If you’ve been reading about the effects of antioxidants, the benefits of a healthy diet, or the results of an infection, you’ve probably seen the term inflammation. While inflammation may manifest itself in a variety of ways, it’s important to know exactly what inflammation is and how it may be affecting your body.

First and foremost, inflammation is the process by which your body protects itself from infection. In most cases, that means that white blood cells and chemicals are released in order to fight off foreign substances like bacteria and viruses. When you experience inflammation, it can come in a variety of forms. Some people see redness, swelling, joint pain, joint stiffness, or  more flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, fatigue, headaches, loss of appetite, or muscle stiffness. All of these symptoms are indicators that your body is working to fight off infection, which is a good thing.

Inflammation can be caused by a variety of things. Usually, it’s caused by infection of some sort. However, if you have an auto-immune disease or other medical condition, inflammation can occur more frequently or be misdirected.  Conditions like arthritis, gout, bursitis, asthma, or polymyalgia rheumatica can also produce more frequent or misdirected occurrences of inflammation. Injuries, burns, frostbite, or trauma can also cause inflammation. Even allergies can cause inflammation!

When any of these conditions experience inflammation, the results can range from mildly annoying to deadly. For example, inflammation of the bronchial tubes may cause an asthma attack. Inflammation of the kidneys may cause high blood pressure or kidney failure. Inflammation of the large intestine may cause cramping or diarrhea.

Inflammation is good for us when we’re experiencing an infection caused by an outside substance, like bacteria or viruses. However, for many people, inflammation is just one of the side effects of arthritis, asthma, or another medical condition.

In our next post, we’ll talk a little bit more about inflammation and how it is best treated.