Medically reviewed by Eric Venn-Watson, M.D.
Inflammation isn’t something you like to experience in any part of your body. If your skin is inflamed from a sunburn or a bug bite, it may swell, fester, and burn. If you sprain your ankle, you’ll experience inflammation in the form of swelling and bruising, making it difficult for you to walk or bend.
While inflammation may be a nuisance, it’s your body’s natural, protective response. A normal inflammatory response happens when your body is exposed to:
There are two different types of inflammation, acute and chronic. We’ll explain the differences between both and explain how a little-known dietary fat could change how we deal with the underlying causes of chronic inflammation.
What is Acute Inflammation?
Acute inflammation is what you’ve likely experienced on and off your entire life. Acute inflammation happens as a response to injuries and illnesses.
Acute inflammation is easy to see and feel. You pull a muscle, you feel sore and tender. You get the flu, you feel congested. It’s usually very easy to pinpoint the cause of acute inflammation, which makes it very treatable.
You may take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (or NSAID) pain relievers to reduce pain and fever, or apply ice to an injury to manage swelling.
Acute inflammation usually only lasts a short period of time. You may only experience this type of inflammation for a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the underlying cause of the inflammation.
What is Chronic Inflammation?
At the other end of the inflammation spectrum is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is your body’s response to continual exposure to a particular irritant. Chronic inflammation may last for months, years, or even decades.
Chronic inflammation isn’t always easily identified, so you may not know if you have it. This type of inflammation may not cause you pain or discomfort, and may not even be noticeable without a blood test.
Chronic inflammation happens because your body perceives a low-level irritant as a threat and attempts to fight it off. When the irritant remains, your body continues to have an immune response. This places your body in a constant state of inflammation.
Why does it matter? Good question.
When your immune system responds to an irritant, it pumps out white blood cells to tackle the irritant and eliminate it, restoring your body to health. When the irritant doesn’t go away, and your immune system keeps fighting, those white blood cells can begin to attack healthy tissue.
When healthy tissues are damaged as a result of your body’s immune response, you develop chronic inflammatory diseases. Research shows chronic inflammation leads to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, arthritis, and digestive diseases.
Many of these diseases make up what’s known as metabolic syndrome. A condition which places a person at very high risk of developing diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Certain inflammatory conditions place you at risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
How Inflammation is Linked to Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome includes higher than normal cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, and higher than normal blood pressure. Many of these conditions can be directly related to inflammation in the body. Here are some examples.
Excess Weight. If a person is overweight (especially in the midsection), they likely have a high level of visceral fat. The body can see this excess fat as a threat, and begin to attack it to try to get rid of it. Unless the person loses the weight, the body will continue to attack the fat, placing the body in a state of constant, chronic inflammation.
Over time, that inflammation can spread and begin to attack healthy organs.
Insulin Resistance. While we most frequently associate type 2 diabetes with excess sugar intake, the problem may be deeper. Type 2 diabetes may be the result of chronic inflammation associated with obesity. This inflammation is essentially the same referenced above, where inflammation occurs in fatty tissue. This inflammation is thought to inhibit proper insulin response in the body, causing the person to experience a state of insulin resistance.
High Blood Pressure. High levels of inflammation have also been linked to increased blood pressure, increasing the likelihood a person will suffer a stroke. Researchers have found that as levels of blood pressure rose, levels of C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation in the body) also rose. There is still debate as to whether high blood pressure causes inflammation, or if inflammation causes high blood pressure.
High Cholesterol. Inflammation plays a hand in the development of high cholesterol as well. When someone suffers chronic inflammation, it alters their lipid metabolism, causing a decrease in their HDL (good cholesterol) levels and increases LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, placing the person at risk for developing cholesterol-related problems.
What You Can Do
A simple blood test can determine if your body is in a constant state of immune response or experiencing chronic inflammation. If your C-reactive protein levels are consistently high, there are changes you can make to help improve your health and potentially avoid metabolic syndrome and related illnesses.
One of the biggest factors for developing chronic inflammation is carrying excess weight, especially around the midsection. Losing weight means your body will carry less adipose (fat) tissue, which means your immune system can stop deploying white blood cells to attack it.
There are fad diets that claim to eliminate inflammation, but ensuring your diet is full of plant-based vitamins and nutrients is one of the biggest keys to improving your overall health. There’s no magic diet that will completely eliminate the inflammation in your body, but eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables can help you lose weight, and can give you what you need to maintain better health.
Take Pentadecanoic Acid
Pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0 (pronounced see-fifteen), is an odd-chain saturated fatty acid that a growing body of research suggests may be the first essential fatty acid to be discovered in 90 years.
This fatty acid has been shown to support the body’s healthy immunity. While even-chain saturated fatty acids are linked to negative health markers like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, odd-chain saturated fatty acids, like C15:0, are linked to lower risks of diseases and conditions, like:
The same organs and systems that suffer as a result of chronic inflammation are supported and strengthened by C15:0, making it a pretty important little fatty acid for inclusion in your diet. C15:0 dives deep into your cells, strengthening cell membranes and activating critical PPAR receptors that lower chronic inflammation so your cells are protected from external stressors.
If you’re wondering if you’re getting enough C15:0 in your diet, the answer is probably not.
C15:0 is found in trace levels in full-fat dairy products like whole milk and butter, which we’ve been avoiding for decades due to outdated dietary guidelines that have told us that all fat is bad for us. As a result, we’re a society dealing with massive amounts of inflammation and inflammation-related health problems while avoiding foods containing C15:0. The problem is, the same foods that contain small amounts of C15:0 also have much higher levels of even-chain saturated fatty acids (like, C16:0) that are associated with an increased risk of inflammation.
The solution? Improving your health at the cellular level by routinely taking C15:0. If you’re ready to give your cells a fighting chance, learn more here.
STEPHANIE VENN-WATSON, dvm, mph
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson is a veterinary epidemiologist dedicated to improving both human and animal health. Before co-founding Seraphina Therapeutics and Epitracker, Inc,. she worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense. Dr. Venn-Watson has over 70 peer-reviewed scientific publications and is an inventor on 40+ patents. Her dedication to discovering natural compounds to improve global health has been featured in/on Forbes, NPR Science Friday, PBS, National Geographic, BBC, and more.
ERIC VENN-WATSON, MD
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson is a physician, US Navy veteran and serial entrepreneur. Prior to Seraphina Therapeutics, Eric founded multiple companies in therapeutics discovery, healthcare analytics, and medical device industries as well as working in leadership roles in several life science companies.