What causes inflammation in your body?

Inflammation is a natural response of the body’s immune system to injury or infection. It helps to protect the body from harm and promote healing. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.

These are the most common:

  • Pathogens (germs) like bacteria, viruses or fungi
  • External injuries like scrapes or damage through foreign objects (for example a thorn in your finger)
  • Effects of chemicals or radiation

There are a number of things that can cause inflammation in the body, including:

  • Infections: Bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens can all trigger inflammation. This is because the body’s immune system releases chemicals to fight off the infection, which can cause inflammation in the surrounding tissues.
  • Injuries: When a tissue is injured, the body’s immune system also releases chemicals to help heal the wound. This can also cause inflammation.
  • Autoimmune diseases: In autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. This can cause chronic inflammation.
  • Genetics: Some people are genetically predisposed to develop inflammatory diseases.
  • Lifestyle factors: Certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, a diet high in processed foods and sugar, and a lack of exercise, can also contribute to inflammation.

Diseases or medical conditions that cause inflammation often have a name ending in “-itis.” For example:

  • Cystitis: an inflammation of the bladder
  • Bronchitis: an inflammation of the bronchi
  • Otitis media: an inflammation of the middle ear
  • Dermatitis: a disease where the skin is inflamed

Symptoms of inflammation

The symptoms of inflammation can vary depending on the cause and location of the inflammation. However, some common symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Loss of function

Treatment for inflammation

The treatment for inflammation will vary depending on the cause. In some cases, such as with an infection, the inflammation will go away on its own. In other cases, such as with an autoimmune disease, medication may be needed to control the inflammation.

Preventing inflammation

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent inflammation, including:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption

If you are concerned that you may have inflammation, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend the best treatment plan for you.

Additional information about inflammation in Canada

According to the Chronic Inflammation of the Gut, Liver and Joints project, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, there are over 20 million Canadians living with chronic inflammation. This number is expected to increase as the population ages.

The Canadian Arthritis Society estimates that over 6 million Canadians have arthritis, an inflammatory disease that affects the joints.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada estimates that over 260,000 Canadians have inflammatory bowel disease, a group of inflammatory diseases that affect the digestive tract.

Inflammation is a complex process that can have a serious impact on health. If you are concerned that you may have inflammation, talk to your doctor. There are a number of things you can do to prevent and treat inflammation.