Inflammation and Stress as Risk Factors for Chronic Diseases
We have all been witnessing the rise of chronic diseases globally, but did you know that stress and inflammation have a lot to do with this?
According to Furman et al. , one of the most important medical discoveries of the past two decades has been that the immune system and inflammatory processes are involved in not just a few select disorders, but in a wide variety of mental and physical health problems that currently dominate morbidity and mortality worldwide, with chronic inflammatory diseases having been recognized as the most significant cause of death in the world today. More than 50% of all deaths have been attributed to inflammation-related diseases.
When inflammation has a slow onset and persists for a long period of time, it becomes chronic.
The symptoms of chronic inflammation are not as severe as acute inflammation, but the
condition is persistent.
Many people associate inflammation with a physical condition, but in fact, stress can also induce and/or amplify inflammation.
Stress can be defined as the person's response - both emotionally and physically - to stimuli (stressors) from the environment. Stressors are not necessarily negative. They are only when they exceed the subject's ability to cope with them in a physiological way, i.e., when one's cup is too full. This level of stress is indicated as pathological stress. According to Liu et al. , while 75%–90% of human diseases are related to the activation of the stress system, the common pathways between stress exposure and pathophysiological processes underlying disease is still debatable, with large bodies of evidence indicating that stress can activate inflammatory response in the brain as well as peripherally. Both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mechanisms depend on the type and intensity of stressors. Acute stressors seem to enhance immune function, whereas chronic stressors are suppressive.
A normal inflammatory response occurs when a threat is present and resolves once it has passed. But the presence of certain social, psychological, environmental, and biological factors has been linked to the promotion of a state of low-grade systemic chronic inflammation (SCI), which is characterized by the activation of immune components that are often different from those engaged during an acute immune response.
Inflammageing is a condition developed by most older individuals, which is characterized by elevated levels of blood inflammatory markers, and carries high susceptibility to chronic morbidity, disability, frailty, and premature death . Inflammageing is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, and also for chronic kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, dementia, and sarcopenia.
Our bodies were not designed to withstand long-term threats such as chronic stress and chronic inflammation. Many people present a myriad of symptoms and out-of-range blood markers, without being able to narrow down their source, while not being aware that stress could be playing a big role. It is important to seek stress management strategies in order to prevent the development of systemic inflammation and the chronic diseases that can originate from it.
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 Furman, D., et al. (2019). Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nature Medicine, 25(12), 1822–1832. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0
Liu, Y. Z., Wang, Y. X., & Jiang, C. L. (2017). Inflammation: The common pathway of stress-related
diseases. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 316.
 Ferrucci, L., & Fabbri, E. (2018). Inflammageing: chronic inflammation in ageing, cardiovascular
disease, and frailty. Nature Reviews. Cardiology, 15(9), 505–522.