While seeing our ankle swelling up after a fall may be concerning, it’s important to remember it is part of the healing process.

While acute inflammation is a natural process which helps your body heal, chronic inflammation is a different story. It occurs when your immune system is constantly ‘on’ releasing a flood of chemicals throughout the body.

Acute vs chronic inflammation

Acute inflammation has a rapid onset and becomes quite severe but symptoms generally only last a few days to a week. Some examples include:

  • Bronchitis
  • Appendicitis
  • Dermatitis
  • Tonsillitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Infected ingrown toenail
  • Swelling from a sports injury
  • Sore throat from a cold or flu

Whereas chronic inflammation is long-term and can last for several months or even years. It’s typically a result of the immune system wrongly mistaking healthy cells as harmful.

Some examples of chronic inflammation include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic peptic ulcer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritics
  • Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Chronic sinutis

Symptoms of chronic inflammation

While acute inflammation is healthy and beneficial for the body, chronic inflammation can cause widespread damage. Some common symptoms of chronic inflammation include:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Congestion
  • Dry eyes
  • Frequent infections
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin outbreaks
  • Weight gain/obesity

Though these symptoms can also be attributed to a number of other conditions so it’s best to discuss them with your GP if you’re concerned.

Reducing chronic inflammation

The cause, diagnosis and treatment of chronic inflammation are still yet to be fully understood. But, there are some strategies that may help reduce inflammation.

1. Anti-inflammatory diet

Diets have become a popular way of reducing inflammation, though there is still not enough evidence to prove thier worth. The best foods for an anti-inflammatory diet are ones rich in antioxidants, omega-3 and fatty acids. If you’re wanting to give it a go, add these foods to your regular diet:

  • Avocados
  • Broccoli and other leafy greens
  • Watermelon
  • Walnuts
  • Onions
  • Olive and canola oil
  • Berries
  • Whole grains
  • Spices (turmeric, ginger, nutmeg etc.)

2. Get moving

Regular exercise can help improve circulation and lymphatic flow and reduce body fat. These in turn may help reduce inflammation. Set a goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (like a brisk walk) a day.

3. Get adequate sleep

Our bodies undergo lots of maintenance and healing while we sleep. It’s important to prioritise your sleep schedule to allow adequate time for this process. Begin by winding down at least an hour before bed, don’t look at screens right before bed and ensure your room is a relaxing environment.

4. Reduce your stress

This may be easier said than done but reducing your mental and emotional stress may help reduce inflammation. Inflammation can be triggered by stress and anxiety as the body interprets them as invaders. Try meditation, yoga or writing in a journal to de-stress at the end of a busy day.