Inflammation is your body’s way of responding to and defending itself against injuries, infections and even, in some cases, food that your immune system recognises as a threat. When your immune system detects the presence of a microorganism or injury, it responds by sending protective white blood cells to the site in your body it feels is under threat. This promotes repair. The inflammation itself is a result of fluid and white blood cells in the surrounding tissues, which cause swelling while supporting the healing process.
In some cases, inflammation is an essential part of the body’s ability to protect itself from damage. But long term, chronic inflammation can cause serious damage. Unlike short-term, acute inflammation after an injury, long-term inflammation is a silent killer. It damages cells and we are only beginning to understand how this makes us more vulnerable to a wide range of what are termed non-communicable diseases. Chronic, low-grade inflammation is associated with heart disease, auto-immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer, IBS, thyroid issues, obesity and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s
Many lifestyle choices, including diet, influence the chances of developing non-communicable diseases. Often these diseases develop gradually, with no major symptoms to begin with. Incorporating healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices essentially decrease your risks of developing a chronic inflammatory condition.
Inflammation is another potential mechanism linking the gut microbiome and mood.
Chronic inflammation has been implicated in the development and progression of mood disorders, and the gut microbiome has been shown to influence the activity of the immune system. Miller and Raison (2016) conducted a review of the literature and suggested that inflammation may be a key factor in the development of depression and that the gut microbiome may play a critical role in regulating the inflammatory response.
Read more about chronic inflammation, its causes and effects in this feature.