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Side Effects of Inflammation, Say Doctors

7 side effects of inflammation to be aware of, says doctors. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Inflammation plays a vital role in our overall health and helps fight off viruses, bacteria and toxins. Inflammation kind of works as a first responder to our immune system when battling sickness and injuries. However, inflammation can also be harmful when, "Your body continues sending inflammatory cells even when there is no outside danger. For example, in rheumatoid arthritis inflammatory cells and substances attack joint tissues leading to an inflammation that comes and goes and can cause severe damage to joints with pain and deformities," the Cleveland Clinic states. Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies explains what to know about inflammation to Eat This, Not That! Health and what side effects of inflammation to be aware of. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


When Does Inflammation Turn From Good to Bad for Your Body?

Young upset stressed woman suffering from abdominal and stomach pain during menstruation, PMS in room at home. Inflammation and infection. Food poisoning

Dr. Mitchell says, "Inflammation is a complex biological response that is vital to our health. It helps our bodies to heal from injuries and fight infections. However, when the inflammatory response goes into overdrive, it can cause chronic problems such as allergies, arthritis, and even heart disease. So when does inflammation turn from good to bad? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. The severity and duration of the inflammatory response depend on many factors, including the type of injury or infection, the individual's genetics, and the overall state of their health. In some cases, a short-lived inflammatory response is just what the body needs to heal. In other cases, however, the inflammation persists long after it is needed, causing more harm than good. If you are concerned about inflammation in your body, it is best to speak with a medical professional who can help to assess your individual risk factors."


Chronic Inflammation

man experiencing back pain

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Chronic inflammation is a type of low-grade inflammation that persists over time. It can occur in response to a variety of factors, including infection, autoimmune disease, and exposure to environmental irritants. While chronic inflammation is a normal process that helps the body heal and protects itself from harm, it can also become problematic if it lasts for too long or occurs in response to something that is not harmful. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Anyone can develop chronic inflammation, but some people are at greater risk than others. Factors that increase the risk of chronic inflammation include old age, obesity, smoking, and exposure to stress. If you are concerned about chronic inflammation, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk."


Lifestyle Modifications that Can Help Reduce Inflammation

refuse alcohol

"Various lifestyle modifications have been shown to help reduce inflammation," says Dr. Mitchell. "These include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and getting enough sleep. Some specific dietary changes that can help reduce inflammation include eating more omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber, and less sugar and refined carbs. In addition, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake can also help reduce inflammation. Making these lifestyle changes can be challenging, but the benefits are worth the effort. Reducing inflammation can help improve overall health, and may also help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes."


How Damaging Can Inflammation Be?

Asian young woman feeling discomfort as suffering from heartburn holding chest with closed eyes and sitting with folded legs on couch at home.

Dr. Mitchell shares, "Inflammation is a response of the body to irritants, microbes, or damaged tissue. The inflammatory response is characterized by swelling, redness, heat, and pain. Although inflammation is a natural and necessary process that helps the body heal, chronic inflammation can be damaging. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer. In addition, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and hormonal imbalances. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with chronic inflammation and to take steps to reduce inflammation throughout the body. One way to do this is to eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Exercise has also been shown to help reduce inflammation. By taking these simple steps, you can help reduce your risk of developing chronic inflammation and its associated health problems."



Woman experiencing a bad headache

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Fatigue is a common symptom of inflammation, and it can be a sign that the body is fighting an infection or injury. While it is important to rest when feeling fatigued, it is also important to understand why fatigue is a sign of inflammation. Inflammation is the body's natural response to infection or injury, and it helps to promote healing. However, inflammation can also cause fatigue, as the body expends energy to repair tissue damage and fight off infection. In some cases, fatigue may be the only symptom of inflammation, making it important to pay attention to this warning sign. If left untreated, inflammation can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor if fatigue is accompanied by other symptoms of inflammation such as pain, redness, or swelling."


Joint Pain

closeup man dealing with knee pain, arthritis

"Joint pain is often one of the first signs of inflammation, which is a response by the body to protect against infection, illness, or injury," says Dr. Mitchell. "While inflammation can be helpful in the short-term, chronic inflammation can lead to a number of serious health conditions, such as heart disease and arthritis. Joint pain is usually a result of the swelling and inflammation of the joints, and it can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as stiffness, redness, and warmth. Treatment for joint pain typically focuses on reducing inflammation, which can be done with medication, lifestyle changes, or physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair damaged joints. Although joint pain can be painful and uncomfortable, it is important to seek treatment early to avoid more serious health problems down the road."


Digestive Issues

mature woman experiencing stomach pain from fatty liver disease

Dr. Mitchell reveals, "Digestive issues are often a sign of inflammation. This is because the cells that line the digestive tract are very sensitive to inflammation. When these cells become inflamed, they produce more mucus, which can lead to diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems. In addition, inflammation can damage the cells that line the digestive tract, making it more difficult for nutrients to be absorbed. This can lead to malnutrition and other health problems. Therefore, it is important to identify and treat digestive issues as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the digestive tract. In some cases, anti-inflammatory medications may be necessary to reduce inflammation and promote healing."


Skin Problems

woman touching her neck, skincare, looking in bathroom mirror

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Skin problems are often a sign of inflammation, which is a response of the body's immune system to injury or irritation. This response can help to protect the body from further damage and to promote healing. However, chronic or excessive inflammation can cause tissue damage and may contribute to a number of health problems. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the signs of inflammation, such as skin problems, and to seek medical treatment if necessary. untreated inflammation can lead to a number of serious health conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. Therefore, it is crucial to seek medical help if you experience any signs of inflammation."




Dr. Mitchell states, "Headaches are a common sign of inflammation, but many people don't realize that this is a red flag for their health. Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury or infection, but it can also be caused by chronic stress, poor diet, and other lifestyle factors. When inflammation becomes chronic, it can lead to a variety of health problems, including headaches. While acute inflammation is a normal and necessary part of healing, chronic inflammation can be extremely damaging to your health. If you are regularly experiencing headaches, it's important to talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions and explore potential causes of inflammation. Taking steps to reduce inflammation in your life can help to prevent headaches and improve your overall health."


Anxiety and Depression

Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

"Anxiety and depression are often thought of as psychological conditions, but there is growing evidence that they may also be linked to inflammation," Dr. Mitchell says. "Studies have shown that people with anxiety and depression tend to have higher levels of inflammation markers in their blood. This suggests that inflammation may play a role in the development of these conditions. The exact mechanisms are not yet clear, but it is thought that inflammation may affect brain function and contribute to the development of symptoms such as low mood, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. While more research is needed to confirm this link, the findings suggest that inflammation may be a potential target for new treatments for anxiety and depression. This is important because it could lead to the development of more effective treatments that address the root cause of these conditions."


Weight Gain

Overweight woman in tight clothes at home is trying to fit into tight jeans.

Dr. Mitchell explains "Weight gain is a sign of inflammation and this is important because when our bodies are inflamed, we are more likely to gain weight. When we are inflamed, our bodies release hormones that can increase our appetite and make us more likely to store fat. In addition, inflammation can lead to insulin resistance, which makes it more difficult for our bodies to burn fat. Inflammation is also associated with a higher risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Therefore, managing inflammation is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight. There are many things that can contribute to inflammation, including poor diet, stress, lack of sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle. Be sure to consult with a healthcare professional if you are concerned about weight gain or inflammation. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor to rule out other potential causes. Chronic inflammation is a serious condition that should not be ignored."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather