What is Cellular Inflammation?

Author: Corinne Bett   Date Posted:23 September 2015 

Have you been hearing lots of things about inflammation lately? Take this anti-inflammatory supplement, eat those anti-inflammatory foods…..well that’s because cellular inflammation is becoming a bit of an issue, and may contribute to decreased physical function throughout the body and the development of chronic disease.

Unfortunately, cellular inflammation is an elusive, silent and relatively symptom free process, so you might not even know it is happening in your body. The first sign of it may be you are not feeling your tip top self, a loss of various physical functions or diagnosis of a chronic disease.

What is Cellular Inflammation?

Cellular inflammation is an inflammatory process which occurs on a basic, cellular level. Inflammation is a normal process that occurs in the body, and is designed in acute situations, to aid in the healing of tissue. However, it’s when this inflammation becomes a chronic, every-day occurrence, is when the damage and death of cells can occur, which may lead to disease.

Why does Cellular Inflammation occur?

In our modern society, the cells of the body are constantly bombarded with pro-inflammatory substances, such as free radicals, heavy metals, toxic waste, foreign substances and infection such as bacteria and viruses.

Inflammation is the process by which the cells of the body react to and deal with these foreign substances. When we are day in and day out bombarded with these pro-inflammatory substances through pollution, pesticides, contaminants in our food supply, using beauty, body care products and artificial fragrances, and off gassing from particle board furniture and carpets in our house, this can perpetuate chronic cellular inflammation.

How do I know if I have Cellular inflammation?

It can be hard to tell if you have cellular inflammation, as it occurs silently and gradually over time without any symptoms, and you might not realise until you have it until things start to go a bit haywire. But, lighten up! There are ways to find out whether you have cellular inflammation through various tests, so you can do something about it.

C Reactive Protein Test

C Reactive protein (CRP) is an acute phase reactant, produced by the liver and released into the blood stream in reaction to tissue injury, infection or other pro inflammatory substances being present in the body.

The more systemic inflammation there is present in the body, the more CRP will be present in your blood stream. A CRP blood test can be requested from your local GP. A high sensitivity CRP test (hsCRP) can also be performed by your local Naturopath, and is a more sensitive indicator of CRP levels. The CRP test is a more general indicator for systemic inflammation in the body, rather than specific cellular inflammation.

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate

Erythrocytes, or red blood cells, are tested for the speed at which they fall to the bottom of a test tube in the Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) test. ESR is often tested alongside a CRP test, as CRP levels increases sooner and then decreases more rapidly than the ESR, and ESR can be affected by other processes in the body aside from inflammation.

It is a good indicator of non-specific inflammation in the body, and can be ordered by your local GP alongside the ESR test. As with the CRP test, the ESR is a generalised measure of inflammation in the body rather than specifically cellular inflammation.         

AA: EPA test

Essential Fatty acids make up our cell membranes, and are heavily involved in modulation of inflammation in the body. Both Arachidonic Acid (AA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are essential fatty acids involved in this process. AA is a pro-inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acid, whilst EPA is an anti-inflammatory essential fatty acid (which you might recognise from being in Fish oil).

The ratio of AA: EPA is a measure of pro vs anti-inflammatory fatty acids in the body, and therefore of inflammation, on both a systemic and cellular level. This test can be done through your Naturopath or complementary health professional.

17-Ketosteroid: 17-OH Corticoid ratio

17-Ketosteroid and 17-0H Corticoid are hormone and stress-related urinary metabolites which tell us about the balance between tissue repair and tissue breakdown in the body. As well as giving us an indicator of the general wear and tear and inflammation that might be found in the body, this test can also tell us about how much growth and repair is occurring in the body, and about our general stress response.

This test is done through a 24hr urine collection, and can be performed through pathology provides such as Laverty. If you think you may have cellular inflammation, it is worthwhile doing one of the tests listed, so you can take the next step and try and reduce the impact this may have on your body.

Written by Corinne Bett

Corinne spent her childhood helping her mother and grandfather in the garden grow various herbs and vegetables. This sparked a great interest in herbal medicine and nutrition in later life, and a passion for a wholefood diet. As a Naturopath today, she likes to empower others to utilise food as medicine, and live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. In her spare time she like to spend time in nature bushwalking and swimming, adventuring in far and exotic places, and dreaming about what kind of dog she might like to have one day.