4 Warning Signs You’ve Got Chronic Inflammation—and How to Take Action

Last Update: April 6, 2023

You stumble to the bathroom in the morning, and as your eyes adjust you notice a cluster of pimples on your face. Ugh. As the day drags on, you can’t shake your sleepiness, your appetite is insatiable even though you’ve been popping potato chips, and you just feel crummy. It might just be a bad day…or it might be a more sinister health issue.

These symptoms could be signaling chronic inflammation. This condition, in its acute form, is natural— it’s the body’s response to infection. It’s when acute inflammation turns into full blown chronic inflammation that things get problematic. Many factors can contribute to this: High sugar diets, lack of sleep, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive stress, and poor digestive health can all lead to chronic inflammation, potentially causing accelerated aging, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, and cancer, just to name a few. Better figure out if you’re inflamed, stat!

There is no definitive test for chronic inflammation, though Dr. Frank Lipman recommends testing your blood’s level of C-reactive protein, a pro-inflammatory marker released by the liver into the bloodstream. But aside from going to the doctor for a blood test, you can find warning signs in your everyday ailments and make dietary and lifestyle changes that can help relieve inflammation. Here are four of those common signals and how to fight back.

Binge Eating and Inflammation

If you’ve ever ripped open a bag of chips for “just a few” only to mindlessly ingest all 16 servings, you know what binge eating is. A diet high in saturated fats, trans fats, and refined sugars—all present in the junky foods that we tend to binge on–causes an inflammatory response in the liver to address the presences of toxins. Meanwhile, glucose transport is inhibited during inflammation, arousing cravings that can lead to overeating. To kill this endless cycle, ditch those unhealthy fats and opt for healthy omega-3 fats like salmon, mackerel, tuna, walnuts, and extra virgin olive oil.

Chronic Inflammation Leading to Weight gain

Aside from triggering binge eating, chronic inflammation can also increase insulin resistance, meaning your cells don’t respond well to insulin production, leaving your blood sugar abnormally high. This makes your body prone to obesity and diabetes. What’s worse—putting on excess pounds could cause your expanding fat cells to worsen inflammation. Dr. Frank Lipman says, “Fat cells are not inert, in fact, they are factories for inflammation. So the more fat you have, the more inflammation your body will produce.”

To combat both inflammation and weight gain he recommends a diet low in sugar and processed food, and to “optimize your microbiome, as an imbalanced microbiome will lead to inflammation, too.” He adds, “I recommend fish oil supplements and Curcumin supplements as anti-inflammatories, and probiotics and often herbal anti-microbials to balance the microbiome.”

Acne Can be a Sign of Chronic Inflammation

While stress, hormonal imbalance, and excess oil production are commonly linked to acne, allergic reactions to foods containing gluten, dairy, yeast, and eggs could actually be the source of your acne woes. Do an elimination diet to figure out if these kinds of foods are causing allergic reactions that manifest as acne. Focus on abstaining from each for two weeks at a time and note your results.

At the hormonal level, sugar raises insulin levels, and in turn, testosterone in women, which can also bring on pimples. Cut back on sweets and eat some fiber-rich foods like kelp, papaya, blueberries, sweet potato, pumpkins, cantaloupe, apricots, carrots, flaxseeds,and chia seeds to reduce testosterone. On that note, the belief that chocolate causes zits is not that far-fetched, since it contains dairy and sugar—so you may want to chill on your chocolate habit when you experience flare-ups.

Depression Too

Science has proven the link between depression and chronic inflammation. Chemicals produced during inflammation, called cytokines, spark neurological symptoms that essentially mirror those of depression. Exercise has long been a weapon against depression-causing stress. Although physical activity actually produces inflammatory cytokines, this provokes a response by the body to produce anti-inflammatory substances. Dr. Lipman supports exercising to reduce depression stemming from inflammation but warns, “Be careful of over exercising as you may create more inflammation than what gets offset.” Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, including anxiety-reducing fermented foods, is a key.

Photo credit: Kathryn Swayze via Stocksy

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Dana Poblete

Dana's love for all creatures under the sun (bugs, too) drives her in her advocacy for ethical eating, environmental sustainability, and cruelty-free living. A natural born islander, she surfs when she can, and writes, always.

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