There are two types of inflammation 1) acute and 2) chronic.

Acute inflammation is a normal part of our human health defence system. It happens in minutes, and dissipates after a few hours or days. The immune system responds to an injury or intruder such as a sprained ankle, cold or flu, a splinter or a cut. Typical symptoms are visible and include redness, heat, swelling and pain of the injured tissues or joints. White blood cells are released to fight infection, protect the area and speed up healing,

Chronic inflammation is a more lingering, long term condition, which typically lasts for months and years. The immune system keeps fighting and the continuing released white blood cells start to attack nearby healthy tissues and organs. It is this second type of inflammation that we will focus on – the one that is associated with many medical conditions including autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Crohn’s disease, chronic kidney disease and ulcerative colitis. As such, chronic inflammation is responsible for at least 50% of deaths from inflammatory diseases.

Symptoms of chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation can have no physical signs and be largely “invisible”, particularly in the beginning. These, however, are some of the possible symptoms:

  • body aches and pain
  • low energy, tiredness or fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • skin rashes
  • a joint that doesn’t work as well as it should and may include pain and stiffness
  • headaches
  • excessive mucus
  • mood disorders, depression, anxiety
  • fever or chills
  • poor digestion.

Diagnosis often happens from blood markers such as:

  • White blood cells
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)

Reduce the risk of chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation can be reduced or prevented by:

  • Exercising regularly eg: at least 20 minutes of walking daily
  • Having a healthy diet:
    • Eating foods high in antioxidants like polyphenols which lower inflammation eg: all berries, cherries, plums, red grapes, spinach, green tea, kale
    • Eliminating sugars found in soft drink, fruit juices with added sugars, and sports drinks
    • Removing refined carbohydrates like pasta, white rice and white bread
    • Avoiding processed meat like hot dogs
    • Eliminating fried food
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting lots of sleep
  • Reducing alcohol
  • Avoiding environmental pollutants
  • Minimising salt
  • Avoiding trans fatty acids
  • Not smoking.

Living with chronic inflammation

  • Minimise stress and improve ways of handling it calmly
  • Anti-inflammatory diet eg: fatty fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), leafy green vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, healthy oils (olive, coconut, avocado),
  • Rest the body when tired
  • Reducing salt
  • Maintain joint movement and build muscle strength through exercise and physical therapy
  • Try an elimination diet to identify trigger foods for you
  • Supplements such as probiotics, turmeric, fish oil (omega 3), ginger, devil’s claw and resveratrol.
  • Use medications that ease swelling, pain and inflammation.


  • Walking
  • Stretching
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Dancing
  • Pilates
  • Bowling

Useful links

Research & education