C reactive protein (CRP) is a protein produced by the liver that measures the amount of inflammation in your body. The more inflammation, the higher the CRP level. Of course this level only shows generic inflammation and not its cause. So having a high level of CRP should lead to further testing. CRP can be measured using a simple blood test, and a normal level is less anything less than 10 mg/L. A level from 10-100 mg/L indicates more significant inflammation from things such as autoimmune disease, pericarditis, organ or tissue injury, cancer, diabetes or obesity while a level over 100 mg/L is usually a sign of a severe bacterial infection.
A more specific blood test called the High Sensitivity C Reactive Protein Test (hs-CRP) measures lower levels of CRP in the blood (from 0.5-10 mg/L). This test is used to determine the risk of developing coronary artery disease. A level of less than 1mg/L indicates low risk, 1-3 mg/L indicates average risk and greater than 3 mg/L indicates high risk. Things that increase hs-CRP include IBS, atherosclerosis, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle. It has been suggested that hs-CRP is a more accurate predictor of the risk of heart disease than cholesterol, and statin drugs may be indicated for adults with a blood level greater than 2 mg/L. Because these drugs come with a risk of side effects what are some natural ways to reduce CRP?
The safest, most effective way to lower CRP is basic lifestyle changes; exercise, weight loss and dietary control. The Texas Heart Institute recommends 30 minutes of exercise every day and a healthy diet consisting of less processed food, protein from fish, seafood and plants, increased consumption of colorful fruits and vegetables, decreased consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, avoiding vegetable oils like corn oil, avoiding hydrogenated fats and increasing fiber intake. These recommendations mimic the Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on whole foods, nuts and olive oil.
Weight loss is another way to reduce CRP. Fat cells act as depots for pro-inflammatory cytokines, so by having less fat cells we have less storage for CRP. Quitting smoking is and obvious way to reduce inflammation, as well as trying to lower your stress level and increasing the amount of quality sleep you get.
There are some supplements that may help to lower CRP, but be aware that these are not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle. A 2003 study showed that CRP was lowered in a group of people who took a multivitamin daily for a 6 months. Vitamin C in a dose of 1000mg/day may be as good as statin drugs like Lipitor or Zocor in lowering CRP. Fish oil, dosed at 2 capsules of 1000mg EPA/DHA twice a day, may also have a lowering effect. Studies also show that Magnesium, Vitamin D, Curcumin and Omega 7 (found in macadamia nuts and full fat dairy) may work to lower CRP. Keep in mind that taking a handful of supplements has not been proven to reduce CRP, lifestyle changes are the only real, proven way to lower inflammation!
Making the changes in your life to help lower CRP and begin healing can be difficult. Hiring and experienced professional to help guide you can really help. As a trainer my emphasis is on exercise and dietary changes that work to lower inflammation and stress on the body. Give me a call today so I can help you slowly adapt and make permanent changes that lead to lowered inflammation and a longer, healthier life!