Inflammation is a hot topic today and seems to show up everywhere when discussing health. We are bombarded by advertisements that tell us to eat certain foods or take certain supplements to “reduce inflammation”, and all this information can be overwhelming. In this post I want to share what you need to know about inflammation: 1) define what inflammation is, 2) explain where it comes from and 3) discuss why you should care about it in regard to having good health.
What Is Inflammation
Inflammation is the result of the body’s immune response or defense against injury, infection or allergy. The first point to make here is that inflammation is a natural response. The immune system causes increased blood flow to a certain area of the body or to the whole body depending on the offending agent. This increased blood flow brings white blood cells and chemical toxins. This is, of course, a good thing if you are sick and trying to fight off infection or if your body encounters are allergen. Thankfully, this type of circumstance is infrequent for the vast majority of us.
Where Does Inflammation Come From
Inflammation is a problem when it becomes a chronic condition outside of an infection or an allergic response. This happens when our bodies are not healthy and is a reaction to the stress on our organs from being overweight, eating the wrong foods, having uncontrolled blood pressure or blood sugar, smoking, etc. Notice I said overweight and not obese above. You do not have to be “obese” (defined as BMI >30) to be inflamed. If you have belly fat then you more than likely have inflammation. This unnatural amount of inflammation can lead to more severe health problems.
Why You Should Care about Inflammation
As part of our patients’ annual screening labs we check a marker of inflammation called CRP-HS. This test tells us the amount of inflammation you have in your body. If you have elevated levels then you are at risk for a host of diseases including heart attack and stroke and even a severe case of COVID-19. Yes CRP has been found to be a risk factor for more severe cases of the novel coronavirus. This makes sense because we now know that COVID-19 causes damage and death through an overreaction of the immune system (inflammation) and not necessarily only the virus itself.
Knowing your level of inflammation through testing is an integral part of routine health maintenance and can help you know your risk of systemic disease. This can then be used to assess what needs to be done to reduce your level of inflammation. Particularly at this time, this is the best way to assess your possibility of having a more severe case of COVID versus a more mild case.