The term inflammation comes from the Latin word for “setting a fire.” It is the body’s natural response to healing. Not to be confused with infection, inflammation is how the body contains infection and injury, while promoting repair of damaged tissue. You know inflammation by its outward signs: redness, joint pain, or flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, or muscle stiffness.

There are two types of inflammation, one is good and the other isn’t. Acute inflammation works great for healing a cut finger or a bumped head. The white blood cells and their chemicals get in, do their job, and get out. But, too much of a good thing leads to problems. In other words, chronic inflammation damages, rather than repairs tissues. When inflammation is too intense or prolonged it produces diseases instead of healing.

Tissues damaged by the wrong diet or lifestyle choices sets up a constant irritant in the body. This sets the stage for chronic inflammation that works silently under the surface, damaging arteries leading to heart disease or dementia, or inflaming tissues leading to cancer, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis (arthritis literally means “inflammation of the joint.”)

How do you know if your body is raging an inflammatory war? You won’t feel it, but you can check for markers. If any part of you is inflamed, a marker, called C reactive protein or CRP, will be high in your blood. If your value is more than 1mg/L, you are at risk.