What is inflammation in the body?

What exactly is inflammation, and what causes it? Why is it dangerous for the body?

This blog is here to explain the science of the cause of inflammation and its aftermath.

Female with marked inflammation on hip and knee,  Life Extension Europe

The causes of inflammation

We have natural ways for you to counteract the dangerous type of longstanding inflammation.

As our bodies progress with age, they’re faced with several challenges. Among these is the presence of senescent cells. These halt division and emit compounds that accelerate tissue aging and inflammation. 

This issue is exacerbated in those who are overweight or obese, as excess fat cells also promote inflammation. 

Additionally, factors such as diet, gut health, pollution, hormonal imbalances, and stress further contribute to inflammation, which in turn can lead to serious health conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's, arthritis, and cancer (1-4).

Short-term inflammation is crucial for the body's fighting of infection, injury, and disease.

Once the particular threat has passed, compounds called pro-resolving mediators (PRMs) help settle that inflammation. In turn, it gets stopped from evolving into chronic inflammation. In return, the tissues can recover to their healthy state.

Nutrients for an anti-inflammatory diet

The following nutrients and supplements offer a broad range of anti-inflammatory benefits. 

They are contributing to reduced chronic inflammation and supporting overall health:

  • Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that lower inflammation markers like TNF-α, CRP, and IL-6.
  • Specialized pro-resolving mediators are derived from marine oils, these support the body's resolution of inflammation. 
  • Curcumin is a component of turmeric that modulates several pathways involved in inflammatory processes.
  • Magnesium is associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers such as hs-CRP, IL-6, and TNF-α.
  • Tea polyphenols are known to reduce CRP and support anti-inflammatory actions in the body.
  • Sesame lignans help reduce inflammation and may also reduce levels of certain pro-inflammatory factors.
  • Bromelain is a protease from pineapple stems. It's used to reduce inflammation and support joint health.
  • Boswellia is known to fight inflammation by inhibiting the 5-LOX pathway.
  • Resveratrol and pterostilbene: Powerful antioxidants that help reduce inflammation.
  • Carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments in plants known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) acts as a precursor to antioxidants and helps reduce inflammation.
  • Black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa) has been shown to have a range of health benefits including anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Carnosine is an antioxidant that can also modulate inflammatory processes.
  • Benfotiamine is a synthetic derivative of thiamine, which can help reduce inflammatory responses.
  • Coenzyme Q10 is involved in energy production and also has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) is an antioxidant that may improve immune and inflammatory responses.
  • Ginger contains gingerols that reduce inflammation and support immune function by inhibiting inflammatory mediators and pathways such as NF-kB(5-10).
  • Turmeric contains curcumin and turmerones that provide potent anti-inflammatory effects and have also demonstrated anticancer properties. Read more about curcumin here.

C-reactive protein

High levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood can indicate the presence of inflammation. 

C-reactive protein is produced in the liver. Healthy individuals with elevated CRP can reduce it through diet changes, supplements, or medications. 

Supplements like these can help lower CRP levels: 

Eating a diet low in arachidonic acid, omega-6 fatty acids, saturated fats, high-glycemic foods, and overcooked food can also help reduce inflammation (11).

One study found that ideal healthy behaviours including diet, exercise, and the like could lower CRP (12).  

In said study, people having four to six “ideal behaviours” had up to a 32% reduction in their CRP test levels. Exercise alone is a means of lowering high CRP. The higher the baseline CRP, the greater the impact of a reasonable exercise regimen on CRP (13).

Inflammation and PRMs

What is ‘acute inflammation’? 

Acute inflammation is the targeted, immediate and natural response that the body makes to threats like injuries, infections, or toxins. 

Immune cells rush to the site to fight off the threat and protect the body. Usually, this inflammation goes away after the danger is targeted and handled.

That being said, sometimes inflammation doesn't stop as it should. Instead, it continues occurring indefinitely in the body. 

When this happens, it can end up transforming into chronic inflammation. This long-term inflammation can contribute to a variety of serious diseases, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • General aging (14,15).

What are PRMs?

To properly manage inflammation, it’s not enough of a measure to only reduce it. It needs to be completely resolved. 

This is where pro-resolving mediators (PRMs) come into the picture. 

Different from anti-inflammatories, PRMs are special signals in the body. They don’t just reduce inflammation, they actively work to resolve it and help the tissues return to their normal, healthy state (16). 

The issue is that without enough PRMs, this inflammation can linger, thus causing lasting damage (17,18).

Types of PRMs

For several years, it has been known that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are full of anti-inflammatory properties. However, it had not been fully understood why.

As it turns out, PRMs are either fat or lipid-based compounds. They are produced from oily substances, including the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils (such as DHA and EPA).

Adequate intake of these omega-3s is required to produce sufficient levels of PRMs in the body.

There are several different PRMs produced in the body: (16,19)

  • EPA produces E-series resolving. 
  • D-series resolvins, protectins, and maresins are all produced from DHA. 
  • Lipoxins are synthesised from an omega-6 fatty acid known as arachidonic acid.

What do PRMs do?

While each specific PRM has slightly different actions, they overlap and complement each other. 

Together, they help coordinate many of the processes involved in inflammation resolution.

PRMs resolve inflammation and influence a healthy immune response: (16,20)

  • Stopping the recruitment and migration of immune cells involved in acute inflammation
  • Inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory compounds by the immune system and tissue cells
  • Inhibiting the production of free radicals, used by immune cells in the fight against pathogens but which, if they persist, can cause tissue injury.
  • Stimulating macrophages to clean up tissues. Macrophages do this by devouring and destroying bacteria, allergens, dead immune cells, and other debris
  • Increasing activity of immune cells that limit inflammation and then tidy up afterward, such as regulatory T cells
  • Reversing hypersensitivity of nerve endings activated in acute inflammation, reducing pain
  • Initiating repair and regeneration of damaged tissue
  • Returning the blood flow and blood vessels to normal

Fighting infections

Research indicates that pro-resolving mediators (PRMs) might also play a role in combating infections. 

In severe cases of periodontitis, a gum infection that can cause tooth and bone loss, the patients showed markedly lower levels of PRMs, compared to controls. 

Additionally, their macrophages were less effective at eliminating bacteria, suggesting that PRMs enhance the ability of these immune cells to fight infections (21-39).

Read more blog posts


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