What is Inflammation?

Updated: Jun 7

We are all familiar with inflammation. You twist your ankle and it becomes red, hot and swollen. Or you have a virus and run a fever. That’s your body’s immune system at work. It is your defense against injurious forces and is a normal, healthy healing response.


However, when inflammation persists after the event has passed, it can become problematic and turn into chronic, invisible inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is when the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissues. This type of inflammation is rarely visible, unlike when you sprain your ankle and you see the red, swollen area. With chronic inflammation, you feel rather than see the effect. Inflammation can affect the brain, skin, organs and muscles - literally every part of us. It can lead to a general feeling of malaise.


Some signs of invisible inflammation include:

  • Pain that moves from one area to another

  • Irritability

  • Joint pain and stiffness

  • Insomnia

  • Fatigue

  • Inability to lose/gain weight

  • Bloating and excessive gas

  • Cramping

  • Brain fog/memory loss

Inflammation does not show up on a CAT scan or other medical tests. You may visit your doctor because you know something is not right and be told nothing is wrong, that your tests are all negative. This can be VERY frustrating and you may start to think it’s all in your head. There is help, and no, it is not all in your head. What you are feeling is, in fact, very real.


Oxidative Stress

Microbial invasions, trauma (physical or emotional), injury, diet and stress can all “turn on” the inflammatory response. Stress, be it physical or emotional, creates an oxidation of our cells. Think of an apple. When you cut an apple open and leave it on the counter, it turns brown and begins to rot. This is an example of oxidative stress, a mutation of cells. This can be the start of disease. All diseases start with inflammation. For example, heart disease, chronic pain, insomnia, arthritis, autoimmune issues, etc all have an inflammatory start.

Emotional, physical or mental stress can cause inflammation. Stress increases the production of cortisol (a stress hormone) and the body reacts as if it is under attack. Mutations occur to fight the invader. If left unchecked, injuries and disease follow.


Cellular Inflammation

Cellular inflammation can stay in the body for years. It spreads through our central nervous system and affects our daily life. It can take up to 10-20 years before muscles start to break down and we feel symptoms. Lifestyle and diet can play a role in conditions brought about by chronic inflammation. Things such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, other autoimmune issue are all a result of chronic, invisible inflammation.


So, now that we know a little about chronic inflammation, what can we do?

There are many facets under our control. Often it is not a matter of one particular thing, but a combination of things. The more steps we take in the positive column, the better we feel. This can include our diet and managing our stressors. Stress is a part of life and we will never be stress free. It’s all about how we deal and manage our stress.


Throughout the entire month of June we will looking at healing pain and inflammation from a holistic perspective and introduce some of the evidence-based ways to manage it outside of Western medicine.


This article was written by Christine Camara, LMT, Holistic Health Practitioner. Join me with Christine, Dr. Dana Gulati, DAOM, Lisa Medley, MA, CMT and other experts in their field for the Pain and Inflammation Facebook Live Series, or sign up for our weekly newsletter to get the recap in your inbox.


Watch the replay of our first session below!