11 Signs of Chronic Inflammation (Anti-Inflammatory Series Part 1)

functional wellness holistic nutrition Feb 02, 2024

Anti-inflammatory diets are a hot topic these days and for good reason.

As of 2014 nearly 60% of Americans had at least one chronic inflammatory health condition and 42% had more than one according to estimates by Rand Corporation.(1)

It is anticipated that diseases associated with chronic inflammation will increase persistently over the next 30 years.(2)

While this is sobering news, there is much we can do to reduce inflammation in our body when we understand its sources and what tools (foods) our body needs to put out the fire.

What is chronic inflammation?

First, inflammation is the body’s natural response to harmful foreign substances and damage to our tissues. Our body’s immune system can drive inflammation as well as injury.

Our immune system is always surveying “the land” for unwanted invaders. When a substance is encountered it asks... “Is this me? Is this safe?”

When our immune system doesn’t recognize a substance it mounts a response which includes dilating blood and lymphatic vessels to provide an easier path for immune products, and producing chemicals to destroy the invader.

When the invader is no longer a threat, our body is able to repair the damage that was caused by its chemical warfare and the invader itself.

Chronic inflammation is low-grade, constant inflammation that continues for months and years vs. acute inflammation that comes and goes quickly.

With chronic inflammation, the natural inflammatory process never stops so our body struggles to catch up with repairing the cells, tissues and organs. As such, those cells, tissues and organs suffer severe damage and remain damaged and dysfunctional.

Our cells and tissues become chronically inflamed and symptoms arise from the swelling and dysfunction that results.

One of the biggest challenges with chronic inflammation is that most of us don’t know where it’s coming from so we don’t know how to stop it.

(I’ll get to common hidden sources of inflammation in part 2 and 3 of this series coming in the next two weeks).

 For now, let’s identify signs of chronic inflammation:

1. Persistent Fatigue: Chronic inflammation can lead to fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell. The body expends a lot of energy in its attempt to fight inflammation, leaving you feeling tired.

2. Body Pain: Inflammation can affect our joints, muscles and soft tissues leading to joint and muscle pain and stiffness (arthritis and myalgia). If you experience persistent joint pain, it may be a sign of chronic inflammation.

3. Digestive Issues: Inflammation in the digestive tract can cause symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea. Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are associated with chronic inflammation. We’ll cover sources of digestive inflammation in part 2 and 3 of this email series.

4. Skin Problems: Conditions like psoriasis and eczema are linked to inflammation. When my son’s eczema was at it’s worst, we discovered a yeast overgrowth in his gut and mold in his bedroom, both causing chronic inflammation. When we lived in a moldy house, my acne was hard to control.

5. Frequent Infections: Chronic inflammation weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections. If you find yourself getting sick frequently, it might be related to ongoing inflammation.

6. Allergies & Food Sensitivities: Chronic inflammation may contribute to an overactive immune system, leading to increased sensitivity to allergens. Damage to the gut lining from chronic inflammation can increase the number and severity of food sensitivities. On top of that, when we eat foods that our body is reacting too, it feeds the chronic immune and inflammatory response.

7. High Blood Pressure & Cholesterol: Chronic inflammation is associated with damage to blood vessels, which can contribute to high blood pressure. Cholesterol helps make cell membranes and hormones in our body. When cholesterol is high, it’s likely because it’s being called to help repair damaged cells and tissues.

8. Weight Gain: Inflammation can disrupt the normal hormonal balance, leading to weight gain. When cell walls and receptors become inflamed, hormones cannot communicate effectively with the cells. The hormones telling us we are full (or hungry) cannot get the message to our cells. Fat cells can also produce inflammatory substances, creating a cycle of inflammation and weight gain.

9. Cognitive Issues & Headaches: Inflammation in the brain has been linked to cognitive decline and conditions like Alzheimer's disease. Memory problems, difficulty concentrating and trouble staying organized (aka “Brain Fog” as my clients call it) may be signs of chronic inflammation affecting the brain. Inflammation causes the brain to swell and can result in frequent headaches.

10. Depression, anxiety and mood disorders: As with cognitive issues, inflammation in the brain can make it challenging to respond in a healthy way to situations. We can experience mood swings, feelings of overwhelm, anger, sadness and worry. Because the gut and brain work closely together, inflammation in the gut may also contribute to cognitive and mood disorders.

11. Diagnosis of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular, autoimmune and other chronic diseases.


As we dive into the topic of chronic inflammation together, it’s important to understand that there are two components to reducing overall inflammation (and damage) in the body.

The two components:

1. Add in anti-inflammatory foods and practices: Increase the amount of anti-inflammatory foods in our diet (while improving digestion to ensure we can adequately absorb the nutrients) and participate in body therapies that bring down inflammation.

2. Find, remove, and keep out sources of inflammation: Hidden infections, heavy metals, chemical toxins, biotoxins, reactive foods, and EMFs all create inflammation. Stress and blood sugar need to be managed to reduce the inflammation that they can cause.

When working with clients we focus on both components simultaneously because you can’t make good progress without addressing both.

No amount of healthy eating can undo the continual damage of hidden sources of chronic inflammation.

And just removing the sources of inflammation doesn’t provide the resources and building blocks (nutrients) that our body needs to repair.

 I’m looking forward to sharing this series on chronic inflammation and how you can reduce inflammation in your body. Anti-inflammatory diets and reducing inflammation are two topics I get asked about most!

Upcoming emails in this series that you won’t want to miss!

  1. Inflammatory foods that you’ll want to reduce or remove
  2. Hidden infections and environmental factors that cause chronic inflammation.
  3. Anti-inflammatory foods & practices
  4. Supporting detoxification to clear sources of inflammation and inflammatory by-products.

If you believe that chronic inflammation is holding you back from feeling your best and being able to enjoy life, let’s connect on a discovery session.

In this complimentary session, we’ll talk about your health concerns and goals, and how Nutritional Therapy can help.  On this call, I can share more about my process and what it’s like to work with me to help you determine if this the solution you’ve been looking for!


(1) (2) Roma Pahwa; Amandeep Goyal; Ishwarlal Jialal. Chronic Inflammation. National Library of Medicine, August 7, 2023. NIH article 

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