Inflammation is the body's natural process of responding to infections and injuries. During this process, your body's goal is to get rid of the initial cause of cell injury, remove necrotic cells and tissue, and initiate the process of repair. There are two different kinds of inflammation – acute and chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation usually lasts only a few hours or maybe a few days and is caused by small factors such as a mosquito bite, splinters, or any other injury that causes pain, redness, swelling, and heat. Chronic inflammation can lurk in your body for months or even years. With chronic inflammation, your risk of a number of illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's increases. Causes of chronic inflammation include persistent injury or infection such as an ulcer or tuberculosis, prolonged exposure to a toxic agent, or an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
But there are also some lesser-known contributors to chronic inflammation that we can actually control:
As simple as carrying excess weight can cause inflammation in the body. As we age, some of our cells in our fat tissue also age and promote inflammation. In younger adults, obesity provokes stress signals from fat cells, signaling to the immune system that it needs to fight off a threat that doesn't even exist, according to a 2013 study published in Cell Metabolism.
Your Stressful Job
Chronic stress such as work anxiety or personal relationship stress has a serious effect on inflammation. The stress hormone, cortisol plays a role in regulating your inflammatory response so when chronic stress is a factor, cortisol's ability to regulate inflammation is compromised. Chronic stress also increases the production of certain inflammatory white blood cells, increasing your risk of inflammation-related diseases.
Your Smoking Habit
Every time you smoke, you're irritating your lungs, causing inflammation that can worsen current lung problems and buildup over time. Some researchers believe that chronic inflammation from smoking may cause cells to mutate, leading to lung cancer. Smoking leads to increases your white blood cell count and high levels of C-reactive protein, a substance produced by the liver. Fortunately, inflammation drop dramatically just a few weeks after having quit smoking. Learn about the other benefits that happen overtime after having quit smoking.
Your Gut Bacteria
Since 70% of your immune cells live in your intestines, your cut bacteria can affect your immune system. The bacteria that are inside your GI tract can either suppress inflammation or activate inflammation. This is why probiotics are recommended to influence the gut inflammatory response. While it is not fully clear as to why this interaction occurs, researchers are exploring environmental and dietary changes that affect the way our microbiomes determine inflammation. Specific microbes have been identified as contributing factors to rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, both inflammatory diseases.
Your Daily Alcoholic Drink
When alcohol is broken down in the body, it produces toxins that promote inflammation. Because the liver is working so hard to break down the alcohol being consumed, it can put serious stress on the liver and cause damage. One consequence of heavy drinking is a fatty liver. The accumulation of fat can result in chronic liver inflammation, leading to hepatitis or cirrhosis.
Your Birth Control
Oral contraceptives have been linked to chronic inflammation. Research published in 2015 in PLOS ONE, found that 30% of pre-menopausal women on the pill had high levels of inflammation marker C-reactive protein, while 7% of pre-menopausal women not on the pull had the same. When discussing your birth control options with your OB/GYN, consider other options and find out what works best for you.