3 Common Causes of Chronic Inflammation

Are you puffy? Achy? It could be inflammation.

Inflammation is the body’s natural immune response to invaders like bacteria and their endotoxins (the outer membrane of bacteria that is super inflammatory), fungi (mold) and viruses. Free radical damage from environmental toxins and even some foods in the diet, like excess refined sugar, for example.

Normally, inflammation resolves after the inflammatory trigger has been neutralized by free radical secretions from immune cells. This is called acute inflammation.

There are a myriad of factors that prevent inflammation from properly resolving and, thus, turning chronic. This becomes problematic because of the free radicals that are constantly being secreted by these immune cells. This leads to tissue damage and more inflammation.

It’s a vicious cycle.

This chronic inflammation has been implicated in various disease states and form the basis of the Inflammation Theory of Disease (1). It’s also a contributor to more surface-level issues like hair loss, psoriasis, and more (2, 3).

In this article, we’ll stick to 3 uncommon causes of chronic inflammation and how they happen. If you want more general information on inflammation and how it happens, check out my Instagram. I post a ton of informational content there.

3 Common Causes of Chronic Inflammation

Some of the most well-known contributors to inflammation is an imbalance in your omega-6 and omega-3 consumption (too much omega-6 in relation to omega-3) and things like excess sugar intake. But, these three issues can also play a big role:

  • Chronic stress

  • Leaky gut

  • Fat-soluble vitamin deficiency

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is ubiquitous in our modern society. Unfortunately, we really aren’t genetically programmed to handle being constantly bombarded with stressors.

This has undoubtedly contributed to the increased incidence of inflammation.

Stress not only disrupts our microbiome, which plays a significant role in regulating inflammation, but may also switch inflammation from acute to chronic in a novel way (4).

Cortisol, a glucocorticoid which is released in response to stress, is anti-inflammatory (5). It exerts its anti-inflammatory action by binding to glucocorticoid receptors.

However, in chronic stress and chronic cortisol upregulation, glucocorticoid receptors downregulate in response (5). This means that it reduces the ability of cortisol to properly contribute to inflammation resolution.

So, reducing stress is super important. Here are some practical ways you can de-stress:

  • Deep Breathing: Activates the parasympathetic nervous system to counteract stress.

  • Walking: Strolling around the neighborhood is my favorite way to de-stress.

  • Grounding: Bare-foot contact with the Earth may help you reduce stress (bonus if you’re walking at the same time!) (6).

  • Journalling: If you find that expressing your emotions helps you find resolution with stressful circumstances, journalling may help you de-stress (7).

  • Adaptogens: Ashwagandha is a great adaptogen to help improve resistance to stress (8). The most clinically-researched form of Ashwagandha is the KSM-66 formulation. But, you may not tolerate it if you are sensitive to nightshades.

Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is the term used to described increased intestinal permeability.

Under normal circumstances, the gut lining is selectively permeable. Meaning it is just permeable enough for good things to get into the bloodstream and the bad things to stay out.

But, when the gut lining opens up too much, bad things can get into the blood stream. This means bad bacteria and their inflammatory endotoxin membranes can be distributed throughout the body to incite systemic, low-grade, and chronic inflammation.

Some factors that can increase intestinal permeability are:

  • Gluten, even if you don’t have celiac disease (9)

  • Bacterial dysbiosis, as a result of antibiotic overuse and/or the Western diet (10)

  • Low stomach acid, which helps regulate the balance of gut bacteria

  • Alcohol consumption (11)

If you suspect you might have leaky gut, you may be able to repair it using:

  • Collagen, like from collagen peptide supplements or bone broth (my fave!)

  • Consuming probiotic-rich foods or utilizing probiotic supplements

  • Boosting your stomach acid with things like coffee (12), digestive bitters, and betaine HCl (contact your doc for this one)

Fat-Soluble Vitamin Deficiency

The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E are integral for immune function. Because they work synergistically, it’s important to have adequate consumption of all 4 for proper immune system activity.

As a general overview (13):

  • Vitamin A supports the body’s ability to fight infection, reducing chronic inflammation that results from unresolved infections

  • Vitamin D helps prevent excessive inflammation due to its immunosuppressive properties. Vitamin D in the presence of vitamin A deficiency could become problematic, but it is absolutely essential in ensuring the immune system isn’t too overactive.

  • Vitamin E supports immune cell function while simultaneously regulating free radical damage that is a necessary component of inflammation.

So, having an imbalance of any of these three vitamins can prove to be detrimental.

The issue with vitamin A is that genetic variances can impact your ability to convert pro-vitamin A carotenoids into active vitamin A, retinoic acid. If polymorphisms in your BCMO gene impair the efficiency of this conversion, you can easily become deficient if you aren’t proactive about consuming the right foods.

Active vitamin A can be found in:

  • Pasture-raised, organic butter and ghee

  • Pastured, organic eggs

  • High-fat, pastured, organic, dairy products (if you can tolerate them)

  • Liver from grass-fed animals or dessicated liver capsules

Vitamin D is also difficult to get from foods alone. The best way to get (free) vitamin D is through safe, unprotected sun exposure, taking precaution not to burn. If you live far north where vitamin D is only available in a restricted window throughout the year, you may choose to supplement with vitamin D (I like this brand — you can use the code CURVE10 for 10% off).

Vitamin E can be found primarily in sprouted, organic, preferably raw nuts and seeds, as well as foods like fish, spinach, and broccoli.

Promote Hair Growth and Healthy Skin By Bolstering Healthy Immune Function

One of my areas of expertise is beauty science. Specifically how nutrients and lifestyle can influence some of the more surface level aspects of our life.

If you are interested in learning more about living a healthy lifestyle to truly thrive, check out my Instagram (@curvewellness), where I share completely free information!

Sophia Ruiz