What is Inflammation and How Can it be Hidden?

Inflammation is one of the ways that your body has to heal itself. When you scrape your knee or burn your hand, the red puffy inflammatory response helps to rally your immune system to repair the damage. This process is healthy and totally appropriate!

Sometimes Inflammation Turns Bad…

But lots of people have chronic inflammation that is activated even when there isn’t any immediate damage to repair. It’s like the body’s emergency response system has been tricked and is on high alert all the time. This type of response can be somewhat tricky to spot, though, which is why it’s often called “hidden inflammation”.

Hidden inflammation

  • doesn’t have an obvious single cause like a cut, scrape or bruise
  • lasts much longer, often lingering for months or even years
  • is reactive to your lifestyle so a change in diet or location or general lifestyle habits might increase or decrease the inflammatory response

This last one is great news because if you can identify that you have hidden inflammation, you can absolutely take steps to reduce or even eliminate it! And following through with this might even add months or perhaps years to your life!


Why is Hidden Inflammation Dangerous?

Hidden inflammation (also referred to as chronic inflammation) is a major contributor to the epidemic of chronic disease in modern culture.



“What few people understand is that hidden inflammation run amok is at the root of all chronic illness we experience — conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, depression, cancer, and even autism.”

-Dr Mark Hyman, Is Your Body Burning Up with Hidden Inflammation


So the question remains, how do you know if you have hidden inflammation?



Signs of Hidden Inflammation


Any Diagnosed Chronic Disease

Here is a quick giveaway, super clear sign that you have hidden inflammation. This is because chronic diseases are highly correlated with inflammatory responses in the body. Addressing the underlying inflammatory process will not only help your current disease process but also prevent further damage to other body systems.

It could even potentially prevent additional chronic diseases from forming within your body as many chronic diseases have high rates of co-morbidity (the likelihood of developing an additional condition related the first one).


Chronic Fatigue or Low Energy

If you struggle with feeling tired or run down a lot, it can be a sign of chronic hidden inflammation. Brain fog is commonly associated with this as well.

If you are using many of your resources being on “high alert” for what your body is interpreting as intruders during an ongoing inflammatory response, it makes sense that your energy is going to be somewhat spent.

I think of it like a computer running a really heavy background program where the screen keeps freezing and your mouse keeps turning to that frustrating timer icon to let you know to be patient. That’s like your brain when you are spending most of your cellular energy trying to fight off a perceived (but not real) threat.


Joint Pain or Stiffness

Whether you have arthritis all the time or just have some general morning time aches and discomfort, this is a sign of chronic inflammation. This can include things like

  • plantar fasciitis (occasionally this is a problem otherwise healthy people without hidden inflammation will experience, but if it persists for more than about a month without excessive aggravation to it, it’s a sign of ongoing and prolonged inflammatory response being active)
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • hip bursitis
  • general aches and pains in your joints when you move too much or not enough or when the atmospheric pressure builds before it rains

Healthy, well nourished joints that are not inflamed are generally without cracking sounds, not painful to move through a normal movement pattern, stable during movement and at the end of a hard activity the muscles may feel fatigued but the joint should not be painful.


Acne, Reddish or Flushed Complexion

Cheeks that are always rosy, flushed or littered with chronic acne that is difficult to manage are signs of inflammation hiding in the body.

For sure you are familiar with the idea that eating a poor diet can show up on your skin. It’s an inflammatory response. But ongoing skin problems can indicate something deeper than just a night or two of bad food choices.

Often it can indicate that the liver is inflamed trying to filter out toxins. This can certainly be related to an ongoing poor diet, but there could be other triggers!

The reddish complexion is very much a commonality in people with alcoholism, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and people who just consume too much sugar and other toxins.


Digestive Issues

Diarrhea, constipation, bloating and water retention can all be signs of hidden inflammation.

While some of this occasionally is fairly common, if you are struggling with these symptoms daily, you likely have hidden inflammation going on!

How does inflammation influence your digestion? Simple… when your body is inflamed it’s operating very much from the fight-or-flight response to stressors. A part of this unconscious patterning turns down your digestive efforts to help you escape when you really are in danger.

In all honesty, there are several more mechanisms at play here, but this reasoning is one that gives an overview of several issues going on and isn’t too technical… because let’s be real – you shouldn’t have to have a doctorate degree in human physiology… you just need enough to help you feel like you know how to take the next step on your health journey!


Poor Relationship to Food

If you find yourself craving certain foods (especially sweet and low nutrient foods like cookies or doughnuts) or binge eating, you likely have some hidden inflammation.

This might actually be pointing you not just to the fact that you have hidden inflammation but it might be hinting at some of the reason for the inflammation – when we eat a poor diet with low nutrition quality, we crave less nutritious foods. This “feeds” into a cycle of guilt and frustration that also increases the inflammatory response. 

Elevated Cardiac Markers

If your blood pressure or cholesterol is high, you probably have some chronic inflammation lurking somewhere.

Your blood pressure will naturally rise when your body is stressed, and inflammation is stressful! Also your cholesterol which is created in your liver will increase production if it believes there is an infection or injury that needs to be healed, leaving you with a higher cholesterol.

These remain elevated if you don’t learn how to manage your hidden inflammation. But the great news is that directly addressing the inflammation will likely normalize these markers, possibly without any medications needed!

Do You Think You Have Hidden Inflammation?

You certainly don’t have to have all of these symptoms to have hidden inflammation, but if you have more than 2 or 3 you probably would benefit from trying to reduce your inflammatory levels. Be sure to check out my post on how to reduce hidden inflammation, which is scheduled for release on Monday, April 2nd. It will give you a few ideas that are a great starting point for anyone with a high level of inflammation.


If you have other questions or comments, be sure to type them out in the comment section below or hit that contact button in the top right hand corner if you want to shoot me a private email.