Hi. This is Dr. Emily Parke with your next Functional Health Minute. Today I’d like to explore a really common lab test that is done to check inflammation. That is something called CRP, which stands for C reactive protein. What is it? CRP is an acute phase reactive that increases in response specifically to inflammation. What it tells us is that the immune system has secreted something called inflammatory cytokines, like interleukin-6 or IL-6 for example, that is a cytokine produced by white blood cells.
Now, what are causes of the CRP to be elevated? Of Course, we know infection- so acute infection, even chronic low-level infection. We know things like injuries, surgeries, autoimmune diseases, anything that causes an “it is”, an inflammatory process in the body, can cause CRP to rise. That’s why it’s nonspecific, as in it’s not going to tell you where or why inflammation is going on, it’s just going to tell you that inflammation is indeed going on.
Types of CRP Tests
There are two different types of CRP tests. The traditional test for CRP, it’s just the regular one, and by regular, I mean it will report values above 3.0. If you happen to have low levels of inflammation, below 3.0, it will just get reported as less than three so you won’t get to see it, which is why I really like to do the high sensitivity CRP because I can get values all the way down to 0.2. I like to do that specifically for my patient population in functional medicine because we do have a lot of patients that have low levels of inflammation that are below three so it wouldn’t get picked up by the regular test, but it’s really important for us to know that it’s there so we can do something about it before the inflammation gets significant and out of control.
This test can be, of course, ordered by a traditional doctor, or your functional medicine doctor. It can be ordered at Quest or LabCorp, or any major lab is going to have a high sensitivity CRP marker. It is one of the most important blood markers that I like to look at in my patients. I find it to be really, really helpful. Again, it tells us there is inflammation going on in the body, to which there are multiple causes. We want to, of course, in functional medicine get to the bottom of it, get to the root cause of whatever is causing the inflammation because one thing is for sure, research is very clear that even chronic low levels of inflammation do increase risk for several things, specifically cardiovascular events, but we know it can increase risk for other disease processes and signs and symptoms as well. This is Dr. Emily Parke with today’s Functional Health Minute.