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Acute inflammation — the kind you experience temporarily when you have an injury — is the pathway to healing.
The swelling and redness may seem concerning, but it’s your body’s immune response going into action to repair the damage.
Chronic inflammation, however, is another story…
Long-term or chronic inflammation is the basis for the development of every major chronic illness.
There are inflammatory foods and inflammatory lifestyle habits that play a huge role in chronic disease. There are also blood tests to measure forms of inflammation that you can be tested for. Considering the damaging effects and ties to disease, doing anything you can to avoid or decrease chronic inflammation could be lifesaving…
What are “inflammatory foods”? First off, cooked food in general is known to be inflammatory.
A study done by the Swiss doctor, Paul Kouchakoff, M.D. entitled, The Influence of Food Cooking on the Blood Formula of Man, was presented in Paris at the First International Congress of Microbiology in 1930. Dr. Kouchakoff showed that eating cooked food causes the human body to have a white blood cell reaction, similar to a leukocytosis reaction that occurs when you get a bacterial or viral infection. This was termed a “digestive leukocytosis.”
He demonstrated that the most inflammatory reaction occurred when subjects ingested foods that were manufactured, processed, or have chemical preservatives or dyes added. However, when his subjects ingested raw, unaltered, nutrient-rich whole food, or food heated at low temperature — the leukocytosis did not occur.
Food is the best place to start to decrease inflammation. Here is my list of “inflammatory” foods that immensely contribute to chronic disease. I also call this my “foods to avoid,” especially for those of you who are battling any chronic illness:
- Refined sweeteners such as sugar, dextrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup and fruit juices
- White flour products, white rice, sugared breakfast cereals; snack foods like the reduced-fat “baked” potatoes, corn-chips, cookies, pretzels and crackers
- Foods fried in hydrogenated oils (these are high in trans-fat)
- Foods fried in liquid vegetable oils (soy, corn, safflower, canola, cottonseed)
- Pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized milk (low fat milk, skim milk, powdered milk or imitation milk products)
Also consider eliminating these inflammatory foods:
- Luncheon meats and sausage
- Factory-farmed eggs, meats and fish
- Canned fruits and vegetables
- Genetically modified foods (most soy, canola and corn products)
- Artificial food additives (e.g. MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, aspartame)
- Soups, sauces, broth mixes and condiments that (most do) contain MSG
- Aluminum-containing foods: commercial salt, baking powder, antacids, aluminum cookware, deodorants with aluminum
Inflammatory lifestyle habits
It isn’t just foods, but there are other lifestyle habits that are inflammatory:
- Smoking or vaping; or chronic second-hand smoke
- Emotional stress that is sustained or repeated
- Electromagnetic radiation that is excessive (e.g. cell phone use all day long)
- Sleep deprivation or over-working chronically
- Constipation – chronically
- Sedentary lifestyle
Blood tests for chronic inflammation
If you suspect chronic inflammation is making you sick, you can be tested for inflammation markers in your blood that reflect the systemic consequences of inflammation. Let’s look closer at these…
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein produced in your liver which elevates with inflammation or trauma. Although this is a cardiovascular risk assessment test, it has also been used to monitor inflammatory bowel disease (i.e. Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis), arthritis, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It correlates with worsening of the neurodegenerative diseases Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Since we know many of the causes of inflammation described earlier, CRP can expose the need to dig deeper in search and elimination of these causes.
Plasma viscosity measures your blood thickness and is affected by proteins which get generated in response to infection or inflammation. Measuring plasma viscosity can indirectly detect abnormally-produced proteins (i.e. fibrinogen, immunoglobulins) of certain disease states such as cancer. It correlates well with the presence of celiac disease and subacute bacterial endocarditis.
Serum Ferritin is the storage form of iron and also an important inflammatory disease marker. It is mainly a leakage product from damaged cells and correlates with the presence and/or severity of numerous diseases. It is an acute phase reactant and can indicate inflammation, chronic infection, liver disease, autoimmune disorders and even some types of cancer.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) detects the presence of inflammation in your body by any condition such as infection, cancer, autoimmune disease. It is commonly used to monitor conditions such as temporal arteritis, systemic vasculitis, polymyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis. The ESR is not diagnostic of anything in particular, just inflammation.
Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is a three month “look back” at your blood sugar levels. Hemoglobin is the protein of red blood cells that attach to and carry oxygen throughout your body. The life of a red blood cell is approximately 3 months. In this test, sugar that is stuck to these proteins correlates with your “average” blood sugar levels—for the previous 3 months. Elevated blood sugar has a host of ramifications, including diabetes mellitus.
Fasting insulin is an early indicator of abnormal blood sugar metabolism, even before you will find elevated blood sugar levels, a pre-diabetes state. One common association is between insulin resistance, obesity, and low-grade chronic inflammation.
In my next article lets look at seven more important blood tests that indicate inflammation, and also a few markers of intestinal inflammation.
To long term health and feeling good,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
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- The Influence of Food Cooking on the Blood Formula of Man — Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research
- Bradlow BA, Haggan JM. A comparison of the plasma viscosity and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate as screening tests. — South African Medical Journal. 1979 Mar 17;55(11):415-20. PubMed PMID: 432746.
- Kell DB, Pretorius E. Serum ferritin is an important inflammatory disease marker, as it is mainly a leakage product from damaged cells. — Metallomics. 2014 Apr;6(4):748-73. PubMed PMID: 24549403.