Skip to content

The #1 Best Way to Tell if You Have Inflammation

Experts warn to pay attention to these seven signs of inflammation. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Your immune system activates when it senses there's an infection or injury and relies on acute inflammation to help keep you healthy. But when your body produces too much inflammation, it becomes harmful and can cause major health problems like cancer, Crohn's disease, heart disease, ulcerative colitis and arthritis to name a few. There's several reasons why chronic inflammation can happen like trauma, autoimmune disorders and more. Getting inflammation under control is key to maintaining overall good health and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who explain how to help prevent inflammation and signs 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.


What to Know About Inflammation


Dr. Barry Sears, President of the non-profit Inflammation Research Foundation explains, "Acute inflammation is essential to our survival.  It is needed to protect us against microbial invasions and injuries.  However, the acute inflammation has to be turned off.  The technical term is resolution. If not, the initial acute inflammation can become chronic low-level inflammation that is constantly attacking the body."


How to Help Prevent Inflammation

Doctor With Senior Patient Living At Home In Mask.

Dr. Sears says, "The resolution of inflammation is controlled by the diet.  In particular, a calorie-restricted diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as EPA and DHA) and polyphenols.  Each of these dietary interventions activates AMPK to resolve inflammation." 

Dr. Neil Paulvin, a multiple board-certified physician with certifications in Family Medicine, Osteopathic Manipulation, and Anti Aging and Regenerative Medicine explains, "You can protect yourself from inflammation by stress reduction, optimized sleep, exercise, cold immersion and supplements like omega 3 fish oil or curcumin. It is the balance of inflammation and resolution that controls healing.  The more unresolved inflammation you have, the faster you develop chronic disease."

Elizabeth Ray MS RDN LD  Dietitian Nutritionist | Farmers Market Nutritionist says, "Seeking the help of a doctor or qualified health care provider is always a great place to start when it comes to getting started with ways to reduce chronic inflammation. However, choosing to eat real food can also be effective in protecting against chronic inflammation. When eating real food, you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to repair, maintain, and fight off inflammation. Plus, when committing to eating real food (ie. Real food is defined as food that can be raised and/or grown), you will have less room in your diet to include processed foods that have ingredients that are linked to initiate/cause inflammation.

Other personal lifestyle changes, in addition to food, could include*…

-sleep and rest (physical health)

-practicing self compassion & gratitude (emotional and mental health)

-connecting to others who support and respect you (connection health)

-daily spiritual work, like prayer, meditation, reading Bible, etc (spiritual health)

*looking at a person as a whole (mental, emotional, connectivity, spiritual, and physical) is a practice I've incorporated into my Farm to Flourish Nutrition Program."   


Your Fasting Blood Sugar Level is Elevated


Dr. Sears says, "This is another marker of insulin resistance.  The best marker is glycosylated hemoglobin or HbA1c.  This blood marker should be between 4.9 and 5.1 percent."  


You Have Excess Body Fat

shred belly fat

According to Dr. Sears, "This is a result of excess calorie consumption that inhibits AMPK activity that would otherwise inhibit the activity of the gene transcription factor NF-kB that causes the generation of inflammatory mediators like cytokines."


Widespread Pain and Stiffness

tired young woman with back pain sitting on the bed at home

Dr. Jacob Hascalovici MD, PhD, Clearing Chief Medical Officer says, "As your immune system tries to ward off threats, it often releases cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals. These can affect your muscles, joints, and connective tissues, especially over the months and years. That's why arthritis can hurt so much, among other conditions. You may also notice stiff joints and weakening muscles."


Tiredness That Won't Go Away

woman feeling sick and seasonal flu symptoms

Dr. Hascalovici explains, "It takes a lot of energy to keep your immune system running. In the same way a country may pay a lot of money to maintain a military force, your body can spend a lot of energy on maintaining its defenses when it's chronically inflamed. After a while, you start to feel very tired or fatigued, even if you're still able to sleep normally. This kind of persistent tiredness is an indication your body isn't able to devote enough resources toward normal processes like healing, digestion, and more. It could also be a sign of insulin resistance, since your body's ability to regulate insulin and blood sugar can change if you have chronic inflammation. This could be related to developing type 2 diabetes."


Brain Fog, Trouble Concentrating and Mood Changes

African American afro woman with curly hair wearing casual sweater rubbing eyes for fatigue and headache, sleepy and tired expression

According to Dr. Hascalovici, "Chronic inflammation can make it harder to stay focused. If you notice you're having uncharacteristic trouble concentrating, have frequent brain fog, or have started forgetting things, it could be an indicator of chronic inflammation. Mood changes such as feeling anxious or depressed could also signal chronic inflammation. Alzheimer's, depression, and other conditions related to cognition and mood have all been linked with chronic inflammation."


Digestive System Issues

mature woman dealing with bad gut health, stomach pain on bed

"Stress and chronic inflammation can make it harder for you to digest normally," says Dr. Hascalovici. "Your food may speed through your gut without nutrients being adequately absorbed, resulting in diarrhea, or it may linger too long, causing constipation. You might also feel bloated, have pain in your abdomen, or get gassy. These symptoms could mean that bacteria from your gut could be contributing to inflammation or that chronic inflammation could be disrupting your digestion."


Strange Skin Trouble

Dermatologist checking skin on male patient chest.

Dr. Hascalovici shares, "Skin issues such as scaly skin, itchy patches, and eczema can all mean your body is struggling to maintain itself. Your body's mast cells (a type of immune cells) could be contributing to changes that result in more reactive skin. You might also have rashes, notice mouth sores, or have gums that bleed when you brush your teeth."

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