One of the things that we find all the time in our patients is that they have more inflammation than is healthy. If you look at current studies, and research articles on health, you will see that inflammation is a big part of just about all disease processes, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and many others.
Inflammatory markers and all-cause mortality:
In fact, if we can figure out how much inflammation the person has, and what the inflammation is caused by, so that we can correct it, often times we can make substantial improvements, or even reverse the above chronic diseases!
Most people when they come into our office will say “I know I’m inflamed.” In response, I’ll ask them “how do you know, and how much do you have?“ So most people will respond along the lines of “well, I know I have pain here,” or, “I don’t know, I just know I do.”
Basically, what they’re saying is that they know they have inflammation, but they can’t really quantify it.
This is a good start though. And they are usually not wrong. Identifying the problem is always the first step in a solution. Now I’m going to show you an easy way to quantify just how much inflammation you have so that it can be handled appropriately.
If you’ve read any of my other blogs, I like to show what’s happening in the body in black-and-white with lab testing. Inflammation is no different. While there are many, many ways to show inflammation in the body using blood testing, these are the labs that show it best, are the most common, are commonly accepted by medical standards, and easy to see progress with.
Hs-CRP is a protein produced in the liver and blood vessels that rises in response to inflammation. HS-CRP is short for “high sensitivity c-reactive protein”. HS-CRP levels can be increased in later stages of pregnancy, with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, heart conditions, blood vessel inflammation, infection, and non-specific inflammation. I have also seen hs-CRP levels elevated in vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies and blood sugar issues.
When hs-CRP is elevated, you must first fix any blood sugar issues, second, fix any vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and third, find and handle any infections. Keep in mind that these infections may also be in the teeth, gut, or other organs, not just obvious infections like colds, flu, viral infections, Lyme disease, and such. For optimal health, we’d like to see this marker below one. As an aside, I watch HS-CRP like a hawk when it’s elevated. Clinical studies show that elevated HS-CRP levels are highly associated with either diagnosed or impending heart disease. I see it as a big red flag and make a concerted effort to lower it naturally.
Hs-CRP and Mortality Risk:
Sed rate-erythrocyte sedimentation rate, or ESR, measures the speed at which red blood cells clump or aggregate together in a one-hour process. A tube of blood is calibrated so that the amount of settling can clearly be seen. The result is expressed as millimeters per hour. The rate of sedimentation is affected by the number of red blood cells. The ESR is an effective screening test for tissue inflammation and destruction. For optimum health, the SED rate should be under 8 mm/h. When this marker is elevated, you must go on a search to find out where the inflammation and tissue destruction is taking place. It’s a good screening marker, but not a good diagnostic marker. In other words, it will tell you if you have inflammation, and how much, but not where.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that occurs in the body as an intermediate in the metabolism of methionine and cysteine (two other essential amino acids). Elevated homocysteine levels may be associated with atherosclerosis, increased risk, and heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, as well as Alzheimer’s disease. Elevated homocysteine levels are associated with B6, B9, B12, as well as methyl donors such as betaine and trimethylglycine deficiencies. Elevated homocysteine levels are pretty easy to handle with Cataplex B12, Folic Acid B12, and betaine supplements such as Betafood or AF Betafood, all from Standard Process, as well as handling any other source of inflammation in the body, such as blood sugar dysregulation, chronic infections, and other toxins such as metal toxicity (notice a theme here-blood sugar and hidden infections are a major problem!). For optimal health, homocysteine levels should be below seven. Once again, any homocysteine level over about 10 I watch like a hawk. Clinical studies show that levels over 16 are highly associated with poor cardiovascular disease outcomes.
Supplements for Homocysteine Support:
Ferritin is an intracellular iron-containing protein complex. Classically, it has been used to assess iron deficiency and iron excess. However, ferritin is what is called a “dual marker”. In other words, it can test for iron deficiency or iron excess, but it also tends to elevate when there’s inflammation in the body. If ferritin is elevated, along with the other markers for inflammation, the most likely thing is that the person has inflammation, not necessarily iron excess. Like HS-CRP, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate, when ferritin is high, you must find the source of the inflammation, and handle it. As an aside, if ferritin is low, it always seems to show that the person is iron deficient. For optimal levels, ferritin should be between 30 and 70.
BLOOD SUGAR MARKERS
Even though blood sugar markers are not classically used to assess for inflammation, I can tell you that every person who has blood sugar dysregulation also has inflammation. I will also tell you that if you have blood sugar dysregulation, your inflammation will never be alleviated.
I’ve done many other blogs on blood sugar, and other videos as well, so take a look at them. Just to reiterate the blood sugar markers we use most commonly are: fasting glucose, which should be below 85 for optimal health; fasting insulin, which should be below eight for optimal health; H-A1c, which should be below 5.4% for optimal health; and HOMA-IR, which should be below two for optimal health. Once again, I would urge you to look again at my blog and video on how to assess for and handle blood sugar problems.
So, once you know how much inflammation you have, implement a program to handle it. Keep in mind that without handling blood sugar problems, your inflammation will never be fixed, so make that your first priority. If you have inflammation, make sure to reassess it at least once every 3 months until it is fixed, then have a complete blood test re-evaluation at least once per year.
To Your Health!
Dr. Keith Sheehan