Inflammation is normal. It’s how your body heals itself and fights infections. Its signs are usually obvious. You get hurt or sick and experience pain, swelling, redness or heat in your body. You may lose movement in a joint or your sense of smell.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can trigger or contribute to a list of disorders including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, digestive diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Yet, its symptoms aren’t always obvious and may be completely silent.
You may have chronic fatigue, depression, frequent infections, gastrointestinal issues, or joint/muscle pain that comes and goes. You may have no signs while your risk of disease skyrockets.
When we know we have chronic inflammation, we can change our diet and lifestyle and use supplements and/or other therapeutic measures to lower inflammation.
In this four-part series, we’ll explore a test that may aid in identifying chronic inflammation, things that can lower inflammation, the importance of a healthy diet, and the crucial role of exercise.
Part 1: Understanding and Identifying Chronic Inflammation
Chronic inflammation happens when your body keeps trying to heal long after the initial response from your immune system is needed. Chronic inflammation can come from an untreated injury or infection. It can also stem from your lifestyle, diet, or environment because your body is responding to things like smoking, obesity, or pollution.
There are blood tests and urine tests that can measure inflammation biomarkers. Today, we’re going to explore an at-home urine test that measures the results cellular reactions that cause chronic inflammation.
This test measures systemic thromboxane production, an end-product of cellular inflammation. Gordon Ens, laboratory director of Inflammatory Markers Laboratory (IML), originally developed the test to measure the “aspirin effect,” or whether an aspirin regimen was lowering production of thromboxane and reducing risk of disease.
“Going back as far as 2002, the HOPE Study demonstrated that if aspirin isn’t lowering the thromboxane, your chance of having another heart event is 350%,” explains Ens. “What this is saying is too much thromboxane is bad. You can look at chronic disease studies and the subjects with the disease have higher thromboxane than normal.”
Understanding Cellular Reactions that Cause Inflammation
Because thromboxane cannot be measured directly, the test measures a metabolite of thromboxane, produced by the two main components that regulate thromboxane production, arachidonic acid and Nuclear Factor kappa B (NFkB).
Arachidonic acid, an Omega-6 fatty acid, is produced to assist your body in healing. NFkB is a protein that works as a switch turning inflammation on and off.
Remember that inflammation is vital to the immune system’s healing response. Yet, if that healing switch stays on, your risk of disease soars. Your body thinks it is under attack and keeps fighting. Plus, the expression of NFkB increases as we age and can switch on inherited genes for chronic diseases.
By measuring these components of the thromboxane A2 pathway, the test can assist in determining if you have health risks related to chronic inflammation or if therapeutic measures are working to lower those risks.
This is important because Ens and his former lab partner, Dr. Barry Sears, who created the Inflammation Research Foundation and the Zone Diet, recognized that inflammation can negate the effectiveness of aspirin and other medications.
Research shows that you can take a statin to lower bad cholesterol or aspirin to slow blood clotting, but if you still have chronic inflammation, your body continues to produce thromboxane. Therefore, even if other biomarkers like low-density lipoprotiens (LDL) are reduced, you may still be at risk.
On the other hand, the test also may show when therapeutic measures like supplements, foods, Cannabidiol (CBD), or drugs are lowering your inflammation and health risks.
“It’s turning out that the test is sensitive to all kinds of things that lower thromboxane,” Ens adds.
Next week, in the second part of this series, we’ll discuss the foods, supplements, and drugs that lower inflammation, according to research using the IML Chronic Inflammation Test. In the following weeks, we’ll discuss why diet and exercise are key to lowering chronic inflammation.
In the meantime, you may be curious about chronic inflammation in your body. You can order a home test here and return it to IML for results.
Please work with a healthcare practitioner to interpret the test results and decide if you need to change your diet or lifestyle, or add a therapeutic measure.