Total Health

What are the classic signs of inflammation in the body?

April 20th, 2021 by
Category: Dr. Ashleigh O'Brien Health & Wellbeing

Woman pressing cold pack to her face

Inflammation is the body’s immune response to protect it from infection, injury and disease. It is a process where the body’s white blood cells protect you from foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. Sometimes your body may attack the healthy cells, mistaking them for harmful invaders. This reaction can lead to autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Acute and Chronic Inflammation

There are two main types of inflammation – acute and chronic. Acute inflammation generally occurs for a short duration, but is often severe. The inflammation normally only lasts a few days to two weeks. Chronic inflammation is a slower and less severe form of inflammation. It can occur even when there is no injury to the body and generally lasts longer than six weeks.  

There are five key signs of acute inflammation in the body

  • PAIN that may be constant or only when the affected area is touched
  • REDNESS due to the increase in blood supply to the affected area
  • LOSS OF FUNCTION – this could mean difficulty moving the affected area, issues with breathing, sense of smell, etc.
  • SWELLING of the affected area due to fluid build up – this condition is called oedema
  • HEAT due to the increase in blood supply to the affected area which may leave the area feeling warm to touch

Other signs of inflammation may include a person feeling generally unwell or having flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, lethargy and muscle stiffness.

Chronic inflammation is linked to diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and other joint diseases. The symptoms depend on the disease, but common symptoms include pain and fatigue.

Other signs and symptoms that can develop during chronic inflammation include:

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Chronic fatigue and insomnia
  • Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea and acid relfux
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Frequent infections

Top tips to REDUCE inflammation and improve overall gut health

Inflammation in the gut may present with symptoms such as abdominal pain and cramps, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Here are 5 tips to reduce inflammation and improve overall gut health.

1. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet

Avoid highly processed foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners and alcohol. Add anti-inflammatory foods into your diet – anti-inflammatory foods include berries such as grapes and cherries, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, turmeric and cinnamon.

2. Try an elimination diet

If you suspect that there are certain foods that may be triggering your gut inflammation it could be worth trying an elimination diet. You need to remove the foods from your diet for around two to three weeks at a time. Some foods to consider removing from your diet include dairy, soy, foods containing gluten and citrus fruits. Note down any changes that you notice throughout the process and slowly try to reintroduce the foods to see what symptoms present.

3. Reduce your stress levels

Take time for self-care, whether this be going for a walk, having a bath, meditating or simply doing mindful breathing exercises.

4. Take probiotics

Probiotics help to promote healthy gut bacteria while fighting off bad gut bacteria.

5. Focus on nutrients

Your body has vital nutrients to help it fight off inflammation. These include B vitamins, omega-3, vitamin D and magnesium. You are able to get tested to see if your body is deficient in any specific nutrients.

How can you AVOID inflammation?

Top ways you can avoid inflammation include:

  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet as discussed above
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Take supplements as needed – your doctor will be able to recommend the best ones for you
  • For physical injuries – use hot and cold packs
  • Reduce or manage your stress levels
  • If you are a smoker, quit smoking
  • Treat and manage any pre-existing conditions that you have

Treatment options for inflammation

Treatment options for inflammation include:

  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and aspirin
  • Corticosteroids
  • Topical analgenics and other creams

The goal of treatment is to control or slow down the disease process as well as easing the pain through anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications.

In regards to acute inflammation, it is best to see a doctor if you have signs of inflammation as well as a fever, severe pain or shortness of breath. If you are experiencing any signs of long-term inflammation, book an appointment with your doctor as they will be able to run some tests and work out if you may have an underlying condition that needs to be treated.


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