Chronic Inflammation: The Fire Behind the Modern Epidemics


Inflamare: To set on fire.

We are all familiar with classic signs of inflammation include: Heat, Redness, Pain, Swelling, Loss of function. While most of us associate inflammation with pain, acute, short-term inflammation is a normal and necessary part of the body’s response to injury or infection. Chronic low-grade inflammation is another, far more problematic, matter that underlies nearly all of the modern epidemics.

Inflammation occurs with everything from a flea bites, rashes, bruises and minor infections to serious heart attacks, autoimmune diseases and cancers. Less commonly known is that low-grade, chronic inflammation contributes to not just general aches and pains, but also cancer, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmunity, low testosterone, cognitive decline, depression, Parkinsons, Altzheimers.


Fortunately, there are a lot of things we can do to reduce chronic inflammation. I’ll name a few here.

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Sleep: Adequate, high-quality sleep helps reset the diurnal cortisol rythm and increases the production of growth hormone–which helps repair and restore the whole body. Melatonin and L-theanine can help support good sleep–as can avouding caffeine, exercise and meals late in the day.


Regular exercise after a few days, regular exercise increases your body’s production of a powerful anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10

Increasing lean muscle and reducing body fat is itself anti-inflammatory. Visceral fat, in particular, is a source of inflammation. If you have an increased waist to hip ratio or are more apple shaped than pear shaped, it is likely that you have more visceral fat than is good for you.

Eating vegetables and berries, raw nuts and wild fish. Certainly avoiding corn-fed animal products, fried foods, trans-fats and sugars (AKA the “Standard American Diet”) can itself be profoundly helpful.

Avoid known/suspected food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances. Food allergies are mediated by IgE and are fairly easily found by patient experience, blood and skin prick tests. Food sensitivities are mediated by IgG and other immune mechanisms are more common than allergies, but are tougher to identify because they are less severe. An “Elimination & Challenge Diet” and serum IgG testing can be helpful to identify these. Food intolerances include things like lactose intolerance where people lack the enzymes to cleave the disacharide in milk.

Caloric restriction itself is anti-inflammitory

Stress Management:  Acute stress increases the adrenal release of cortisol which is the body’s strongest short term anti-inflammitory hormone. However, prolonged stress (mediated by modern life) is pro-inflammitory. Minimising, managing and mitigating chronic stress is a key lifestye intervention for anyone with a chronic illness.

Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple stem that cleaves the inflammatory mediator bradykinin. Taking supplemental bromelain between meals is a powerful inflammatory.

Quercetin is an antihistamine flavenoid that stabilizes the membranes of the histamine releasing mast cells. It is found in onions, apples, berries and tomatoes and a healthy diet will give you about 50mg of quercetin. If you take 1000-3000mg a day through supplements, you can effectively quell IgE mediated allergies and reduce inflammation.


Serotonin, the happy chemical in our brain’s is a natural inflammatory mediator. You can support serotonin production by taking supplemental 5HTP derived from the African griffonella plant. 50-200mg taken away from meals 1-3x/day can have a potent anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effect as well as reducing inflammation.

DHA/EPA are two essential omega 3 fats that come from fish oil. Taking 1-3g of combined EPA/DHA is a good idea for just about everyone. Both are anti-inflammitory, but DHA is better for supporting brain and nerve function while EPA is better at cholesterol preventing heart attacks and strokes.


Flax Oil is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Grinding up fresh flax seeds in a coffee grinder is a great way to add fiber, Omega-3 oils and flax lignans to your foods. A tablespoon a day is a good practice.

Evening Primrose Oil has an anti-inflammatory omega-6 fats (GLA). Most of the time we think of Omega-6 fats as contributing to the inflamitorry mediator arachiadonic acid. However there are some omega-6 fats that reduce inflammation, and the fats found in evening primrose oil (EPO) and borage oil have these. 250-500mg is a helpful addition to the fish oil regimen mentioned above.


Niacinamide (B3) found in high dietary beets, meats and brewers yeast. Well known for ameliorating high cholesterol, Niacin also has a potent anti-inflammatory effect.

R-Lipoic Acid (R-LA) Arguably the strongest fat soluble antioxidant

Probiotics can have a systemic anti-inflamitory effect because over half of the body’s immune system is in the gut.

NAC (N-Acetyl Cystiene) is a key compoenet of the bodys strongest antioxidant and it also reduces inflammation.

Edible herbs: choices include: turmeric (curcumin), ginger, cayanne, and green tea catachins (ECGC).

There are many good lab tests to measure your inflammatory response and to detect simmering chronic inflammation. Here’s a few:

C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) is an acute phase protein made by the liver in response to the primary pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6. IL-6 itself, can be measured, but CRP is a good, and more accepted lab marker.

AA:EPA Arachiadonic acid (AA) to EPA ratio

Omega-3 Index: Total red blood cell  EPA & DHA:AA ratio

Myeloperoxidase (MPO) is an enzyme found in immune cells that makes hydrogen peroxide in response to infections and inflammation. It can be used as a marker of inflammation and immune response.

complement cascade

Complement Activity (C3, C4, C5). This system, was traditionally primarily described as a “complement” to antibody-based immunity, is now known as central to our innate immunity and inflammatory response. The complement system defends us against pathogens, coordinates various events during inflammation, and bridging innate and adaptive immune responses. Complement is an assembly of proteins found in the blood and body fluids and on cell surfaces.

inflammed Man

In summary, chronic inflammation underlies most, if not all, chronic illness. Fortunately, there are lots of things we can do to measure and reduce chronic inflammation as tools to promoting and maintaining our optimal health. If you have chronic aches and pain, known allergies, a family history of heart or neurodegenerative diseases, or even just a growing list of general concerns, then tempering your body’s inflammatory response. Licensed Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) and Functional Medicine providers (IFMCPs) can help you with this process.



Author: trmorrisnd

Naturopathic Medical Doctor and IFMCP (Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner) serving patients in Seattle, WA and wordwide through remote consultations

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