Chronic Inflammation

What Is Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural protective response to injury or infection. There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is a helpful healing response, while chronic inflammation is an ongoing destructive response.

In acute inflammation, there is an immediate and temporary reaction. You cut your finger and your body’s response stops the bleeding, and works to prevent infection and heal the wound. The body’s immune system releases white blood cells to fight off foreign bodies and infectious agents. Blood flow is increased to the area; and nerve endings and other cells send out signaling molecules and other chemicals to eliminate the cause of the cell injury, remove damaged cells and tissues, and handle repair.

In chronic inflammation, however, the body’s immune system initiates an inflammatory response even though there may not be an apparent “invader” to fight off. It is usually a low-grade or systemic inflammation, lingering on, with the body’s normally protective immune system now causing damage to its own tissues. The body responds as if its normal tissues are somehow abnormal.

Researchers and most of today’s medical community now believe that chronic inflammation is the root cause of most diseases, including many autoimmune diseases. In fact, of the ten leading causes of mortality in the United States, chronic inflammation contributes to the pathogenesis of at least seven. These include heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and nephritis (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2011).

Some examples of autoimmune diseases, characterized by localized inflammation in a given part of the body, are specific to inflammation in a particular part of the body, such as the thyroid (Hashimoto’s disease), gut (Crohn’s disease), joints (rheumatoid arthritis) and lungs (chronic bronchitis).

As of 2012, about half of all adults in the United States – estimated to be about 117 million people – had one or more chronic health conditions.

Chronic inflammation is likely caused by a combination of genetic disposition for a particular disease, along with environmental and lifestyle impacts. This “multi-causal” aspect of chronic inflammation has made it difficult to evaluate, diagnose and treat prior to a specific disease diagnosis being made. Once a chronic disease has been diagnosed, the typical treatment has been focused on disease management using prescriptions and recommended lifestyle changes.

Until recently, conventional medicine has been slow to promote effective preventive lifestyle modifications to reduce the potential for chronic inflammation. Historically, the functional medical community and holistic practitioners have focused more on non-prescription preventative treatments such as diet (eliminating inflammatory foods), addressing gut issues (through probiotics, use of digestive enzymes and supplements), reducing stress and toxins, and generally improving one’s lifestyle choices to live an “anti-inflammatory” life.

What Causes Chronic Inflammation

Risk Factors For Chronic Inflammation

Diagnosing Chronic Inflammation

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation


Living With Chronic Inflammation



Common Treatment

Complementary and Alternative Treatment

Care Guide

Questions For Your Doctor

Questions For A Doctor