What Are Inflammatory Markers, And Why You Should Check Them
Chronic inflammation is a type of slow, long-term and damaging inflammation that lasts for a prolonged period of time. It may last from several months, up to many years – and you may not be aware that you’re experiencing it. In the modern world, such low-grade inflammation starts in childhood and lasts until the end of life (generally speaking).
This type of inflammation is hard to discover. You likely won’t see swelling like you would around a cut or a bruise. Instead, you may simply feel sore, have achy muscles, or may feel fatigued. Most noncommunicable (you can’t ‘catch’ it) diseases are due to this phenomenon.
Keep reading to learn more about low-grade and chronic inflammation, what your inflammatory markers are, and how to get them tested:
The Harmful Effects Of Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is actually a response from your immune system. In a healthy, well-balanced system, inflammation is used to fight infection and maintain proper systems operations. This will cause acute swelling that protects recently injured areas from further damage, isolates healthy cells from damaged ones, and is used to remove illnesses and viruses from the body.
But when inflammation goes unchecked, it can lead to a host of health issues. One example study asserts that “systemic chronic inflammation” can lead to deadly diseases like heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, kidney disease, and more.
The worst part about chronic inflammation is that often, its symptoms go unnoticed. Actually, the symptoms are noticed, but usually the root cause is never diagnosed. This can then lead to serious health problems across the lifespan.
How To Tell If You Have Chronic Inflammation
Since it’s nearly impossible to determine whether or not you’re experiencing chronic, low-grade inflammation by looking in a mirror or assessing how you feel (many of the symptoms of this type of inflammation can also point to other types of illness,) you should consider taking a blood test. Blood testing for chronic inflammation is in its infancy, but there are some markers that are available and might even be covered by your insurance. These are the most common blood tests you can take:
CRP (High sensitivity) tests serum levels of CRP (C-reactive protein)
C-reactive proteins are also called “acute phase” proteins. The level of CRP in your blood increases when you have certain diseases that can cause inflammation – like sepsis, autoimmunity, and even certain cancers. This marker is now used to assess risk of cardiac disease too.
Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is an inflammatory protein produced by a variety of immune cells. It plays a role in regulating immune responses – so it’s a good way to tell if your immune system has been activated. This protein can be elevated in the presence of inflammation, infection, autoimmunity, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers. IL-6 exists within the ‘pro-inflammatory’ group of cytokines.
TNF-alpha stands for “Tumor necrosis factor-alpha.” This is a cytokine (inflammatory protein) involved in physiological processes that control inflammation, homeostasis, and anti-tumor responses. If this level is high, it’s pointing to a high level of inflammatory cytokines. This protein is often elevated in the face of autoimmune disorders.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate) is a test that measures the amount of inflammation present in the body. It measures the rate of sedimentation of red blood cells (how many “settle”) at the bottom of a thin, vertical tube. These cells settle faster if there are high levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood. The ESR is a great method of screening for inflammation but is not very specific.
A hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test measures the amount of blood sugar (glucose) in your red blood cells that has been present for the past three months. It shows the average amount of glucose attached to hemoglobin (the part of your red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body,) and is a good indicator of diabetes. If your levels are high, you may be at risk of diabetes, which can lead to concerning conditions like nerve damage. The A1C is actually measuring the amount of advanced glycated end-products that have attached to red blood cells. AGE is a marker of oxidative stress and low-grade inflammation. AGE is also considered a measure of ‘metabolic memory’ and can be used to show overall stress on the system.
This test measures the amount of homocysteine, a type of amino acid, in your blood. Your body uses homocysteine to make proteins. Vitamins B12 and B6, along with folic acid help convert homocysteine into what your body needs, so there should be little homocysteine left in your body. If you have higher levels than normal, it could be a sign of vitamin deficiency or heart disease. This serum level will denote either vitamin deficiency or elevated levels of inflammation. Certain anti-inflammatory compounds have been shown to decrease serum levels of homocysteine (resveratrol, aspirin, salicylic acid).
Ask For Support
If you want to make serious changes in your health and wellness, it’s always a good idea to bring a functional wellness team into the mix.
Our team of experts can help assess your current level of fitness, identify what changes to your diet and routines you can make to support a healthier lifestyle, and set you up with inflammatory marker testing and provide recommendations to reduce inflammation.
Click below to schedule your appointment today: