Welcome, warriors of the autoimmune community! Buckle up, because today we’ll be diving into the world of blood tests for inflammation and why it’s crucial to know your numbers.
When it comes to autoimmune diseases, inflammation is the ultimate supervillain, wreaking havoc on your body and causing all sorts of chaos.
But fear not, my fellow superheroes, because knowing your inflammation levels is like having a secret weapon in the fight against this nasty foe.
So grab your lab results, put on your best cape, and let’s explore the importance of monitoring inflammation levels for all you autoimmune warriors!
What Is Chronic Inflammation And Why Is It A Bad Thing?
Inflammation is a natural part of the body’s response to injury and stress. Acute inflammation helps to fight off infection and heal damaged cells. However, chronic inflammation can lead to symptoms that make everyday life a living hell!
Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system is constantly in overdrive, causing damage to your body’s cells and tissues.
Some common symptoms may include pain, swelling, stiffness, brain fog, and weight gain. Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to more serious health problems, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. You may also experience fatigue, a weakened immune system, skin issues, mood swings, and digestive issues.
If you have an autoimmune disease or suspect that you may have one, inflammation can cause uncomfortable and even painful symptoms. It’s important to understand the difference between normal inflammation and chronic inflammation so that you can get the right treatment for your condition.
While inflammation is a natural response to injury or illness, it can become chronic if left untreated. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to speak with your functional medicine practitioner to determine the underlying cause and get the proper treatment. Blood tests for inflammation are one tool to help you do this.
Which Blood Tests For Inflammation Should I Do?
Here are 5 tests you should request your doctor to do to check chronic inflammation.
- C-reactive Protein (CRP) test: CRP is a substance that your body produces in response to inflammation. Basically, when there is inflammation in your body, your liver makes more CRP and releases it into your bloodstream. The CRP test measures the degree of hidden inflammation in your body and is often significantly elevated in those of us with autoimmune issues. Your ideal goal is < 1 mg/L.
- Liver Function Test (LFT): If you suspect that you may have inflammation in your body, it’s essential to get a liver function test done. Your liver is a vital organ that helps filter out toxins and waste from your body. This test helps measure liver damage from inflammation. A liver function test involves checking several markers–alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) that assess how well your liver is functioning. These markers identify the death of liver cells often due to a fatty liver.
- Fibrinogen: Fibrinogen is a protein that’s produced by the liver and plays an important role in blood clotting. When you have inflammation, your body produces more fibrinogen in response to the inflammation signals. This test measures the level of fibrinogen in your blood, which can help indicate the severity of inflammation in your body. Your ideal goal is < 350 mg/dl.
- Ferritin: Ferritin is a protein in your blood that stores iron. It’s important to test for ferritin levels if you think you have inflammation because ferritin is also an acute-phase reactant, meaning that it increases in response to inflammation in the body. If you have high levels of ferritin, it could be a sign of infection or chronic disease. Your ideal goal is 200 ng/ml.
- Functional Stool Test: A happy gut = a healthy body. If you want to really know what’s going on in your gut, a functional stool test is a great way to find out. Most conventional stool tests check for common parasites and bacterial infections. But a functional stool test gives you really valuable info on your digestive enzyme function, pancreatic enzyme activity, and inflammation markers, as well as checking for a broader range of pathogenic bacteria, parasites, yeast plus friendly bacteria, and short-chain fatty acids (markers of the health of your gut lining).
Should I Do Labs On My Own Or Work With A Doctor?
Today, there are a lot of direct-to-consumer options meaning you can order a lab test yourself. These address one issue, the frustration many have at not having access to a practitioner who can or is willing to use better testing.
They also are companies with big marketing dollars that make it seem like one test – theirs – will give you all the answers you need.
Some even then go the next step and sell you supplements or food programs. The issue with these tests is that even if they have a practitioner on their staff (a human, not a computer) review your results, they are not getting you the information you need which can be unhelpful or dangerous.
They may send you a beautiful report, and you may feel like you are getting really helpful insights, but you aren’t getting to the root cause of WHY your labs are off (low, high, etc.) their norms, and you are being judged against their lab norms which may not be at all related to who you are today.
For example, maybe someone has digestive issues, and just as it showed in the commercials, she’s been trying different ways to address them (on her own) and is at her wit’s end.
Then she does a stool test on her own which is so easy and way cheaper than working with a practitioner and their test (per the commercial again).
And she gets her results and it says ALMONDS are a big problem! And she’s so happy because she eats almonds, almond butter, almond flour, etc. all the time as she’s been avoiding gluten and grains so this makes so much sense.
Now she is going to avoid almonds and is so much better! How awesome is it that with just one test she can fix years of digestive issues?
But she didn’t fix them and she removed another food, making her body even further nutrient depleted, and she didn’t figure out that her digestive tract lining needs repair work – that’s the real issue!
If left untreated her digestive issues will worsen and present as other issues such as skin issues, fatigue, or even autoimmune disease.
Should My Lab Goal Be Within Normal Range?
On almost every lab test, the results are shown as related to a standard range or the presence or absence of something.
It follows that a good goal would then be to be “within range” and what is often called “normal”. Normal values or ranges are often established by looking at population groups that you or I might not even fit into.
For example, historically lab ranges were based on large groups of men and what their bodies contained when healthy. Not helpful for like half the population!!
So as you and your practitioner evaluate your labs, it’s better to look at how levels have changed (when we have access to prior results), where in the range your results fall, and trends observed by your doctor and other practitioners who routinely use these tests to evaluate patients.
This is just another reason your better choice is to do lab tests and review results with a functional medicine practitioner!
In conclusion, getting a closer look at your body’s inflammatory markers is essential if you want to live your best life.
Never forget, it’s your body. It’s up to you to grab the bull by the horns and be prepared for your appointment. Don’t worry about if you feel like you’re being demanding, it’s perfectly OK!
By using blood tests for inflammation like CRP, liver function, fibrinogen, ferritin, and functional stool testing, you’ll be better able to identify the root cause of your chronic inflammation.
But remember, you’re not a one-person team! Working hand-in-hand with your doctor is crucial in interpreting the results and creating a personalized plan to improve your overall health.
Because let’s face it, even superheroes need sidekicks! So book that appointment, gather your cape, and take charge of your health today. The world needs more heroes like you!
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Don’t just stand there, let’s get rid of that inflammation and let those veggies work their magic! Download now and join the plant-powered party!
***Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice***