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Chronic Inflammation and Chronic Illness. Regaining Health with Lifestyle.

Updated: Apr 16

Chronic Inflammation Illness Lifestyle

Chronic inflammation, a persistent and low-grade immune response, has emerged as a key player in the development of various chronic illnesses. Unlike the temporary inflammation associated with, say, the redness to be found around a small cut or a burn, chronic inflammation acts on a system wide basis. Chronic inflammation is related to a number of conditions including:

  • Autoimmune diseases, for example, rheumatoid arthritis

  • Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure

  • Gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis

  • Lung diseases, for example, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Mental illnesses, such as depression

  • Metabolic diseases, for example, Type 2 diabetes

  • Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease

  • Some cancers

If you have any concerns about your health or are under treatment, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle. Links to any supporting studies are at the end of page.


Central to understanding inflammation are biomarkers called cytokines, proteins released by cells have a specific effect on the interactions and communications between cells. Commonly measured pro-inflammatory markers are: C-reactive protein (CRP), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), and Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-α). Each offers an insight into the body's inflammatory state.

  • CRP, produced by the liver in response to inflammation, serves as a reliable indicator of systemic inflammation. Elevated CRP levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and other many chronic conditions.

  • IL-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine, plays a dual role. It is essential for the acute inflammatory response, however, prolonged elevation can be related to infection, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.

  • TNF-α, another cytokine, regulates immune responses and, when overproduced, fuels chronic inflammation implicated in autoimmune disorders, psoriasis, arthritis, even diabetes.

biomarker CRP IL6 TNFα
Blood tests can readily identify key inflammatory biomarkers.

Several factors can tip the body’s balance towards chronic inflammation. Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a sedentary routine and a diet rich in processed foods, can trigger inflammation. Excess body weight, particularly abdominal fat, acts as a reservoir for inflammatory chemicals. Smoking (and smoke), burnt or fried foods also inflict damage. Stress and poor sleep further fuel the inflammatory cascade.

Several lifestyle modifications can act as powerful anti-inflammatory agents, reducing inflammation:

  • Regular physical activity not only can help in weight management but also exerts anti-inflammatory effects, reducing CRP and IL-6 levels. Both cardiovascular exercise and strength training is useful.

  • A diet rich in fruits, bean, berries, vegetables, whole grains, herbs, spices and omega-3 fatty acids possesses anti-inflammatory properties, countering the effects of a pro-inflammatory diet. Look towards enjoying eating practices that are in keeping with your tastes, whether Mediterranean, Asian or other.

  • Reduce or avoid processed foods, saturated fat, refined grains, packaged breakfast cereals, flour; fried or heavily browned foods. Avoid soft, sugar sweetened drinks.

  • Stress management also plays a crucial role in modulating inflammation. Chronic stress, day-in day-out, activates the release of stress hormones. Incorporating relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, breath work, a walk in the park or hanging out with your friends, can counteract these effects.

  • Balancing the gut microbiota is another key factor in mitigating chronic inflammation. The gut plays a pivotal role in regulating the immune system and an imbalance in gut bacteria can lead to systemic inflammation. A fibre-rich (prebiotic rich) diet fosters a healthy gut microbiome, reducing inflammation.


Understanding and monitoring these biomarkers provide valuable insights into one's health status. Routine measurements of CRP levels can serve as an early warning system, signalling the need for lifestyle modifications. Similarly, IL-6 and TNF-α assessments can provide a more comprehensive picture of inflammation, aiding in targeted interventions.

Chronic inflammation is a silent precursor to various health issues. Lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise, stress management and gut health, play pivotal roles in either promoting or curbing chronic inflammation. At the Whole Health Practice we work with our clients to promote health through lifestyle, perhaps we can support your journey to health too?

Stay Healthy,


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Related Resources

Bolte LA, Vich Vila A, Imhann F, Collij V, Gacesa R, Peters V, Wijmenga C, Kurilshikov A, Campmans-Kuijpers MJE, Fu J, Dijkstra G, Zhernakova A, Weersma RK. Long-term dietary patterns are associated with pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory features of the gut microbiome. Gut. 2021 Jul;70(7):1287-1298. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2020-322670. Epub 2021 Apr 2. PMID: 33811041; PMCID: PMC8223641.

Rose GL, Skinner TL, Mielke GI, Schaumberg MA. The effect of exercise intensity on chronic inflammation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sci Med Sport. 2021 Apr;24(4):345-351. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2020.10.004. Epub 2020 Oct 23. PMID: 33153926.

Aleksandrova K, Koelman L, Rodrigues CE. Dietary patterns and biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation: A systematic review of observational and intervention studies. Redox Biol. 2021 Jun;42:101869. doi: 10.1016/j.redox.2021.101869. Epub 2021 Jan 22. PMID: 33541846; PMCID: PMC8113044.

Jang DI, Lee AH, Shin HY, Song HR, Park JH, Kang TB, Lee SR, Yang SH. The Role of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF-α) in Autoimmune Disease and Current TNF-α Inhibitors in Therapeutics. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Mar 8;22(5):2719. doi: 10.3390/ijms22052719. PMID: 33800290; PMCID: PMC7962638.

Furman D, Campisi J, Verdin E, Carrera-Bastos P, Targ S, Franceschi C, Ferrucci L, Gilroy DW, Fasano A, Miller GW, Miller AH, Mantovani A, Weyand CM, Barzilai N, Goronzy JJ, Rando TA, Effros RB, Lucia A, Kleinstreuer N, Slavich GM. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med. 2019 Dec;25(12):1822-1832. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0. Epub 2019 Dec 5. PMID: 31806905; PMCID: PMC7147972.



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