Did you know that inflammation can actually be a good thing? I know, we don’t ever really hear inflammation being mentioned in a good light, but inflammation is actually needed by the body for some processes. For example, when you get a cut or injure yourself, a part of that healing process requires release of certain molecules from your immune system that leads to inflammation. So, acute inflammation such as in the case of your getting a cut, is beneficial. On the flip side, there is chronic inflammation, which is commonly associated with autoimmune diseases and other health conditions such as high cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes, estrogen dominance and even having excess body fat.
Now you might not even know you have chronic inflammation, because it can present in many different ways, such as:
- Low Back Pain
- Memory Problems
- Muscle Weakness
- Tight, painful and swollen joints
Given that it can present in many ways, I like to use lab testing and blood work to properly assess inflammation levels.
Key Labs for Assessing Inflammation:
- Homocysteine: an amino acid, that is used as a building block for other chemicals in your body. When this amino acid starts to accumulate in the body it led to inflammation particularly among cardiovascular system (1).
- C-Reactive Protein: measures levels of a protein that is produced by your liver in response to inflammation
- Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate: assess inflammation based on how much your red blood cells stick together. During periods of inflammation, your red blood cells will have a tendency to stick together, causing this value to be elevated.
- Ferritin: ferritin is the storage form of iron, but when it is elevated, it can also indicate acute inflammation in the body. For example, being high during a Lupus or Hashimoto’s flare up for example.
As with anything, we always seek for optimal levels. Chronic inflammation can have devastating effects on your health, such as: diabetes, heart disease and even cancer (2). Checking inflammation markers should be a part of your yearly screening as it is better to stay ahead of things.
Cleveland Clinic (Ed.). (2021, May 7). Homocysteine: Levels, tests, high homocysteine levels. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved June 12, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21527-homocysteine
The causes and effects of inflammation. El Camino Health. (2022, June 8). Retrieved June 12, 2022, from https://www.elcaminohealth.org/stay-healthy/blog/causes-effects-of-inflammation