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Inflammation and Chronic Disease

Matt Mosher, HK BioTek Intern

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to foreign invasion, infection, and tissue damage. The inflammatory response increases the overall production of immune cells, white blood cells, and cytokines in the body. This is a crucial defense mechanism for the body, but misplaced or prolonged inflammation can result in chronic diseases.

There are two types of inflammation in the body: acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation lasts for a short duration and is the body’s immediate response to pathogens and allergens. Symptoms of acute inflammation vary from swelling and redness, to pain and fever. However, if acute inflammation continues for a long period of time, it can develop into chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation produces unnoticeable symptoms, but can be measured through serum testing of IL-6 and TNF alpha cytokines as well as C-reactive proteins. Researchers have consistently linked chronic inflammation to early onset and development of chronic diseases.

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide at a staggering 60%. Diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, respiratory diseases, etc. are some of many major forms of chronic diseases. Unhealthy lifestyles such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and constant stress elicit inflammatory responses within the body. If these factors continue for a prolonged period, the inflammatory pathways are dysregulated and chronic diseases can develop. Understanding the etiology of chronic diseases can lead to proper and effective preventative measures.

Cancer, one of the most well-known diseases, identifies 15% of cases directly caused by inflammation. Inflammatory proteins increases malignant tumor development, by creating an environment optimal for tumor growth. Constant inflammation contributes to alterations in gene expression, further amplifying tumorigenesis. These tumors are known to develop in all areas such as the breasts, colon, lungs, liver, heart etc. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are devastating disorders strongly linked to chronic inflammation. Researchers have associated the pathogenesis to dysregulation of the inflammatory pathways.

Preventing chronic inflammation is the best way to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. The medication for chronic diseases are expensive and often come with many unbearable side effects. Below is a list of possible lifestyle changes to reduce systemic inflammation, and promote a healthy body.

How do I prevent chronic inflammation?

  • Exercise daily – Regular exercise has been proven to reduce inflammatory markers, and decrease overall inflammation

  • Proper sleep schedule – Sleep allows the body to rest and refuel for the next day. A poor sleep schedule can increase stress and inflammatory cytokine production.

  • Redefine your diet – Foods high in sugar, processed meats, trans-fats, and alcohols can significantly increase inflammation in the body. Switching to a plant based diet or a low-allergen diet can reduce inflammation in the gut and body

  • Consume more spices – Cumin, ginger, and garlic contain natural anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties known to downregulate cytokines in the inflammatory pathway.


Hunter, Philip. “The inflammation theory of disease. The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment.” EMBO reports vol. 13,11 (2012): 968-70. doi:10.1038/embor.2012.142

Kunnumakkara, Ajaikumar B et al. “Chronic diseases, inflammation, and spices: how are they linked?.” Journal of translational medicine vol. 16,1 14. 25 Jan. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12967-018-1381-2

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