Fatigue can be tricky thing to treat, since it's often rooted in a variety of illnesses, with a multitude of causes. But one issue that may cause fatigue is inflammation, and all the health concerns surrounding it.
"Inflammation is supposed to occur as your body’s first line of defense against infections and injuries, such as when you have external swelling and bruising," Michelle Routhenstein, MS RD CDE CDN, a Preventive Cardiology Dietitian, tells Bustle. "Inflammation becomes dangerous when this acute inflammation turns into a chronic, low grade inflammation."
Chronic inflammation can damage the body, and over time even increase your risk of heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, Routhenstein says, which is why it's so important to pay attention to these clues, while also doing whatever you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As Routhenstein says, "[Some ways] to lower inflammation in the body include nutrition optimization via an anti-inflammatory heart healthy diet, stress reduction strategies, routine physical exercise, and perfecting sleep quality and quantity."
Doing these things will lower inflammation in your body, and lessen your risk of developing inflammation-related diseases. Here are more signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation in the body that may be causing fatigue, according to experts.
1. Poor Digestion
"[These symptoms] can be caused by an imbalance of the bacteria in the intestines that cause an inflammatory response," Routhenstein says. Studies have even linked an imbalance of gut bacteria to chronic fatigue syndrome, which can leave you feeling tired and worn out for seemingly no reason.
While it's common to have the occasional bout of diarrhea, or slight bloating after a meal, if you experience these digestive issues regularly, point them out to a doctor.
2. Painful Joints
If you have pain or swelling in your joints, take note, as it may be a sign of arthritis, which is an inflammation of the joints. "This can result in swollen, painful joints that lose their normal function," Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com, tells Bustle.
You might notice that you feel worn out, or struggle to go about your daily activities, as a result. "[It] could manifest itself as pain, limited range of motion, tightness, or functional limitations," Anne Marie Bierman, PT, DPT, SCS, CMTPT, of Athletico Physical Therapy, tells Bustle.
3. Puffiness Around The Eyes
If you don't usually have puffiness around the eyes, or darker circles under them, having these symptoms appear out of nowhere may be a sign of inflammation in the body. As Bierman says, "From a musculoskeletal perspective, superficial inflammation is observed as swelling, which is frequently observed by [...] a patient's eye."
But be on the lookout for other eye-related symptoms, too. "Tired-looking, puffy eyes that have dark circles underneath [are a sign of inflammation]," Dr. Axe says. "Or, red eyes that are itchy and irritated, which can be signs of allergies/an over-active immune system."
4. Swollen Lymph Nodes
The lymph nodes in your neck may swell up slightly when you're fighting off a cold. But if they're swollen regularly, it may be a symptom worth looking into.
"Lymph nodes enlargement is a good indication that our body's immune system is trying to fight off against some disruptive trigger," Marcela Magda Popa, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician, tells Bustle. "Swollen lymph nodes are seen in viral and bacterial infections," as well as other illnesses. And they often go hand-in-hand with fatigue.
"Epstein Barr disease (mononucleosis) also presents with enlarged nodes, and often associated spleen enlargement," Dr. Popa says. "All these examples are associated with fatigue, which lasts longer in viral disorders than it does in the bacterial ones that luckily respond to antibiotics."
5. Low Grade Fever
As Dr. Popa says, "Non-infectious inflammatory disorders, that include the autoimmune disorders, can [...] have associated fever that can be more pronounced during flare-ups or when complications develop." Autoimmune disorders include things like lupus, multiple sclerosis, and Grave's disease. "All these mentioned causes are accompanied by fatigue," she says.
"Rashes can be manifestations of infections or allergies, but often times rashes are associated with chronic inflammatory conditions, such as celiac disease, lupus, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and others," Dr. Popa says. Whatever's going on internally can make its way to the surface, in the form of skin conditions.
"Given their chronic nature of these inflammatory syndromes, in many cases fatigue is part of clinical picture for many patients," Dr. Popa says. "At times the rashes may appear before other manifestations of the disease that cause them."
By addressing chronic inflammation in your body, you can lower your risk of certain diseases — and feel better overall.