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Twenty Causes of Chronic Inflammation

Updated on October 18, 2013

"Chronic inflammation is now recognized as a key underlying cause for the development of many human cancers, autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes." (Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore. "Potential drug target for inflammatory diseases including cancers."ScienceDaily, 21 Nov. 2012. Web. 7 Oct. 2013)

Researchers have come to understand that chronic inflammation is the root cause of serious diseases and that most of us are at risk. So what causes chronic inflammation? The following is a list of twenty factors contributing to chronic inflammation:

1. Alcohol

Alcohol can contribute to a leaky gut. Once toxins are released into the blood stream, the immune system generates an inflammatory response to attempt to mitigate the damage.

2. Animal Fats

Animal fats disrupt the balance of friendly gut bacteria and promote inflammation.

3. Food Sensitivities

A food that might otherwise carry health benefits, like organic milk, can cause inflammation in people who have a sensitivity to it. A person who has a strong reaction to a particular food group is actually in a better spot than those that only have a mild reaction. The strong reactors simply eliminate the food causing them a problem. The mild reactors may not be able to identify that they even have a food sensitivity or be able to identify what particular food is causing the problem. Anyone experiencing chronic pain or fatigue or bowel issues would be well-served to keep a food diary for a few weeks and periodically remove and add back different food groups to identify the culprit.

4. Genetics

Unfortunately, even if you do everything right (if that were possible, which it is not) you can still suffer from chronic inflammation. A gene has been identified that acts to clear away cells that have been unduly stressed. Mutations of that gene lead to less effective clearing, which leads to inflammation.

5. Gluten

Those individual suffering from Celiac disease have a particular sensitivity to gluten and this sensitivity provokes a very definite immune response, leading to inflammation. But, It is speculated that many people who do not have Celiac may have a less intense sensitivity which provokes chronic low grade inflammation.

6. Gum Disease

Gum disease is a low grade infection. As such, the immune system kicks into gear and stays there until the bad bacteria is physically removed from the teeth and the gum reattaches more firmly to the teeth.

7. Imbalanced Gut Bacteria

When helpful gut bacteria are overwhelmed by bad bacteria, the lining of the digestive tract may become compromised. This introduces foreign toxins into the rest of the body and the immune system causes inflammation in an attempt to rectify the situation.

8. Lack of Moderate Exercise

A sedentary lifestyle promotes inflammation, moderate exercise fights inflammation. It is helpful to note that strenuous exercise also promotes inflammation in the short term. Those individuals wishing to begin exercising to reduce inflammation are advised to begin slowly.

9. Lack of Sleep

Less than six hours of sleep per night deregulates the body’s immune system, causing inflammation. Young, healthy adults with no other risk factors raised their risk of stroke by almost five percent, just from a lack of sleep.

10. Metabolic Syndrome

Chronic inflammation from other factors such as obesity or stress cause metabolic syndrome to develop. High blood pressure, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar then contribute to further inflammation.

11. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

The link between MSG and inflammation is documented, though the mechanism is still unknown.

12. Obesity

The link between obesity and inflammation is clear. The exact mechanism is still up for debate. One theory proposes that fat tissue signals the body’s immune system that something is wrong. The immune system kicks into high gear, causing inflammation. As long as the fat tissue remains, so does the inflammation.

13. Omega-6 Overload

Omega 6 and Omega 3 should be balanced. However, in the standard American diet, Omega 6 is far too abundant and Omega 3 much too scant. This promotes an inflammatory state in the body.

14. Smoking

The toxins in cigarette smoke are proven inflammatory triggers.

15. Stress

Prolonged stress interferes with the hormone cortisol. Cortisol regulates the immune system. Once this regulation has been compromised, the immune system is no longer regulated and inflammation results. This is why one person only gets the sniffles, while another person exposed to same cold virus gets a full blown head cold. The inflammatory response is not being regulated properly by cortisol.


Sugar sends signals to the immune system to kick into high gear.

17. Toxins

Phthalates found in beauty and personal care products, 'Bisphenol A' found in plastics, mercury, cigarette smoke, household chemicals, air pollution, lawn and garden chemicals, bacteria, mold – we are surrounded by toxins. Once the toxin tipping point has been reached in the body, the immune system remains constantly active, resulting in chronic inflammation.


Trans-fats damage the linings of cells and the immune system kicks in to attempt to repair, creating ongoing inflammation.

19. Vitamin A deficiency

Though it rare in the developed world, a deficiency in Vitamin A causes a whole host of symptoms and creates an inflammatory state in the body.

20. White Bread

Refined flour is quickly broken down into sugar and provokes the same inflammatory response.

Could you avoid all twenty inflammatory triggers? Not if you are living in the modern world. But knowledge is power and knowing what causes inflammation can enable you to make lifestyle choices to protect yourself from chronic inflammation and the deadly diseases it causes.


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