While inflammation is necessary for your body to fight infection and disease, chronic inflammation is not something you should ignore. Illnesses, diet or vitamin deficiencies, or any combination of these elements, can cause chronic inflammation. It can contribute to health problems and is even being investigated as a cause of cancer.
The National Cancer Institute defines inflammation as: “Redness, swelling, pain and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. This is a protective reaction to injury, disease or irritation of the tissues.” This kind of inflammation is necessary for your body to fight infection and help it repair an injury, and it resolves within a period of time. Chronic inflammation is not necessarily in response to an injury, and it may not go away on its own.
Some autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjogren’s Syndrome, are characterized by chronic inflammation. Researchers at Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology in Germany have discovered that this inflammation may be the result of problems arising from certain proteins involved in an immune response.
Certain infectious agents cause chronic inflammation. The bacteria Helicobacter pylori causes stomach inflammation. Hepatitis C causes inflammation of the liver. A recent study conducted at MIT, published in the “Journal of Clinical Medicine” confirmed researchers’ suspicions that these types of inflammation put you at greater risk for stomach and liver cancer. Researchers found that during these inflammatory processes, DNA was damaged. Normally, your body would repair this damage, but some people’s bodies don’t, resulting in changes that can lead to cancer.
What you eat can also cause chronic inflammation. A recent study at the University of Missouri showed that vitamin D deficiency causes chronic inflammation, and researchers at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine found that eating red meat introduces an inflammation-causing molecule not otherwise found in your body.
Your doctor can run blood tests to see if you are suffering from chronic inflammation. He can prescribe drugs for inflammation-causing autoimmune disorders and antibiotics to treat Helicobacter pylori. Sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D, and Catherine Peterson, the researcher in the University of Missouri study, states that “[e]xposing 25 percent of the skin's surface area to 10 minutes of sunlight three days per week will maintain adequate levels in the majority of people.” Reduce the amount of red meat you eat. All of these changes will help with chronic inflammation.