Kellyann Petrucci, ND, a leading naturopathic physician and nutritionist, is an inflammation expert. This week, we're sharing Dr. Petrucci's expertise in a series on fighting inflammation for optimal health. To learn more, check out her new mindbodygreen course, Beat Inflammation: A 21-Day Plan for Glowing Skin, Long-Term Weight Loss, and Vibrant Health.
Typically, it’s pretty easy to tell if you’re experiencing acute inflammation. If you scrape your knee, your skin will turn red and hot. If you catch a cold, your runny nose and fever will tell the whole world that you’re inflamed. So acute inflammation is a natural, healthy process that helps your body heal.
But chronic inflammation is a whole different story. Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system gets set permanently to “on.” As a result, it constantly releases a flood of damaging chemicals that could sicken your cells. It’s like a forest fire that never goes out.
Recent research suggests that chronic inflammation is associated with many modern diseases, including obesity and heart disease. In addition, chronic inflammation could make you feel tired and “washed out.”
Your doctor can measure your level of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation, to indicate whether chronic inflammation might be wreaking havoc on your body. But there are also a few clues your body might be telling you.
How to spot the signs of chronic inflammation:
Chronic inflammation can reveal itself in a variety of way, but these 10 signs are the most common in my experience.
1. You have a “spare tire” around your waist.
Fat cells in the abdomen churn out inflammatory chemicals—and the more belly fat you have, the more of these chemicals they create. In fact, cardiovascular medicine expert Peter Libby, MD, calls belly fat a “hotbed” of inflammation.
2. You have high blood glucose levels.
High blood sugar increases the numbers of inflammatory cytokines circulating in your blood. It also increases your levels of destructive molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are pro-inflammatory.
3. You have digestive problems like gas, diarrhea, bloating, or constipation.
These can stem from a sick, inflamed, overly permeable gut—and a leaky gut that allows toxins to escape into your bloodstream is one of the leading cause of chronic, body-wide inflammation.
4. You're tired all the time.
Inflamed cells are sick cells, and they can’t produce the energy you need to feel refreshed and invigorated. As a result, you feel fatigued even when you first get out of bed—and by afternoon, you’re exhausted.
5. You have skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, or your skin is red and blotchy.
This could be an external sign of internal fire. (This is why there’s a powerful link between psoriasis and inflammatory conditions that manifest internally, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.)
6. You have allergies.
If you’re always battling watery eyes and a runny nose, you could be chronically inflamed.
7. Your face is puffy, or you have puffy bags under your eyes.
This is a common sign of internal inflammation.
8. You have gum disease.
This is another outward clue of internal inflammation.
9. You're depressed, anxious, or suffering from “brain fog."
Inflammation could affect your brain chemistry, causing changes in how you think and feel.
10. If you’re a man, you have erectile dysfunction.
Chronic inflammation could be a cause of this problem.
How to heal chronic inflammation:
If you have any of these signs pointing to chronic inflammation, here’s the good news: You can start taking control by changing your lifestyle.
Begin by cutting out highly inflammatory foods like sugar and grains out of your diet and eating more lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. I recommend drinking gut-healing bone broth every day for a huge dose of anti-inflammatory power. Exercise daily, get enough sleep, and de-stress yourself with mindfulness meditation. Lower your body's burden of toxic chemicals, and you’ll turn down the flame another notch.
This is a problem you can start solving right now with a simple prescription: a smarter, healthier lifestyle.