Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system's response to injury and infection. It is the body's way of signaling to the immune system that it needs to repair damaged tissue and defend itself against foreign invaders. Inflammation occurs when tissues in your body are injured and the damaged cells release pro-inflammatory chemicals, such as histamine, which causes fluids to leak in and protect the body tissue, resulting in swelling. These chemicals also help boost blood flow to the affected area and attract white blood cells to help fight the antigen.
There are two types of inflammation which can be distinguished by duration and location: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is a short-term response with a localized effect which subsides as the body heals, for example an infected cut or sprained ankle. Chronic inflammation is a persistent, long-term response where dilated blood vessel and a hyped-up immune system become the new norm such as when you experience broader joint pain and muscle soreness.
The two types of inflammation
Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing as it is important for your body to repair itself. Your immune system prioritizes repair work using a “To Do” list and tends to focus on the acute inflammation episodes first as they are shorter and less frequent.
Once your immune system has dealt with these acute inflammation episodes it usually has time to wind down and rest before it turns its attention to the more general repair and maintenance tasks. When you have a healthy and balanced immune system, your body will follow cycles of inflammation and rest however the problem arises when your immune system does not get time to rest.
However, with chronic inflammation, your immune system is having to work all the time. And if this inflammation process goes on for too long or occurs in places where the immune response is not really needed then your immune system becomes overstressed and does not get a chance to work through the other items on its “To Do” list.
This can lead to a range of health issues and cause lasting damage to your organs. For example, if you are trying to become fitter you need to give your body enough time and resources to build new muscle and repair any tissue damage (you can think of exercise as causing microscopic structural injuries in your muscles that force your body to adapt and get fitter). But if you have chronic inflammation, your body never gets a chance to rest and repair those stressors caused by exercise because it is always working on the general repair and maintenance and so it is more likely that you will get injured and not recover from exercising as well.
And the more body fat you have the more inflammation you will likely be suffering from. When fat cells are overfilled, they produce reactive oxygen structures (which you probably know as free radicals) which cause cellular damage. Your fat cells then trigger an immune response to help repair and clean up the damaged tissues which in turn causes chronic inflammation in the fat cells themselves and elsewhere in the body. So, your immune system never gets the chance to rest or deal with more important immune response issues.