Inflammation has a major impact on our health and quality of life. It’s a common trigger behind chronic diseases from asthma to heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. But what is inflammation and what causes it? How does it relate to allergies?
In simple terms, inflammation is the immune system’s response to an irritant. Inflammation exists to protect the body from invasion, infection, and damage.
According to Dr. Michael Foggs, M.D., Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Advocate Medical Group of Advocate Aurora Health in Chicago and member of Tivic Health’s Medical Advisory Board, “Inflammation is a normal immune system response activated during the process of healing injured tissues. Natural inflammation can reverse tissue injury as part of the natural healing process.”
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. People are most familiar with acute inflammation, which often comes with redness, swelling, and pain around tissues and joints that occurs in response to an injury.
“Unlike chronic inflammation, acute inflammation is a self-limited process followed by tissue healing,” says Dr. Foggs. “Chronic inflammation is caused by exposure to toxins, or from untreated acute inflammation that is allowed to smolder and progress. It can also emerge from autoimmune disorders [like Lupus, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis].
“Other factors contributing to inflammation include physical inactivity, diets high in saturated fat and refined sugar, low sex hormones (i.e., estrogen and testosterone), sleep disorders, and aging,”continued Dr. Foggs. “Chronic inflammation, when left untreated, can cause protracted tissue damage and organ system dysfunction.”
In fact, researchers at the Harvard Medical School have shown that chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
How does inflammation occur in allergies and how does it cause sinus pain?
When a person breathes in a substance to which they are allergic – such as dust, pollen, or mold – this can cause pain, inflammation, and symptoms that resemble a sinus infection, such as nasal congestion, facial pressure and runny nose (sinusitis).
“Inflammation of the sinuses often occurs in association with environmental allergen exposure. It can also be triggered by bacterial, viral, and sometimes fungal infection,” says Dr. Foggs.
“Inflammation causes swelling of the tissues that results in pressure on the nerve endings that are in close proximity to the sinus cavities. When pressure from swelling pushes on sensitive nerve endings, pain signals are sent to the brain. Some of the chemical processes of inflammation affect how the nerves behave, which can lead to an enhanced pain sensation.”
For managing inflammation, sinus pain, and congestion in allergies, Dr. Foggs recommends these natural, drug-free inflammation and allergy treatment options:
- Consider non-invasive treatments like ClearUP® Sinus Pain and Congestion Relief, a drug-free, therapy device that is FDA-cleared, safe, has no chemical side effects and is the only FDA-approved cleared bioelectronic device that targets sinus pain, pressure, and congestion. Sterile, low-pressure intranasal saltwater lavage can help remove allergens and microbial agents that are contributing to inflamed sinuses.
- Use of capsaicin-containing (pepper) nasal sprays can also alleviate discomfort and shrink mucosal membranes.
- Cut back on foods high in saturated fat or refined sugars and eat more foods high in antioxidants to lower inflammation such as all types of berries, cherries, plums, onions, turmeric, green tea, and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Just 20-minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (e.g. walking on a treadmill) daily can protect against conditions linked with chronic inflammation.
Understanding Acute and Chronic Inflammation (Harvard Medical School)