What’s The Difference Between Good & Bad Inflammation? Here’s What To Watch Out For

Inflammation has become a bit of a dirty word, something to be avoided at all costs. But not all inflammation is out to get you, which is why it's important to know how to tell the difference between good inflammation and bad inflammation. According to an article from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, good inflammation is a bit of a superhero, while bad inflammation is the exact opposite.

"When it’s good, it fights off foreign invaders, heals injuries, and mops up debris. But when it’s bad, inflammation ignites a long list of disorders: arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, blindness, cancer, diabetes and, quite possibly, autism and mental illness," William Snyder wrote for the site. So, how can you tell if you're dealing with the good superhero inflammation, or the bad super-villain inflammation?

When your body is working like it should, inflammation will occur when you get sick or sustain an injury like a sprained ankle. This kind of inflammation is good, and it's part of your body's natural healing process. "When harmful bacteria or viruses enter your body, when you scrape or twist your knee, the body’s defense system kicks into high gear. Chemicals ramp up the body to fight, bathing the damaged area with blood, fluid, and proteins; creating swelling and heat to protect and repair damaged tissue; and setting the stage for healing," an article in the Johns Hopkins Health Review explained.

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On the other hand, bad inflammation is what happens when your body becomes inflamed when you're not fighting an injury or illness, and it's what Johns Hopkins referred to as the overfiring of your immune system. "Low levels of inflammation can get triggered in the body even when there’s no disease to fight or injury to heal, and sometimes the system can’t shut itself off." When you have bad inflammation, it usually presents as fever, redness, or pain for no identifiable reason.

Basically, even though you're not sick or injured, you body thinks otherwise and mounts an attack against you. When this happens, the goal is to get your body to retreat and restore its natural balance. Once you've seen your doctor to make sure there isn't something more serious going on, it's time to fight back. Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Publishing noted that experimental studies have shown that the best defense against bad inflammation is something you use every day.

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"Components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects," Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, explained in the article. Anti-inflammatory foods include tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and fruit. Aside from helping to combat bad inflammation, Dr. Hu noted that eating a diet high in these types of foods, which he said is basically the Mediterranean diet, can also improve your overall physical and emotional health. If you can't seem to get your bad inflammation in check, consider working with a doctor and/or a nutritionist to devise a plan that's right for you.