When a person has a wound, that part of the body will swell up, become red and painful. This is the body’s way of reacting to an injury. This is a process called inflammation. But it is not all the time that the process of inflammation is visible to the eyes. Sometimes, we don’t even know it is happening inside the body!
When the body comes in contact with harmful things that cause injury, infection, or irritation, the white blood cells in the body produce chemicals that help the body to fight back, repair, and heal. These chemicals cause the blood vessels to open and increase the blood flow to the area of injury, infection, or irritation. This can be observed as redness or swelling.
This process of inflammation can last for a few hours or days. It is called acute inflammation.
But sometimes, it lasts for a longer period like weeks and months. In this case, it is called chronic inflammation.
Most times, chronic inflammation that is happening inside the body is not visible to the eyes. But its effects on the body can be very harmful. This is when we say that the body is struggling.
The events that lead to chronic inflammation and how they happen is very complex and not very straightforward. But scientists have been able to identify some of the key events that lead to chronic inflammation. Lifestyle is one of them.
Our habits and behaviors can cause the white blood cells and other cells of the body to produce chemical messengers and special proteins called pro-inflammatory cytokines that trigger inflammation and keep the body in a state where it is struggling to defend itself, repair or heal for a long time. These happen when:
- The body stores the excess food as fat (weight gain)
- There is little or no physical activity
- We eat certain types of food that may irritate the body cells
Chronic inflammation damages the cells in the body causes injury to both small and large blood vessels and the heart. Chronic inflammation also causes insulin resistance and is closely linked to diabetes.
- Duncan BB, et al. Low-grade systemic inflammation and the development of type 2 diabetes: the atherosclerosis risk in communities study. Diabetes. 2003;52(7):1799–1805. doi: 10.2337/diabetes.52.7.1799.
- Ridker PM, Cushman M, Stampfer MJ, Tracy RP, Hennekens CH. Inflammation, aspirin, and the risk of cardiovascular disease in apparently healthy men. N Engl J Med. 1997;336(14):973–979. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199704033361401.
- Spranger J, et al. Inflammatory cytokines and the risk to develop type 2 diabetes: results of the prospective population-based European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Potsdam Study. Diabetes. 2003;52(3):812–817. doi: 10.2337/diabetes.52.3.812.