Inflammation is an essential, natural part of your body's system. If you get a cut or catch a virus, acute inflammation helps fight off the intruder and repair damaged tissue.
But for some people, there is a violent storm going on within their bodies and they don't even know it: the storm of chronic, low-grade inflammation. This is not natural, and over time, this chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases—from the painful inflammation of arthritis to the systemic inflammation of heart disease to the insidious variety that's associated with brain fog, fatigue, and weight gain.
If you're struggling with chronic inflammation, here are a few steps I recommend to combat the storm:
1. Run inflammation labs to see what you're up against.
CRP: C-Reactive Protein is an inflammatory protein. It is also a surrogate lab to measure IL-6, another pro-inflammatory protein. They are both linked to chronic inflammatory health problems.
Optimal Range: < 0.5 mg/L
Homocysteine: This inflammatory amino acid is linked to heart disease and destruction of the blood-brain barrier and dementia. This is also commonly seen with people struggling with autoimmune problems.
Optimal Range: < 7 Umol/L
Ferritin: This lab is normally run to look at stored iron levels, but it's also considered acute phase reactant, and when high it's a sign of inflammation.
Optimal Range: men: 33–236 ng/mL; premenopausal women: 10–122 ng/mL; postmenopausal women: 10–263 ng/mL
2. Discover what's fueling your inflammation.
Once you get a baseline for what your inflammation levels look like, I recommend investigating why you have chronic inflammation in the first place. Consider these labs, which could help:
Methylation gene testing: Methylation is a biochemical superhighway that helps maintain a healthy brain and gut, protects our DNA, and detoxes our bodies. Gene mutations such as MTHFR polymorphism can inhibit your body's ability to bring down inflammation levels, such as homocysteine.
GI labs: Your gut is the foundation of health. By running labs we can rule out underlying gut problems like leaky gut syndrome and inflammatory gut proteins, such as calprotectin. It's also a good idea to look for microbiome dysfunctions like SIBO and candida overgrowth, to understand sources of inflammation.
White blood cell count: Immune labs, like white blood cell count, look for underlying low-grade infections that can fuel inflammation.
3. Find the foods that work best for your body.
Many of you probably already avoid junk foods. But just because something is better than the Standard American Diet, doesn't mean it's optimal for you.
I've seen many foods—even healthy ones—cause flare-ups of inflammation in people. When it comes to healing inflammation, uncovering food intolerances and sensitivities is an important first step. There's no one diet for all. We each have our own genetic and biochemical uniqueness. I recommend doing the elimination diet, the gold standard for discovering which foods are not working for you.
4. Increase your PPARs.
What the heck are PPARs? Studies suggest that Peroxisome Proliferator–activated Receptors (PPARs) may help improve inflammatory conditions such as atherosclerosis, asthma, colitis, MS, and other autoimmune conditions.
5. Heal your gut.
"All disease begins in the gut," said the father of medicine, Hippocrates. You do not have to be experiencing gut symptoms to have gut problems. Issues like leaky gut syndrome, SIBO, and candida overgrowth can all be hidden sources of inflammation throughout the body.
6. Get quality sleep.
Research has found that loss of sleep, even for a single night, increases inflammation in the body. Dealing with sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea and adrenal fatigue, is essential to calming inflammation levels.
7. Up your intake of vitamin C.
Several studies have linked low vitamin C with inflammatory conditions. In one study of 3,258 healthy 60- to 79-year-old men, vitamin C intake from fruits and vegetables were significantly and inversely associated with inflammatory CRP and t-PA.
8. Increase Nrf-2.
Nrf-2, a protein, plays a role in regulating antioxidant gene induction. Nrf-2 actually turns on genes that are responsible for antioxidant and detox pathways. Inflammation is calmed when Nrf-2 is activate, and worse when there are low levels of Nrf-2.
Many dietary antioxidants have been found to activate Nrf-2, including:
- EGCG from green tea
- quercetin from apples
- curcumin from turmeric
- resveratrol from grapes
- rosmarinic acid from rosemary
- L-sulforaphane from broccoli
- thiosulfonateallicin from garlic
9. Decrease NF-kB.
One particularly bad guy in high amounts is the inflammatory nuclear factor kappa B, or NF-kB for short. When NF-kB is activated in the body, it actually binds to your DNA and triggers a number of different inflammatory cascades in the body. NF-kB has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many chronic inflammatory conditions.
There is some exciting research going on focusing on finding ways to inhibit the expression of NF-kB to prevent or control the multitude of inflammatory-related diseases. I recommend focusing on these foods to help bring your NF-kB levels down.