Inflammation is your body’s natural healing process when injuries or infections occur. However, if inflammation becomes chronic, these same processes can lead to further tissue injury and damage.
Inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease, stroke or cancer are the number one cause of death worldwide. Therefore it is immensely important to keep inflammation in the body at bay.
The problem is though, that a lot of the time we don’t even know that our body is inflamed. Unlike a cold or other diseases where you feel that something is off in your body, you may not feel symptoms of inflammation even though the signs might have been there for a very long time already. Maybe you are chronically fatigued, have a puffy face, stiff joints and pain in your body. If you also suffer from high blood pressure, excess fat around the waste, allergies or headaches, you can be pretty sure your body is inflamed. These are just a few warning signs. For a more thorough list, have a read of this article.
Maybe you’re wondering now, how the heck to know for sure, if your body is inflamed. Let’s get into it and look at some important inflammatory markers.
Finding out if your body is inflamed is not easy and you have to know that any test is not diagnostic for any particular condition but can only give hints as to whether there is inflammation in your body or not.
To identify a generalized inflammatory state, a wide range of cell signaling proteins secreted by immune or other body cells as part of inflammation can be measured to see how inflammation affects your health.
A simple inflammation blood test can help your doctor to make an assumption about the level of inflammation in your body. So called inflammatory markers may be predictive of inflammatory diseases.
One inflammatory marker that is most commonly looked at in clinical practice is CRP or C-reactive protein. It is a protein that is made in your liver and increases with inflammation. As such, it can also reflect the severity of an inflammatory insult.
Elevated levels may indicate you have chronic inflammation. CRP is also linked with an increased risk of heart disease. A CRP concentration of higher than 3.0 mg/L indicates a high risk of heart problems according to the American Heart Association. During infection and inflammatory conditions though, levels can rise several hundred-fold. The normal C-reactive protein range should be below 3.0 mg/L. Once the cause of inflammation is resolved though, CRP levels fall quickly, so it’s a useful marker to monitor disease activity.
Measuring hs-CRP is another test to detect lower levels of the protein in the blood compared to the standard CRP test which measures CRP in a range from 10 to 1000 mg/L. The hs-CRP test measures the protein in a range from 0.5 to 10 mg/L.
Omega-6 fatty acid (Arachidonic Acid or AA) is a type of fat that belongs to the family of polyunsaturated fatty acids and it is a precursor to pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are molecules made by enzymatic or non-enzymatic oxidation of arachidonic acid and they are also called ‘local hormone’ as they act like hormones but don’t like to travel. Since omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, we don’t want to consume too much of these in order to keep inflammation in our body at bay.
Its antagonist is omega-3, which is an anti-inflammatory essential fatty acid as it generates anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. It’s important for us to have a good balance between omega-6 and omega-3. Unfortunately, keeping the right balance these days is getting more and more difficult. While our hunter-gatherer ancestors had a ratio of about 1:1, it’s not rare for people nowadays to have one of 1:25, in fact, it’s rather the norm. But the higher the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in the blood, the greater the level of silent inflammation in your body and various organs.
Another important marker to look at is the fasting blood sugar level. Ideally, you want one that is below 100. When blood sugar levels are too high or constantly fluctuating between high and low blood sugar levels, neuroinflammation aka inflammation of your brain may be the consequence. Therefor, and in order to avoid insulin resistance which may lead to elevated levels of CRP, it’s important to get your blood sugar levels tested.
Ferritin is the primary form of iron that is stored in your body’s cells and another marker to look at. It is mainly a leakage product from damaged cells and therefore an important inflammatory marker. However, it is not clear whether ferritin reflects inflammation or causes it.
Another important marker is your cholesterol. However, when we’re talking about cholesterol it is important to differentiate between HDL and LDL. HDL is the “good” cholesterol. One of its important functions is its anti-inflammatory properties. While LDL, the bad cholesterol, promotes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries that may cause heart attacks, strokes, and thrombosis), HDL helps transport excess cholesterol out of the arteries and can counteract an inflammatory reaction in damaged vessel walls. Ideally your HDL level should be 60 mg/dL or higher while LDL shouldn’t exceed 129 mg/dL.
An enzyme that is connected to inflammation of blood vessels and may therefore promote atherosclerosis is Lp-PLA2, which you might want to let that get checked, too.
Glycated hemoglobin or HbA1C is another marker you might want to look at as higher levels are associated with inflammation.
And finally, white blood cells: We’ve learned that white blood cells fight off infection, so you might think an elevated white blood cell count is a good thing. But it is not necessarily. It might also be an indication for chronic inflammation as well as stress, trauma, allergy or certain diseases.
Measuring inflammation in the body is a difficult task and most tests only give us vague hints as to the level of inflammation. However, they don’t tell us anything about the origin of the inflammation.
Still, as we so often don’t even realize that our body is inflamed, these tests can give us useful guidance and are the starting point to treat inflammation. Since inflammatory diseases are still top killers worldwide, it is important to treat them, for example with the right diet and an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
If you want to learn more about inflammation, I encourage you to get my free inflammation guide containing all the information in one little booklet including ideas for anti-inflammation meals.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that I am not a doctor or a medically trained person. What you're reading here is information that I researched and summarized to the best of my knowledge and processed it for your digest. Information stated on iamliesa is for educational purposes only, this information is not to replace advice from your health care practitioner. If you have any concerns about your health, always consult your general practitioner.