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Inflammation Part 2: Six Warning Signs of Silent Inflammation

By Dr. Renae Norton

6 Warning Signs of Harmful Silent Inflammation

As scientists begin to understand the body’s complex systems better, a clearer picture is emerging of how silent inflammation can impact your health.  Here are six of the most common symptoms:

1. Elevated C-Reactive Protein (CRP) Levels:
High levels of CRP are an indication that inflammation is present in your body. CRP doesn’t tell us where, it just says it’s there. That said, the data linking high levels of CRP to increased heart risk has led a growing number of physicians to routinely run a test for cardiac-specific C-reactive protein. CRP, which is produced by the liver, rises when LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) coats the walls of our arteries, and in the process, damages them. This damage causes inflammation raising the level of our CRP.

The test may even be a better indicator of cardiovascular disease than an LDL test.  LDL measures the good and the bad arterial flow. Pattern A LDL cholesterol, or the big fluffy cholesterol molecules, does not cause cardiovascular disease, whereas Patter B LDL cholesterol, or the little sticky cholesterol molecules does cause plaque buildup. (Click here to read my to cholesterol article)

The CRP test is also used for people suffering from autoimmune diseases like Lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, as they too cause inflammation. A doctor might test someone with either condition to see if an anti-inflammatory medication is working, though the CRP test cannot determine where the inflammation is taking place.

Cholesterol Imbalances:A growing body of evidence has shown that inflammation triggers increased production of cholesterol. Wait, what? Above we said that high cholesterol results in inflammation.  Here we are saying that inflammation can cause high cholesterol. Which is it? Probably both. At the end of the day, inflammation is a protective mechanism. When over-used, it becomes the problem instead of the solution.

So when the body attempts to protect the lining of blood vessels and arteries from damage it does so by producing more cholesterol. Eventually we end up with harmful levels of cholesterol build-up and ultimately serious cardiovascular issues.

This is actually very similar to what happens in the brain, when we end up with Alzheimer’s. That plaque that we thought was causing the Alzheimer’s is actually the body’s response to damaged brain tissue, often from a brain infection.  But it is like the cholesterol build-up in the arteries, as it damages the very organ it is attempting to protect by suffocating it. (That is not a scientific description, but my way of thinking of it.)

Berberine and CoQ10 have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol while improving good cholesterol. Other ingredients that have been shown to be effective are Niacin and garlic extract. My new favorite supplement is Selank, best known as an anxiolytic, it also has been shown to reduce cholesterol.

2. Aches and Pains:Silent inflammation creates heightened pain sensitivity in the body, as well as common everyday aches and pains in joints and muscles. If you wake up every morning feeling stiff or if you sit too long and have trouble getting up and moving about, systemic inflammation is likely to blame.

By the way, taking pain killers makes it worse.  Did you know that if you take pain killers regularly, which blocks pain receptors, the brain just makes more pain receptors? That ‘s why the Advil, and other such remedies, have less and less of an effect over time. Exercise, even very light exercise, works better.  Try water aerobics if you cannot move your body at all.  Or walk. Following my knee replacement, in spite of all of the physical therapy, the most effective thing I did was walk every day.

I just did a cardio stress test and the young folks conducting the test were so impressed with my results that they asked what type of exercise I do. I said I walk. They were not impressed with that answer, lesson learned. Next time I’ll say I mountain climb or something.

3. Skin Issues:Silent inflammation is the hallmark of the redness, itchiness, flaky skin and discomfort associated with many common skin conditions. In my experience, they are often related to a damaged thyroid. Thyroid disease goes undiagnosed 60% of the time according to the American Endocrinological Association so be sure to have yours checked.

Wrinkles are another issue related to inflammation.  Individuals who wrinkle prematurely are more likely to eat foods high in sugar, alcohol and tobacco. Sugar actually causes a condition called AGEs (Advanced Glycation End Products.)

4. Dental carries or cavities. Turns out that Thyroid disease, particularly hyperthyroid disease can cause or may be caused by infected teeth.  Always, and I mean always, insure that you do not have any cavities as they can and do infect your brain, and may damage your thyroid in the process.  Over the years I have had so many anorexic patients who have lost all of their teeth, often rather suddenly.  I believe the anorexia attacked the thyroid (really the hypothalamus and then the thyroid) and this contributed to their teeth decay.

According to the research, certain groups of thyroid patients are more vulnerable to certain types of oral problems. For instance, middle-aged women and women in menopause often experience burning sensations on the tongue or lips – a condition known as burning mouth sensation. This is inflammation, literally. 

Patients with hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland underperforms, experience oral problems like tongue enlargement (macroglossia), gum disease, a long-winding recovery from mouth sores, tooth infection and gum disease. Those with hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid are more susceptible to dental problems like cavities, osteoporosis in the jaws, rapid tooth growth in children, and others. I had a patient that had lost all of her teeth and when I sent her to the orthodontist who always implanted lost teeth for my patients, he phoned me to tell me that she had no jaw in which to implant new teeth!

5. Memory Impairment:Research has shown that when the brain is inflamed, memory formation and recall both suffer. Unfortunately, many people start to believe that scattered thoughts and trouble focusing are an inevitable part of aging—but they’re not! Silent inflammation is likely the culprit.

Of all the health issues associated with harmful silent inflammation, perhaps the most serious are those related to brain health. Turmeric is a good preventive. A recent landmark study found that turmeric promotes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth hormone responsible for youthful brain function. According to scientists, higher BDNF levels may hold the key to improved memory and sharper thinking as you age. What’s more, a recent study found that daily turmeric intake produced short-term memory improvements in adults over 60 who were predisposed to memory loss. Walking also increases BDNF.

Another gold mine when it comes to brain health and reducing inflammation is coconut oil, which also passes the blood brain barrier and fights infection.  Along the same lines, my latest new finding, as I mentioned above, is the peptide Selank.  Taken in the form of a nasal spray that is quickly absorbed into the brain, it offers amazing benefits when it comes to reducing inflammation and improving brain function. I highly recommend it for ADHD and for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

6. Digestive Discomfort:The gut microbiome is so complex, it is sometimes referred to as a “second brain.” Indeed, we now know that it has 70% of the body’s serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood. And, while there are many factors that can disrupt its delicate balance, digestive issues can often be traced to harmful inflammation within the digestive tract.

A new study published in Obesity (Silver Spring 2017) showed that an inflammatory diet was associated with higher risk of obesity. As you’ll see, inflammation and weight gain are closely related. In fact, once again, they cause one another, i.e. inflammation causes weight gain and weight gain causes inflammation.

If you’re experiencing one or more of the conditions above, you are probably eating foods that cause inflammation.

Stay tuned for part 3 of this 4 part series next Friday where I talk about inflammatory foods. Find out which ones cause inflammation and for my suggestions on what to eat.

Interested in Wellness Coaching or Nutritional Guidance?

Dr. Renae Norton specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.

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