High Sensitivity C-reactive protein

I’m on the look-out for low-risk, high-reward, natural ways to lower High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein.

There’s a lot of “chatter” in the medical community about this test. Everything I read, however, indicates “the lower the better.”

I think lowering my HS-CRP is a reasonable goal.  However, I don’t put a lot of credence on “just one” test. I view HS-CRP as a player in the grand symphony that is human physiology, or conversely, what you might call the awful cacophony of noise, that is patho-physiology.

It’s associated with a higher risk of heart disease, heart attack, sudden death, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.  Not a real fun list.

HS-CRP is a non-specific, inflammatory protein made mostly by the liver.  It should go up when I’m fighting the flu, but if it’s up when I’m “well”, it means my immune system is highly active when it doesn’t really need to be. I don’t want my immune system damaging “me.” I want it to fight the bad guys. I want it “on” when I need it and I want if “off” when I don’t. If HS-CRP is up all the time, it tells me I’m doing stuff that’s making my immune system work overtime. When it does that, the immune system can get sloppy, and start killing me, instead of the pathogens.

Despite it being the darling of many cardiologists, I actually view HS-CRP as sort of a “bystander” in terms of heart disease. What it really tells me is that my cells are struggling with something I’m putting them through, not necessarily that my arteries are plugging up. However, if I have an elevated HS-CRP, I have about 3 times the risk of having a heart attack, so I don’t ignore the cardiovascular implications, either.

But…lets not confuse correlation with causation. HS-CRP is associated with heart problems, but it’s not the cause. Heart disease, like cancer, is a multi-factorial disease with many potential causes.  Just because one’s HS-CRP level is low, doesn’t mean zero chance of a heart attack.  Along those same lines, I might even dodge a heart attack, even though the level is high.  So, HS-CRP is just one of a number of “markers” that can help establish my overall risk.

Along with the cardiovascular implications, a high HS-CRP is also a sign that leptin-mediated hormonal signaling isn’t working too well. (Leptin is a big topic I’ll be addressing in the future.)  When leptin signaling is fouled up, obesity is the common result. One might even hypothesize that leptin signalling defects and the result metabolic syndrome, are precursor states associated with a high HS-CRP, that could potentially lead to a heart attack.

In summary, if my HS-CRP is high, it means I’m more likely to be fat and have a heart attack. (I don’t know about you, but that just made me feel warm and fuzzy all over.)

Despite its limitations, I use this test as part of my basic “optimal health” lab work-up, which includes some other tests: CBC, CMP, Lipid NMR profile, thyroid panel, insulin, HBa1c, Saliva Hormone Test, homocysteine, ferritin, vitamin D, and an omega 3/6 ratio.

I love to see HS-CRP levels go down. It’s an indication that I’m on the right track. Along with the tests listed above, I can get a pretty good idea what’s going on metabolically.

Personally, I’m shooting for 0.5 or less on my HS-CRP. I’m down from to 0.8 from 2.8, so I’m headed in the right direction. I attribute most of this drop to calming down “gut inflammation” caused by foods I previously ate.  The surface area of the human gut is bigger than a soccer field, so that’s where most inflammation gets started. Putting the wrong food down the pipe can inflame things from “stem to stern.” When I took care of my gut, my inflammation levels dropped.

Here’s what I did to lower my HS-CRP:

  • I lost weight, 188 to 161 lbs.
  • I ate a strict Paleo Diet: seafood, meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, coconut oil, olive oil, occasional cream and butter, no grain, no seed oils, and very little sugar.
  • I avoided “leaky gut” associated foods:  flour, sugar, lactose, soda pop, excessive caffeine, and “junk food”.
  • I improved my  intestinal microbiota by eating Greek yogurt and fermented vegetables.
  • I optimized my magnesium level.
  • I’m working on correcting my Vitamin D deficiency.
  • I’m working on lowering my Apo B and LDL-P levels.
  • I get a mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.  I don’t over train. Bring on the kettlebells.
  • I sleep.  My goal is to get as much I want. (Ha, Ha, I’ve got teenagers.)
  • I try to get ready for bed when the sun goes down.  I like to get up with the sunrise. (I struggle with this one.)
  • I’m trying to manage my stress levels. I try not to get too mad, too sad, or too anxious. (I suck at this, too.)
  • I eat a ton of seafood.
  • I eat things with phytosterols, i.e. nuts and avocados.
  • I experimented with adaptive thermogenesis.
  • I’ve never smoked, but stopping would have been the 1st order of business if I did.

These are low-risk, high-reward interventions. This is how I lowered HS-CRP naturally.

When I experimented with a statin, I got immediate proteinuria and severe myalgias, so I’m not going there again any time soon.  Statins have a place, but they’re no panacea.

A few little notes: Don’t get a HS-CRP when you’re sick with a cold or flu. It will be higher than normal.  There is also some day-to-day variation in the level of HS-CRP in the body, so taking two tests a few weeks apart and taking the average is probably a good idea. (I haven’t done this, but I would have in hindsight.)

Extra reading:

Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer.

Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases.

Effects of a caloric restriction weight loss diet and exercise on inflammatory biomarkers in overweight/obese postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial.

Magnesium intake in relation to systemic inflammation, insulin resistance, and the incidence of diabetes.

Relationship between serum magnesium levels and C-reactive protein concentration, in non-diabetic, non-hypertensive obese subjects.

Vitamin D Status is Linked to Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Endothelial Activation in Obese Children.

Metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, fibrinogen, homocysteine, leptin, and C-reactive protein in obese patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

Perceived stress correlates with disturbed sleep: a link connecting stress and cardiovascular disease.

Major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and cardiac biomarkers in subjects at high risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Severity of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein reduced after relocation pharyngoplasty.

Sleep duration, sleep regularity, body weight, and metabolic homeostasis in school-aged children.

The metabolic effects of omega-3 plant sterol esters in mixed hyperlipidemic subjects.

The effects of dietary fibre on C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker predicting cardiovascular disease.

Dietary intakes of alpha-linolenic and linoleic acids are inversely associated with serum C-reactive protein levels among Japanese men.

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