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Blood Tests for Chronic Inflammation – Explained

ARTICLE BY

The GlycanAge Team

Key Points

  • Inflammation is a natural physiological reaction that promotes the healing of damaged tissue.
  • The process of inflammation initiates with the release of chemicals by the damaged tissue. Subsequently, the white blood cells produce substances that promote cell division and growth to aid in tissue repair and rebuilding after an injury. Once the injury has healed, the inflammatory process comes to an end.
  • Inflammation is an essential part of the body's healing process, but chronic inflammation can become problematic if it is not attended to properly.
  • Long-term inflammation, also known as chronic inflammation, can occur due to persistent infections, atypical immune responses or health conditions such as obesity. In essence, this type of inflammation can cause damage to DNA and increase the risk of cancer over time.
  • Introducing the necessary lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity, consuming high-fibre, heart-healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, or adopting a Mediterranean diet, can greatly assist in reducing inflammation levels.

The general belief is that inflammation must always be eliminated, yet it serves a crucial purpose in safeguarding and preserving your body through wound repair and recovery. In essence, the truth is that indications of inflammation are comparable to an automobile's engine light on the dashboard, which alerts you that something is awry. However, the solution is not to remove the light bulb since that does not solve the issue. Instead, you ought to investigate the reason for the warning.

Likewise, inflammation conveys that there may be an underlying matter that demands attention. Hence, the aim is to differentiate between when inflammation is executing its function and when it might lead to long-term difficulties.

What Is Chronic Inflammation?

When inflammation persists over a lengthy duration of several months to years, it is commonly referred to as chronic inflammation. The magnitude and impacts of chronic inflammation are typically influenced by the underlying cause of the injury and the body's capacity to recuperate and overcome the harm.

In general, chronic inflammation emerges from a complex sequence of cellular reactions in which the thromboxane A2 pathway assumes a significant function in its progression and development. More specifically, arachidonic acid and Nuclear Factor kappa B (NFkB) are two major constituents that govern the thromboxane A2 pathway. As a result, most of the existing anti-inflammatory therapies are specifically designed to target and interfere with these pathways.

Why Is Testing for Chronic Inflammation So Important?

The signs of acute inflammation, such as pain, redness, swelling and warmth, are well-known to many. Nevertheless, chronic inflammation, though less visible, is equally hazardous. As a matter of fact, diseases associated with chronic inflammation are among the top causes of death across the globe.

Chronic inflammation involves a prolonged, low-level activation of your immune system that can persist for several months or years. Possible causes include the presence of pathogens (e.g., fungi or parasites) or foreign substances (such as harmful chemicals) that the immune system is unable to eliminate effectively. In addition, chronic inflammation can be induced by autoimmune disorders, whereby the body's immune system attacks its own tissues. Other than that, unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor dietary choices, smoking, alcohol consumption and disrupted sleep patterns, can also contribute to long-term inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is a significant contributor to various diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Moreover, it is closely associated with a wide range of metabolic disorders, such as:

Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

When there is inflammation in the body, it makes certain chemicals called cytokines go up. Some of these cytokines, like IL-1β and IL-6, can stick to cells and get in the way of how they normally respond to insulin. This, in turn, can make it harder for insulin to work the way it is supposed to, eventually causing type 2 diabetes.

Obesity

Excess body fat works like an additional organ, releasing proteins, steroids, hormones and other bioactive chemicals such as inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and IL-6. As obese individuals have significantly higher levels of these cytokines, this can lead to inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease. On the other hand, inflammation could also cause obesity by promoting insulin resistance, leading to weight gain. In particular, certain research postulated that elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) can disrupt proteins responsible for controlling the body's energy utilisation, thereby causing the patients to gain weight.

Hypertension

High inflammation levels increase the risk of hypertension, which can result in heart disease and other forms of ailments. On top of that, inflammation appears to be able to disturb the regular role of the epithelium, which is a layer of cells lining blood vessels to enable their contraction and relaxation.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is associated with a cluster of conditions that frequently co-occur, including abdominal obesity (i.e., visceral fat), high blood sugar levels, high triglycerides, hypertension, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. All these factors are related to inflammation, and several scientists believe that inflammation is responsible for metabolic syndrome through increasing cytokine levels, subsequently resulting in insulin resistance and associated health problems, such as obesity and hypertension.

What Are the Different Types of Tests for Chronic Inflammation?

Given that there is an absence of comprehensive laboratory procedures to diagnose chronic inflammation, various tests are employed to identify inflammation. Typically, doctors only diagnose it when it occurs alongside another health condition. Nevertheless, the most frequently used tests are:

High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) Test

When your body experiences physical trauma or an infection, cytokines – proteins that control inflammation – are released by the white blood cells. As a result, the liver begins producing C-reactive protein (CRP) in response to inflammation. This process commences as soon as four hours after the trauma and reaches its peak within 24 to 72 hours.

Traditionally, the CRP test has been utilised to identify the risk of infection or chronic inflammatory conditions. However, a newer test called high-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP) is now available, which assesses smaller quantities of CRP in the blood. While hs-CRP levels can indicate inflammation, high levels are not a precise marker for chronic inflammation. This is because the test can also detect acute inflammation stemming from a recent wound or illness. Hence, it is advised that the hs-CRP test be replicated to verify the presence of chronic inflammation. In particular, the standard serum levels for hs-CRP are less than 0.55 mg/L in males and below 1.0 mg/L in females.

There is no one set technique for hs-CRP tests. More specifically, popular assay types include immunonephelometry and immunoturbidimetry, with the former being more sensitive. The most accurate results are obtained by taking an average of the hs-CRP test results from two blood serum samples that were obtained two weeks apart. Should one of the samples present a level greater than ten mg/L, this indicates that infection or another acute source of inflammation is at hand. In such a situation, the sample should be discarded, and a second hs-CRP test ought to be performed two weeks after.

Fibrinogen

Fibrinogen is a blood protein synthesised in the liver that assists in the clotting of blood to halt any bleeding following an injury. In essence, fibrinogen works together with other blood clotting factors and platelets to generate a blood clot when a wound appears. During the clotting process, a clotting factor called thrombin signals fibrinogen to bind with it, forming fibrin – a substance that forms microscopic threads to reinforce the blood clot.

Fibrinogen testing determines the quantity and function of fibrinogen in the blood, whereby high fibrinogen levels could be a normal response to acute stress, infection, inflammation or injury. At the point of writing, there are two methods for testing fibrinogen:

Fibrinogen Antigen Test

This test measures the quantity of fibrinogen in the blood sample, typically reported in milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL). Generally speaking, this test is conducted when the fibrinogen activity test result is unusual to ascertain if the minimal activity is due to a low amount or abnormal function of fibrinogen.

Fibrinogen Activity Test

This test estimates the time taken for fibrinogen to develop a clot. To begin with, a blood sample is mixed with thrombin to promote the coagulation process, and the amount of fibrinogen integrated into the blood clot is referred to as active fibrinogen (also known as functional fibrinogen). The majority of laboratories provide a clotting-based activity test that is typically reported in mg/dL.

All in all, your fibrinogen test results might be used to diagnose or treat an illness. Nevertheless, it is important to discuss your results with a medical professional who can equip you with personalised advice on how to manage your health better.

Serum Protein Electrophoresis (SPE)

Protein electrophoresis is a physical property-based method utilised for separating proteins and has been extensively employed in clinical medicine to assist in diagnosing numerous health conditions such as nephropathy, acute and chronic inflammations, liver diseases and monoclonal gammopathies.

Conversely, in serum protein electrophoresis (SPE), the laboratory-based test determines the protein types found in the fluid (also known as serum) component of a patient's blood sample. During this procedure, a technician places the blood sample on a special piece of paper and introduces an electric current. The proteins move on the paper and produce bands that reveal the concentration of each protein. The size, shape and net charge (negative or positive) of the protein is generally used to discern between the different types of serum proteins.

With that in mind, albumin and globulin proteins are the two primary types of protein present in the serum. Meanwhile, the globulin proteins can be further separated into alpha-1, alpha-2, beta and gamma globulins. In particular, alpha and gamma globulin protein levels rise when there is inflammation in the body. Regardless, it is crucial to review your protein electrophoresis test results with a healthcare provider who can help you interpret them accurately with respect to your individual medical status.

How Could Patients Better Manage Their Chronic Inflammation?

The following changes to one's dietary and lifestyle habits may be useful in eliminating inflammation triggers and alleviating chronic inflammation:

Consuming a Low-Glycaemic Diet

Consuming foods with a high glycaemic index has been linked to a greater risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. To mitigate inflammation-promoting foods such as refined carbohydrates, sodas and high-fructose corn syrup, it is advisable to restrict their intake.

Cut Down on Saturated and Trans-Fat Intake

Certain saturated and synthetic trans fats in an individual's diet can exacerbate inflammation, whereas omega-3 polyunsaturated fats appear to have anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, processed and packaged foods that are filled with trans fats, such as processed vegetable oils, baked goods (like soybean and corn oil) and processed seed oils, ought to be regulated in one's diet.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Consuming more Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, blueberries, apples and cauliflower, which are rich with natural antioxidants and polyphenols as well as other anti-inflammatory compounds, could aid in preventing inflammation. Other than that, eating more cherries and cherry juice has been demonstrated to be uricosuric and inhibitory for IL-1 in gout patients.

Why Is GlycanAge the Perfect Solution to Help You Manage Chronic Inflammation?

Chronic inflammation, which arises from the gradual accumulation of damage in the body over time, can trigger an overactive immune response, accelerating the ageing process and raising the chances of age-related ailments.

Although the symptoms of chronic inflammation may only emerge in the advanced stages, the GlycanAge biological age test can anticipate future health conditions before they surface. The test assesses the extent of chronic inflammation in the body, which can influence the biological age of organs, tissues and cells. By identifying the degree of inflammation, individuals can make suitable changes to their lifestyle, slow down ageing and reduce inflammation.

If you are embarking on a wellness journey, it is recommended to take one GlycanAge test to determine your biological age. Two tests taken over time can provide valuable information for tracking your progress and assessing the effectiveness of lifestyle changes. On top of that, custom plans are available for biohackers and professional athletes committed to long-term health enhancement.

All packages include affordable payment plans and a free consultation with a qualified healthcare professional and scientist who can help you interpret the results and develop a personalised action plan to combat ageing. With that in mind, take control of your health today by ordering your GlycanAge biological age test.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, there is no denying that inflammation is a complex process. Although acute inflammation is usually a natural and advantageous response to injury, infection or other external threats, it can become excessive. However, the good news is that your doctor can request specific tests to determine if you are experiencing chronic inflammation. Not to mention, there are medical assessments that your doctor could order for other reasons that can unintentionally expose chronic inflammation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is chronic inflammation?

Chronic inflammation, which lasts for several months to years, is commonly known as slow and long-term inflammation. In addition, the severity and outcomes of chronic inflammation depend on the cause of the injury and the body's capacity to recover from and cope with the harm.

What are the most common causes of inflammation?

Generally speaking, chronic inflammation can arise due to various reasons, including autoimmune conditions like lupus, in which the body attacks healthy cells and tissue, exposure to toxins such as industrial chemicals and pollution, as well as untreated acute inflammation resulting from an injury or infection.

What is a C-reactive protein (CRP) test?

A test for C-reactive protein (CRP) measures the quantity of this protein in your blood sample. The liver produces CRP, which is usually present in small amounts in your blood. However, if there is inflammation in your body, the liver releases more CRP into your bloodstream. As a result, elevated levels of CRP can indicate the presence of a severe medical condition that triggers inflammation.

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ARTICLE BY

The GlycanAge Team

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