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The #1 Best Way to Tell if You Have Inflammation

Experts explain how to tell if you have inflammation.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Too much of a good thing can be harmful, especially when it comes to inflammation. It's a necessary aspect to helping our body stay healthy and supports the immune system to ward off foreign invaders like bacteria and infection. But, "when inflammation gets turned up too high and lingers for a long time, and the immune system continues to pump out white blood cells and chemical messengers that prolong the process, that's known as chronic inflammation," Harvard Health states. "When this happens, white blood cells may end up attacking nearby healthy tissues and organs. For example, if you are overweight and have more visceral fat cells — the deep type of fat that surrounds your organs — the immune system may see those cells as a threat and attack them with white blood cells. The longer you are overweight, the longer your body can remain in a state of inflammation," the site adds. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with medical experts who explain what to know about inflammation and how to tell you have it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

What People Should Know About Inflammation

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Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor, and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories says, "Inflammation is an important part of normal human physiology. Inflammation is an expected byproduct of cellular metabolism and it's also important to help fight infections and heal wounds and injuries. However, chronic dysregulated inflammation is at the root of many of the chronic health conditions we are dealing with today: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmunity, irritable bowel, and cognitive decline." Dr. Larson adds, "Chronic inflammation and the associated health conditions are the health issues of our time. This has been proven even more evident in the COVID era, as those with these chronic conditions and inflammation had much worse outcomes."

2

Chronic Pain Anywhere in Your Body

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Karin Ashley, an Integrative Women's Health Nurse Practitioner explains, "Pain is inflammation, plain and simple, whether it's in your joints, your belly, or your head. Low levels of inflammation may be undetectable at first, or show up as very mild and occasional symptoms. If those symptoms are ignored, they progress into more moderate symptoms, that then progress into an actual condition or diagnosable disease. Common pain conditions include arthritis, migraines, fibromyalgia, and back and neck pain. Listening to the mild symptoms and addressing them early could prevent progression to full blown disease. It's important to pay attention to potential triggers to pain so that the root cause can be identified and treated. Keeping a record of the pain (specifically location, duration, and intensity) along with factors that you believe may have contributed, and what helped to improve the pain, is a powerful tool for both you and your healthcare provider."

3

You Have an Autoimmune Disease

woman having serious chat with her doctor
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According to Ashley, "Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism (Hashimoto's thyroiditis), lupus, vitiligo, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes are often the result of underlying inflammation. Unfortunately, these conditions also *cause* inflammation, resulting in a vicious cycle of more and more inflammation, leading to progression of the disease, and ultimately damage to the body's organs. There is a hereditary, genetic component to many autoimmune diseases, but that isn't all it takes. There is often a trigger or multiple triggers over time that lead the gene to express itself – the study of this phenomenon is called Epigenetics. Addressing the underlying inflammation and triggers can not reverse organ damage caused by the autoimmune disease, but it can stop the progression and improve symptoms drastically." 

4

You Have GI Issues Like Constipation, Diarrhea, Bloating, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or Abdominal Pain

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"Aside from pain, the gut is probably the "loudest" about displaying symptoms of inflammation," Ashley shares. "When the lining of the stomach and intestines becomes inflamed from infections, poor diet, environmental toxins, or lack of essential nutrients, the delicate balance of bacteria, enzymes, and other protective measures are disrupted. This disruption can lead to food intolerances, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, bloating and gas, and abdominal pain. It's especially important to address gut inflammation early, because our brain chemicals, hormones, and immune system are heavily regulated by the gut. Fixing gut dysfunction alone can resolve dysfunction in other body systems. A diet of predominantly whole foods and low in processed foods and sugar, is the best way to combat gut inflammation." 

5

You Have Painful Periods

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Ashley says, "It's normal to be miserable during your period, isn't it? Absolutely not! Aside from some mild cramping sensations, your period should not be painful, especially to the point where you are missing activities and work. If you are experiencing heavy bleeding, moderate to severe pain, bloating, anxiety and depression, and breast pain around the time of your period, you probably also have inflammation. There is a whole system of bacteria in the gut that helps to regulate hormones. If the gut is disrupted by inflammation, a hormone imbalance is likely to follow. Unfortunately, the "solution" offered for hormone imbalance is almost always hormonal birth control, which suppresses hormones produced by your body, similar to menopause. This is only a "band-aid" solution, as the underlying cause of the imbalance has not been addressed. Even on birth control, the inflammation persists but is not causing symptoms. Once the birth control is stopped, the symptoms are likely to return. Brightly colored vegetables, especially those in the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kale), are beneficial for those who suffer from hormonal imbalance."  

6

How to Help Avoid Chronic Inflammation

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Dr. Larson says the following lifestyle changes can help prevent chronic inflammation. 

  • "Eliminate foods containing added sugar
  • Eliminate foods containing processed oils, such as corn oil and soybean oil
  • Eliminate wheat (gluten)-containing foods and similar grain-based processed foods
  • Support your intestinal microbiome and your intestinal barrier
  • Feature natural foods like animal proteins (especially omega-3-rich fish) and a broad variety of plant foods, like leafy greens, sulfur-rich foods (onion/garlic family, mushrooms, broccoli family) and a variety of colorful foods. Use natural oils and fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, and lard.
  • Eat prebiotic-rich foods high in inulin and similar compounds to help feed the healthy gut microbes.
  • Stay hydrated."

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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