September 10 2021
Inflammation can be defined as the process by which the white blood cells in our body protect us against infectious and foreign agents, such as bacteria and viruses. However, in some health conditions (autoimmune) like arthritis, the defense system of our body triggers inflammation even when there are no such requirements, i.e. there are no foreign entities to fight off. Because of this, the regular body systems and organs get affected causing damage. These types of conditions are called autoimmune diseases.
Inflammation can be acute (short-acting) and chronic (long-lasting). The acute type of inflammation lasts for some hours or days; chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can last up to months or even years and increases the risk of many disorders like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, and heart diseases.
Symptoms of inflammation
Some common symptoms of inflammation include redness, pain in the joints, stiffness in the joints, improper functioning of joints, and swelling in the joints which are also associated with a sensation of heat. Inflammation is also associated with symptoms that are more commonly observed in flu-like conditions, which include: fever, chills, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, and stiffness in the muscles.
For diagnosis, the doctor enquires about the medical history and carries out a physical examination which emphasizes the pattern of pain in the joints and symptoms of inflammation, if there is any stiffness in the joints, and other symptoms (if any). X-ray and blood tests for biological markers like C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) might also be carried out by the doctor.
Causes and effects of inflammation
When inflammation strikes, some chemical substances from the white blood cells enter the blood or tissues to protect the harmful foreign entities that may cause damage. This process enhances the blood flow to the area which is infected or injured; this may cause redness and warmth in this particular area. Some chemicals can cause leakage of fluids in the tissues resulting in swollen areas. This protective action triggers some nerves and causes pain. A high number of white blood cells and chemicals they prepare inside them cause irritation, swelling in the lining of the joints, and loss of cartilage over a long period.
Inflammation also affects the internal organs of the body as it is associated with autoimmune disorders. The symptoms of this condition depend on the specific organ that gets affected. For instance, inflammation in the heart (also called myocarditis) may cause shortness of breath and fluid buildup. Inflammation in the kidneys, on the other hand, may result in high blood pressure or kidney failure. Inflammation in the lungs (particularly in the small tubules that carry air to the lungs) may cause shortness of breath.
Arthritis and inflammation
There are many types of arthritis, out of which many are caused by inflammation, such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune, chronic, and inflammatory disease and affects the joints throughout the body. The pain in the joints usually happens on both sides of the body in rheumatoid arthritis. For example, if a joint in the left leg is affected by rheumatoid arthritis, then, the same joint in the right leg will get affected too, this is the main point of differentiation used by doctors to detect this condition.
- Gouty arthritis: gouty arthritis is caused by an excess amount of uric acid present in the bloodstream. This form of arthritis is associated with severe pain, tenderness, and redness in the joints, and particularly affects the joints in the base of the big toe. If left untreated, it can cause erosion or destruction of the affected joint.
- Psoriatic arthritis: This form of arthritis affects people who have psoriasis, a skin condition in which skin cells build up and form dry and scaly patches. It occurs when the immune system starts to attack healthy tissues and cells of the body. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent damage of the joints and disable their functioning.
There are many other conditions affecting joints and the musculoskeletal system that are not related to inflammation, like osteoarthritis, lower back pain (muscular), muscular neck pain, fibromyalgia.
Foods that have anti-inflammatory properties
- Avocados: avocados are one of the superfoods that are considered well for fighting inflammatory conditions. They are packed with the goodness of potassium, fiber, magnesium, and monounsaturated fats (healthy for the heart). There is one specific compound present in avocados, which helps in fighting inflammation.
- Berries: berries are small-sized fruits that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Most commonly consumed varieties include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc. they contain anthocyanins, which are a type of antioxidants. This compound possesses anti-inflammatory effects that help in reducing the risk of many health conditions. In a research study, it was found out that men who consumed blueberries regularly had a better immune function than people who did not consume blueberries.
- Fatty fish: Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel are very rich sources of proteins as well as omega-3 fatty acids- EPA and DHA. These long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are effective in reducing inflammation that may eventually lead to metabolic syndromes, heart diseases, diabetes, and kidney diseases. Research studies have found out that consuming salmon reduces the biological markers for inflammation such as C-reactive protein. People who cannot consume fish directly can switch to fish oil supplements like alvizia’s fish oil supplement (alenfish).
- Green tea: green tea is one of the healthiest beverages available in the market, as, it possesses many protective properties against certain health conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, heart diseases, etc. most of its health benefits are credited to the presence of the compound “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, which is responsible for the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Peppers: bell peppers and chili peppers are packed with the goodness of antioxidants and vitamin C, which is closely linked to better immune functions and anti-inflammatory effects. Bell peppers contain the antioxidant quercetin, which is seen to reduce markers of oxidative damage in the human body, which may happen as a result of inflammation.