top of page
  • Writer's picturejlrosner

Understanding Inflammation, 1/3 by Jeanne Rosner, MD

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Have you ever been bitten by a mosquito? Had a cold? Stepped on a rusty nail? I am sure the answer is yes to having experienced at least one of these scenarios. You likely had a combination of some redness, swelling and pain–critically important reactions that occur in our body due to acute inflammation. These reactions are a sign that our body is protecting us from outside threats and danger.   

There are barriers in our skin, our respiratory tract and our digestive tract that help protect us from infection. Without these barriers of defense, we would constantly have a cold, or experience repeated food poisoning, etc. However, when these barriers do break down, the immune system steps in to safeguard us in the form of acute inflammation. We are able to see it, feel it and measure it as local heat, redness, swelling and pain. This is our body’s way of getting more nourishment and more immune activity into an area that needs to fend off infection and heal. Acute inflammation and the inflammatory response continue until the foreign material is eliminated and the wound is repaired; it is self-limiting and it resolves.

When inflammation persists for a long period of time and/or serves no purpose, it is called chronic inflammation. The outcome of chronic inflammation can be ongoing tissue damage and destruction (healthy neighboring tissue can be affected too), thickening and scarring of connective tissue and eventual death of cells and tissue.  

Chronic inflammation frequently goes unnoticed until serious disease is diagnosed. This chronic, often imperceptible, low-level inflammation appears to be the root cause of many grave illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative conditions (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, for instance), depression, asthma, allergies, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

Reducing the risk for chronic inflammation is the best health strategy for disease prevention. Chronic inflammation can be influenced by genetics but can be offset by:

  • Environmental changes 

  • Rest and good sleep habits

  • Social relationships

  • Maintaining an ideal body weight and avoiding obesity

  • Regular exercise

  • Stress reduction

  • Dietary changes

Environmental Toxins

Environmental toxins are everywhere: in our air, water, soil and household products. Reducing exposure to environmental toxins is important in lowering your risk of chronic inflammation.

Recommendations on limiting environmental toxin exposure:

  • Do not smoke cigarettes and avoid second-hand smoke

  • Use a water filter to remove potentially harmful toxins in your drinking water

  • Use glass containers (vs. plastic) when microwaving and for food storage to avoid transference of toxins from plastics

  • Make sure your home is well-ventilated

  • Use paints and sealants that contain low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and choose low-VOC carpeting

  • Buy organic produce or grow your own. This list by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is good to keep with you: The Dirty Dozen

  • Replace your HVAC filters every month or every few months to reduce indoor air pollutants

  • Purchase toiletries and other household products that are made with natural ingredients. Use baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar as safe alternatives. Here's another helpful guide from EWG: Guide to Healthy Cleaning

  • Add houseplants to help absorb formaldehyde, benzene and other indoor air pollutants

  • Choose non-toxic forms of pest control in your home

Sleep Hygiene

Rest and good sleep habits are imperative for cell rest and renewal, memory consolidation and metabolic health. Getting enough quality sleep can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety. Lack of sleep can increase stress hormones and CRP (C-reactive protein, which is a marker present in the blood indicating the presence of chronic inflammation). Sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on your heart health, brain function, kidneys and blood pressure, and it increases one's risk for diabetes, obesity and stroke.


  • Goal: sleep between 7-8 hours/night

  • Maintain regular sleep and wake times

  • No bright lights in bedroom

  • No electronic stimulation 2 hours before bedtime

  • IPads, computer screens, TVs and smartphones emit blue light, which poses a danger to sleep by preventing the natural release of melatonin

  • Move cell phones to another room

  • Make sure you can sleep through the night: avoid tossing and turning/ snoring/ pauses in breathing; make sure there is no sleep apnea

  • No napping during the day (if you do nap, keep it to less than 30 minutes)

  • Avoid caffeine after 12pm

  • Avoid alcohol within 3-4 hours of bed time

  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom in the cool range (65-70°F)

Social Relationships

Research has shown there is a strong link between social relationships and health outcomes. Adults who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer in comparison to their isolated peers. Poor quality of social ties has been associated with increased inflammatory biomarkers and impaired immune function, factors associated with adverse health outcomes and mortality.  

There is a strong need for humans to have social connection; in fact, our physiology demands contact. Through physical touch, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is known to reduce the stress response, calm us, lessen our perception of pain, increase romantic attachment and increase empathy.

In the next few posts I will continue the discussion of ways to reduce chronic inflammation. Stay tuned…


Jeanne Rosner, MD

Jeanne Rosner is a board-certified anesthesiologist who practiced pediatric anesthesia at Stanford Medical Center for nearly 20 years.

In 2011 she began teaching nutrition classes in her son’s 5th-grade science class. It was an “aha” moment for her. She realized that learning and teaching about nutrition, health and wellness in her community was her destiny. 

Since retiring from anesthesia, Jeanne has been a nutrition educator in the San Francisco Bay Area, at local middle and high schools. She teaches middle school children the importance of eating food closest to the source, making good food choices and eating in a balanced and moderate way. 

Dr. Rosner started SOUL (seasonal, organic, unprocessed, local) Food Salon in 2014. SOUL Food Salon’s mission is to educate and empower people to be healthier. She holds small gatherings (salons) at which experts in the health and wellness community share their knowledge on how to lead a healthier life.

To subscribe to the SOULFUL Insights health and wellness newsletter click here.

350 views0 comments


bottom of page