7 "Gross" Things That Can Happen To Your Body If You Have Too Much Inflammation
If you have too much inflammation in your system, it's possible your body will react in a variety of interesting ways. Depending on the cause, you might notice things like swollen joints, redness, and bowel changes. But there can be other side effects of inflammation, too.
"Oftentimes, inflammation is good as it helps your body defend against foreign invaders," Dr. Bryan Tran, DO, tells Bustle. "For example, when you fall and scrape your knee, your body’s inflammation response will attract and recruit immune cells to deal with any foreign invaders and to help start the healing process," which is why a scrape may become swollen or red.
But other times, the body goes through this "healing" process unnecessarily and begins to attack itself, which is when chronic inflammation can occur. As Dr. Tran says, "Having an inflammation response when there is no actual threat is not good."
Since chronic inflammation can lead to larger health issues over time, it's important to listen to your body and pay attention to these warning signs. As Dr. Tran says, "There are times that inflammation is warranted and healthy and there are times where it is unwarranted and unwanted," and your doctor can help you figure out which is which. Read on below for a few symptoms to watch out for.
1. You Notice Undigested Food
"Signs of more chronic inflammation can include malabsorption," Dr. NavNirat Nibber, ND, a medical advisor at Advanced Orthomolecular Research (AOR), tells Bustle, which means your body isn't absorbing nutrients in the food you eat.
And when that happens, you may spot undigested food in your stool, or experience digestive issues like bloating, abdominal pain, and flatulence, she says. If these issues keep occurring, let your doctor know.
2. Your Injuries Are Slow To Heal
If you have too much inflammation, you might notice that it takes forever for your body to heal. And this is true even for small injuries, like a paper cut.
While it's fine for a cut or scrape to turn red or swell up as the body works to heal itself, when you have too much inflammation, you may notice that the swelling sticks around.
"Normally [a paper cut] hurts for a few minutes and then you forget about it. But if it is still red and swollen the next day, your inflammation system is excessive," Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, tells Bustle.
Luckily, there are natural ways to lower your inflammation, including eating more fish, such as salmon and tuna, or taking an omega-3 supplement, Dr. Teitelbaum says. Spices like turmeric, which contains the substance curcumin, have been shown to be effective in lowering inflammation, too.
3. Your Feet & Ankles Are Swollen
Your feet and ankles can swell up if you stand a lot for work, or get a lot of exercise. But if this seems to happen out of the blue, take note.
"This may be due to arthritis, trauma, or injury," podiatrist Dr. Suzanne Fuchs, tells Bustle, which can all result in inflammation, including the chronic kind.
"When inflammation is present," Dr. Fuchs says, "you will usually feel pain." So if any of these issues are occurring, point it out to your doctor so they can figure out what's up.
4. You Have Diarrhea
Another digestive complaint that can be a sign of chronic inflammation is diarrhea, and all of its annoying side effects, like gas and bloating.
"Inflammation is often attributed as the cause of irritable bowel syndrome," Victor Laluz, MD, internal medicine primary care physician for Loma Linda University Health, tells Bustle. "In irritable bowel syndrome the gut becomes hyper-spasmodic and reacts to food or to benign microbes within the gut. Often times it results in diarrhea but can result in constipation as well."
5. Hair Loss
Surprisingly, some forms of hair loss can actually stem from inflammation. As Dr. Tran says, "Inflammation and irritation of the scalp can impede hair growth and cause hair loss. If this occurs in patches it is called alopecia areata."
6. Itchy, Dry Skin
"Inflammation is your body’s way of telling your immune system that something isn’t right," Dr. Tran says. And sometimes that can reveal itself in the form of skin-related issues.
7. A Runny Nose
While allergies can stem from acute inflammation, due to pollen in the air, allergic symptoms — such as a runny nose, or itchy and watery eyes — could also be a sign of chronic inflammation.
If you happen to notice any of these "gross" side effects, let your doctor know so they can check for signs of inflammation. Tests for this might include a white blood cell count, to see what's going on in there.
But you can always lower inflammation by making a few simple lifestyle changes, such as consuming more omega-3 fatty acids, adding turmeric to your diet, eating more antioxidant-rich foods, minimizing stress, and doing a moderate amount of exercise.