Inflammation: One of the Roots of Chronic Diseases

Inflammation is the keystone of the body’s healing response. It is described as the activation of immune and non-immune cells that brings nourishment and more immune activity to the site of injury or infection.


Inflammation is an infamous symptom of many infectious diseases such as local heat on the body surface, redness, swelling, and pain. However, researchers increasingly suggest that low-grade inflammation is linked to most chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and cancer.


It is so powerful that inflammation must stay where it belongs and end at the right time. When inflammation persists without a purpose, it becomes a cause of disease – it destroys the tissue and causes damage. Therefore, inflammation is tightly regulated inside our body.


Low-grade Inflammation & Disease of Aging

There is a growing awareness that most diseases of aging are rooted in inappropriate inflammation. For example, Alzheimer’s disease begins as an inflammatory process in the brain while coronary heart disease seems to be caused more by inflammation in the artery lining than by cholesterol deposition. An interesting connection lies between cancer and inflammatory disease whereby the same hormones that trigger increased inflammation also stimulate the body to undergo malignant transformations.

Causes and Consequences of Low-grade Inflammation (Furman et al., 2019)

There is a possibility that a long-term, ongoing inappropriate low-level inflammation in our body causes chronic diseases. If all these diseases have a common root, then there is a common strategy to deal with them.


How to Combat Inflammation

One of the key points of healthy aging and reducing morbidity rates is to adopt an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Inflammation is influenced strongly by nutritional factors, genetics, toxins from the environment, emotional states, and stress. Many of these areas are within our control to contain inappropriate inflammation.


Unhealthy eating habit is a major contributing factor to chronic inflammation. Learning how specific foods influence the inflammatory process plays an important role in reducing long-term risk of developing diseases.


The main ideas for healthy eating are:

  1. Aim for variety
  2. Include carbohydrates, fat, and protein in each meal from fresh food.
  3. Minimize consumption of processed and fast food.
  4. Eat fruits and vegetables in abundance.
Dr Andrew Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid


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  • Furman et al. (2019). Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nature Medicine, 1822-1832.
  • Hunter, P. (2012). The inflammation theory of disease. European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) reports. Vol 13 (11), 968-970. doi: 10.1038/embor.2012.142
  • Inflammation: a unifying theory of disease? Retrieved 28 March 2023, from Harvard Health Publishing.
  • Zhong, J. & Shi, G. (2019). Editorial: Regulation of inflammation in chronic disease. Front. Immunol. 10:737. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00737