Everyone knows that inflammation is the body’s biological response to pathogens, injury, and other harmful stimuli. It is our body’s way of protecting itself. However, when the inflammation doesn’t go away, it becomes a problem. In general, inflammation is a good thing when it occurs to help us heal and prevent more injury. It is there to help us and give us a signal that something is wrong.
WHAT IS INFLAMMATION?
There are two types of inflammation. The first is acute inflammation. This type comes quickly and leaves quickly- usually within a few days. It helps our bodies fight viruses, bacteria, and damaged cells. This is very helpful.
The second type is chronic inflammation. This is systemic inflammation and can last for months or even years. Some things that can contribute to this type of inflammation are environmental toxins, excess weight, stress, and inflammatory foods.
WHAT IS ASSOCIATED WITH CHRONIC INFLAMMATION?
These days, there are so many people with chronic inflammation and this is not a good situation. In fact, inflammation has been linked to almost every major health problem! It prevents optimal function of your body at the cellular level, which promotes disease and slows healing. It is at the root of most, if not all, diseases including heart disease, ALS, and cancer. It can also increase your risk for aging, diabetes, lung issues, increased bone loss/lack of bone growth, weight gain, and depression.
Autoimmune diseases are also a result of inflammation. In this case, the body’s immune system triggers an inflammatory response and attacks its own body as if it were the enemy.
Inflammation also affects mitochondria- the powerhouses of the cells in your body. Mitochondria make energy for the cells to do their job and function. Chronic inflammation damages mitochondria, which decreases your body’s ability to function and heal leading to the mitochondria stealing energy from all the other systems in the body.
With most health challenges, it is extremely important to test and retest inflammatory markers. This will help to detect specific targets as well as monitor progress. Luckily, there are some blood tests that you can do to help you determine the level of inflammation in your body and monitor it. It is critical to test for inflammation and monitor it because sometimes you cannot always “feel” or “know” it is there.
The best tests for monitoring inflammation are C-Reactive Protein, Red Blood Cell Width, HgA1C, Serum Ferritin, and Fasting Insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced and stored in the pancreas. It helps your body get glucose from the blood to the cells. When your body detects a rise in blood sugar, the pancreas releases insulin.
Our bodies need some insulin to be circulating in the body at all times, however, there is a sweet spot. Too high or too low insulin levels are problematic. Too high insulin levels can be a sign of insulin resistance and diabetes. Insulin resistance means your body has a decreased ability to respond to insulin and therefore makes more, which increases the inflammatory response in the body.
HEMOGLOBIN A1C (HbA1C)
HbA1C is a measure of how much glucose in the blood over the past three months. This is one of the top test used to look at a person’s inflammation. It is reported in a percentage and the higher the percentage, the higher a person’s blood glucose has been.
This test is used to detect diabetes and prediabetes as well as monitor the blood glucose of a diabetic person over time. A high HbA1C means chronically elevated blood glucose, which can damage the body’s organs.
C-REACTIVE PROTEIN (CRP)
CRP is a protein in the liver and this test is used to look at the inflammation in the body. This marker will increase with inflammation or trauma and decrease when inflammation or trauma decrease. This test can also be helpful in diagnosing and monitoring chronic inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and psychological issues.
This blood test measures the level of ferritin in the body, which is a blood cell protein that stores iron. Low levels of ferritin indicate an iron deficiency, which causes anemia, a reduction in the number of red blood cells. High levels of serum ferritin can indicate liver disease, inflammation, chronic infection, autoimmune diseases, and some types of cancer. Similar to CRP, serum ferritin also increases or decreases according to inflammation, making it helpful in detecting chronic diseases.
RED BLOOD CELL WIDTH (RDW)
This test is excellent for detecting inflammation and looks at overall inflammation and oxidative stress. This measures the variation in size of the red blood cells that make up the total red blood cells. Red blood cells start out quite large, but then decrease in width as they mature. This is a more optimal size for the red blood cells to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the cells. An elevated RDW can be associated with many diseases including cardiovascular events and macrocytic anemia.
Inflammation is a signal that your body is giving you. Acute inflammation is a good thing as your body is healing and protecting itself. However, chronic inflammation can linger in the body for long periods of time and this is detrimental to your health. Chronic inflammation is associated with pretty much all diseases. The best blood tests to do to check your inflammation are Fasting Insulin, Hemoglobin A1C, C-Reactive Protein, Serum Ferritin, and Red Blood Cell Width. These tests will give you insight as to what is happening in your body and what might be in store for you down the road. For this reason, it is very important to monitor these.
Have you had any of these tests done before?