6 Health Problems You’re More Likely To Experience If You Have Too Much Inflammation

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When you think about inflammation, you might imagine the acute kind that springs up whenever you have an injury or illness, such as a swollen ankle or a stuffy nose. These minor situations are a result of the body healing itself, and aren't cause for concern. But the same can't be said for ongoing or chronic inflammation, which can contribute to certain health problems over time.

"Inflammation is often a root cause of many different illnesses," nutritional psychologist Dr. Margaret Paul, tells Bustle. "When there is too much inflammation, which is a natural way the body’s immune system fights disease, the immune system can become short-circuited and start to attack itself, or can break down in various ways."

There are steps you can take, however, to lower the inflammation in your body, so it doesn't spiral out of control. You can start by adding more fresh and natural foods to your diet, Dr. Paul says, as well as fermented foods to keep your gut full of healthy bacteria — all of which can help lower inflammation.

"Another way is to make sure you get enough sleep and exercise," Dr. Paul says, "and [...] learn to manage your feelings in a way that brings peace rather than stress. Stress is a major factor in creating inflammation." So you'll want to make your mental wellbeing a priority, too, by finding ways to relax and de-stress.

If you have too much inflammation, your body may be more susceptible to the health issues below, according to experts.

1. Mental Fatigue

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Mental fatigue can stem from many things, including a lack of sleep and too much stress. But inflammation can also take a toll on your brain, and make you feel sluggish.

"When inflammation occurs we often think of it happening in the body and think of it in terms of swollen parts," Dr. Catherine Jackson, licensed psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist, tells Bustle. "However, inflammation also occurs in the brain and when it does it can cause a multitude of problems, such as depression, cognitive difficulties, and other mental health concerns."

If you've been struggling with any of the above, consider how inflammation may be playing a role. And let a doctor know.

2. Leaky Gut Syndrome

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When inflammation takes over in your digestive tract, issues like leaky gut syndrome can start to crop up. As Adam Trainor, DC, MS, tells Bustle, "Chronic inflammation causes the gaps between cells in the mucosal lining of your gut to become wider, allowing tiny particles of whatever happens to be passing through your gut to get through," and leak into your bloodstream.

A leaky gut can then lead to a chain reaction of even more inflammation in the body, which is one reason why maintaining gut health is so important. While there is no current treatment — or even exact known cause — for a leaky gut, eating a healthy diet can be a big help.

3. Neuro-Degenerative Conditions

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"Inflammation is increasingly being found to play a critical role in neuro-degenerative conditions," Dr. Thanu Jey, clinic director at Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic, tells Bustle. And these include things like Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis.

"The processes between neuro-degeneration and inflammation are continuously being studied as it can play a key role in managing these conditions," Dr. Jey says.

While more research is needed to know the exact connection between inflammation and these conditions, you can lower your risks by eating well. "Your diet has been shown to have a direct effect on inflammation in your body," he says. "Healthier choices can make a significant impact, especially as we age."

4. Autoimmune Reactions

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"Chronic inflammation causes the entire immune system to overreact," nutrition coach Cathy Posey, RD, tells Bustle. And as a result, the body can begin to "attack" itself, and experience allergy-like reactions.

"[The body] loses the ability to differentiate between real intruders, such as infectious microorganisms or even undigested food, and the body's own tissue," Posey says, making autoimmune disorders more likely.

5. Type 2 Diabetes

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There may also be a connection between chronic inflammation and the formation of type 2 diabetes, Posey says. But we're only just beginning to understand how.

According to WebMD, researchers have identified higher levels of inflammation in the bodies of people with type 2 diabetes. But, of course, lifestyle can also play a role.

6. Cardiovascular Disease

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Cardiovascular disease is another health concern that may stem from chronic inflammation. As Trainnor says, "Inflammation also plays a key role in the development of atherosclerotic plaques," which can narrow and harden your arteries over time in a condition known as atherosclerosis.

But don't let that cause you to panic. By taking good care of your health, you can lower your risk of inflammation, as well as these possible health problems.

Sleep is a big one, Trainor says, as there is evidence to suggest that this is when the body repairs itself, and lowers inflammation. A healthy diet is also important, since "junk" foods can increase inflammation. And finally physical activity, Trainor says, since "even getting in a 20 min walk every day can make a big difference," especially since it can also lower inflammation-causing stress.