Is inflammation sending your health up in flames?

Long-term or chronic inflammation is the basis for the development of chronic illness, and something I’ve previously discussed more than once, because it’s just that important…

I firmly believe that quelling that inflammation can help you live healthier longer. So, the earlier you find out if inflammation is burning up your health, the better.

There are tests your physician can use to determine if inflammation is what’s making you sick or causing symptoms that have left you (and him) baffled, and I laid out a few of them in my last post.

But there are seven blood markers of inflammation as well as intestinal markers of inflammation that you should also ask your doctor to check out…

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Seven blood tests for inflammation

 I previously wrote to you about these blood markers of inflammation:

C-reactive protein (CRP), plasma viscosity, serum ferritin, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), and fasting Insulin.

Although there are more than some 78 inflammation-related biomarkers, here are seven additional important blood tests that indicate systemic consequences of inflammation and clinical disease activity.  Consider discussing them with your doctor.

White blood cell (WBC) count

The CBC (complete blood cell) test measures the white blood cells (WBCs), also called leukocytes, and several other parameters of your blood cells. Leukocytes (WBCs) increase in your blood in response to infection or inflammation such as trauma. Extremely elevated WBCs indicates a form of leukemia.

There are several types of white blood cells that give us clues to underlying illness:

  • Neutrophils rise with bacterial infections of any kind, and recent trauma
  • Lymphocytes rise in viral infections typically of acute nature (influenza, etc.)
  • Basophils elevate in allergic/hypersensitivity conditions, parasites, or leukemia
  • Monocytes rise in chronic infections, viral infections (mumps, measles, Epstein-Barr Virus and other viruses), autoimmune diseases, cancers, tuberculosis, and more.
  • Eosinophils rise with chronic allergies or parasite infection.

Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies

TPO antibodies are found when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid. This starts when T lymphocytes (white blood cells) invade thyroid gland tissue.  This causes a silent and painless inflammation that triggers TPO antibodies to form which then block important thyroid-specific proteins such as thyroid peroxidase. This gradually destroys the thyroid tissue.

Interleukin 1 (IL-1)

Interleukins are “proinflammatory” cell-signaling protein molecules in our body associated with acute and chronic inflammation. There are 11 members of the Interleukin 1 family.  In particular, IL-1β has become a therapeutic target (they make drugs against it) for auto-immune inflammatory diseases. Apparently, neutralizing IL-1β causes a rapid and sustained lowering of disease severity, works different than immunosuppressive drugs.

Interleukin 6 (IL-6)

Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is produced naturally in your body in response to infections, tissue injuries, and the need for more red blood cell production. There are many functions for IL-6, but to name a few, it affects the delicate balance of your hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands (“HPA axis”) and is associated with central obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance (of type-2 diabetes). It is involved in the inflammation behind coronary heart disease. Elevated IL-6 correspond with relapse of Crohn’s disease.

Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF- α)

Tumor necrosis factor (a.k.a. cachexin or cachectin) is a cytokine found in systemic inflammation of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and depression.  Infliximab (Remicade) is a drug that treats some of these autoimmune conditions by its action against TNF- α.

Red blood cell distribution width (RDW)

RDW is a strong predictor of mortality in the general population. Higher RDW values are strongly associated with increased risk of death compared to the lowest quintile of RDW measurements in adults aged 45 and older.

Serum amyloid A

Serum amyloid A increases in response to tissue injury and inflammation in the body.

In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, elevation of this biomarker is associated with both joint inflammation and the risk of heart disease and kidney disease.  When persistently elevated, serum amyloid A increases deposition of amyloid proteins in different tissues and organs (a.k.a. amyloidosis).

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Two markers of intestinal inflammation

There are two markers of inflammation in your stool your doctor can order, which indicate intestinal inflammation.

Fecal Calprotectin

Fecal calprotectin is a protein measurable in stool. Elevated calprotectin indicates neutrophil (WBC involved with bacterial infections) migration to the intestinal lining. This occurs with inflammatory bowel disease. The higher the level of fecal calprotectin, the more intestinal inflammation you have. Consider the many chronic disease states significantly related to ongoing intestinal hyper-permeability condition known as Leaky Gut.

Fecal Lactoferrin

Lactoferrin can be used to help determine the level of inflammation in your intestines.

The lactoferrin protein is released by neutrophils (WBC involved with bacterial infections) when digestive tract inflammation is present. This is measured in your stool.

Although all of these tests for markers of inflammation do not point to any specific disease condition, they could guide you with the effectiveness of your anti-inflammatory diet and anti-inflammatory lifestyle, and help you make changes that could keep you disease free.


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Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.