years after the initial threat. Chronic inflammation typically starts as an acute inflammatory response; however, when your body’s healing powers go into overdrive, chronic inflammation can occur. Alternatively, low levels of inflammation may be present even without the presence of an injury or illness. In this case, the immune system launches an attack on healthy cells and tissues.
The more effective way to test for elevated inflammation is by testing for C-reactive protein (CRP). The liver produces CRP, and levels are measured through a simple blood test. CRP levels will rise in response to inflammation. Other common markers include erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and serum protein electrophoresis (SPE).
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is meant to serve its purpose and then resolve. When it fails to clear up, it begins to deplete the body of vital resources and sets the stage for further illness. Common causes of chronic inflammation include:
- Untreated causes of acute inflammation, such as an infection or injury
- Long-term exposure to irritants like polluted air, heavy metals, industrial chemicals, and pesticides
- Autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and multiple sclerosis (MS), in which your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue
- Many experts also believe that certain lifestyle choices can contribute to chronic inflammation including smoking, chronic stress, alcohol use, and obesity