I remember the day in early 2012 when I was watching The Doctor Oz Show episode The Best New Test To Predict Heart Disease. Dr. Oz caught my attention when he said, “What if I told you one simple test could predict your risk for a heart attack. It’s called CRP, C-reactive protein.”
The C-reactive protein (CRP) test measures inflammation in the body. Inflammation contributes to almost every modern disease. A light bulb went off in my head when I recalled that a CRP test had been done for me a year before. I was in the habit of saving my blood work and I remember seeing CRP but I wasn’t aware of its significance in my life until that TV show.
Dr. Oz explained that there are three CRP Risk Levels:
Less than 1.0 MG/L = Lowest Risk
1.0 – 3.0 MG/L = Average
Over 3.0 MG/L = Highest Risk
A warning bell shot off through my body and I ran to my file where I save my lab results. There it was…my CRP level was 5.1 MG/L (the highest risk).
This was the day that I set out on a mission to reduce my inflammation. I’m convinced this has saved my life.
Dr. Mark Hyman is currently medical editor at the Huffington Post and on the Medical Advisory Board at The Doctor Oz Show. I’m happy to have him here at Hypothyroid Mom to give us more information about this important blood test.
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Written by Mark Hyman, MD, The UltraWellness Center
The next time you visit your doctor for blood work, make sure that along with your lipid profile you request a C-reactive protein (CRP) test. CRP measures the degree of hidden inflammation in your body.
Mounting evidence underscores the critical role that inflammation plays in the development and continuation of diabesity. One study in JAMA: The Journal of the Medical Association[1. Pradhan AD, Manson JE, Rifai N, Buring JE, Ridker PM. C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, and risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus. JAMA 2001 Jul 18;286(3):327-34] found people with a high C-reactive protein blood level have a 1,700 percent increased probability of developing diabetes.
Besides obesity and type 2 diabetes, inflammation contributes to almost every modern disease including heart disease, cancer, and dementia as well as arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies, and digestive disorders.
Acute Versus Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation comes in two “flavors.”
Acute inflammation is your body’s appropriate response to infection or trauma. You’ve experienced a sore throat, rash, hives, or a sprained ankle.
But inflammation should do its job and then leave. With allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disease, or asthma, an overactive immune response and chronic inflammation can slowly wreak havoc, eventually leading to illness and rapid aging.
Your CRP levels should be less than one. Anything higher provides a giant warning sign that you have hidden inflammation.
Especially with high CRP levels, you want to do everything possible to reduce inflammation. Even if your results come back within normal range, you’ll want to target inflammatory culprits, including:
- A high-sugar, processed foods diet
- Inflammatory fats (omega 6 fats like processed vegetable oils and trans fats)
- Lack of exercise
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Hidden or chronic infections with viruses, bacteria, yeasts or parasites
- Mold and other environmental allergens
- Toxicity from an overload of environmental toxins
8 Strategies to Reduce Chronic Inflammation
Couple the Standard American Diet – with its abundance of vegetable oils, trans fats, and sugar – with high stress levels and crappy sleep, and you’ve got a surefire recipe for chronic inflammation.
Reversing inflammation can reduce your risk for disease, help you lose weight, and leave you feeling and looking better no matter what your age. When my patients have high CRP levels or otherwise experience chronic inflammation, I employ these eight strategies to normalize inflammatory levels:
- Eat real food. Too many sugary foods, including wheat flour, raise insulin, eventually paving the path for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. A vicious cycle results as insulin resistance creates even more chronic inflammation. Eat an anti-inflammatory high fiber, plant-based, whole foods diet.
- Make an oil change. Besides sugar, omega-6 rich soybean, corn, and other vegetable oils stoke your inflammatory fire. Eat healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, avocados and omega 3 fats from small fish like sardines, herring, sable, and wild salmon. If you don’t eat wild-caught fish at least three or four times each week, consider a high-quality fish oil supplement.
- Exercise regularly. One study in the Journal of Applied Physiology[2. Petersen AM, Pedersen BK. The anti-inflammatory effect of exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 Apr;98(4):1154-62] found exercise protected against chronic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. If you’re just starting out, incorporate aerobic exercise 30 minutes, five times a week. If you want to step things up a few notches, try interval training and weight resistance.
- Actively relax. Learn to actively relax to engage your vagus nerve, the powerful nerve that relaxes your whole body and lowers inflammation, by doing meditation, deep breathing, or even taking a hot bath. One study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine[3. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Christian L, Preston H, Houts CR, Malarkey WB, Emery CF, Glaser R. Stress, inflammation, and yoga practice. Psychosom Med. 2010 Feb;72(2):113-21. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181cb9377. Epub 2010 Jan 11] found yoga could reduce inflammation and stress, and “regular practice could have substantial health benefits.”
- Address food allergies and sensitivities. One study in the journal Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes[4. Wilders-Truschnig M, Mangge H, Lieners C, Gruber H, Mayer C, März W. IgG antibodies against food antigens are correlated with inflammation and intima media thickness in obese juveniles. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2008 Apr;116(4):241-5. Epub 2007 Dec 10] compared obese kids to normal-weight kids and found obese children had a threefold higher level of CRP and 2.5 higher level of IgG antibodies for the 277 foods tested. Food sensitivities, weight gain, and insulin resistance are intricately connected. Eliminating common highly reactive foods including soy, gluten, and dairy can dramatically reduce inflammation.
- Take probiotics. Studies show[5. Mengheri E. Health, probiotics, and inflammation. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep;42 Suppl 3 Pt 2:S177-8. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e31817eedc4] among their benefits, a probiotic supplement can help reduce intestinal inflammation. These healthy gut flora also improve digestion, further reducing inflammation. Look for a high-quality probiotic supplement that contains 10 billion CFU of Bifidobacteria species and Lactobacillus species.
- Address nutrient deficiencies. Look at a high-quality multivitamin/multi-mineral as your best insurance policy that covers any gaps you might not get in a whole foods diet. One study in The American Journal of Medicine[6. Church TS, Earnest CP, Wood KA, Kampert JB. Reduction of C-reactive protein levels through use of a multivitamin. Am J Med. 2003 Dec 15;115(9):702-7] found a multivitamin could lower C-reactive protein levels.
- Spice it up. Turmeric is one of my favorite spices to help reduce inflammation. Others include ginger, rosemary and garlic.
About Mark Hyman, MD
Dr. Mark Hyman is author of EIGHT New York Times Best Sellers including The Blood Sugar Solution and The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. He has dedicated his career to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through a groundbreaking whole-systems medicine approach known as Functional Medicine. He is the founder of The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA.