Inflammatory Biomarkers and Your Immune System: The Impact on Your Health

Biomarkers can offer valuable information about inflammation occurring within your body

Daniesha Govender
By Daniesha Govender
Jovan Mijailovic
Edited by Jovan Mijailovic

Published March 6, 2024.

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In the ever-evolving field of health, biomarkers can be used for diagnosing, monitoring, and treating various health conditions.

These molecular signposts, found in blood, urine, and even in breath, hold the key to understanding important insights about your health. In this article, we explore the world of inflammatory biomarkers to better understand their impact on your health.

The purpose of evaluating biomarkers

Biomarkers are measurable indicators of health and wellness, many of which can be impacted by lifestyle choices (like diet and exercise). In clinical settings, markers can help with the following:

  • Assessing health status
  • Diagnosing diseases
  • Tracking the effectiveness of treatments

Common examples include cholesterol levels for heart health and blood glucose levels for metabolism.

What are biomarkers and why are they useful in healthcare?

Healthcare professionals rely on urine, blood, and tissue biomarkers to assess your health, such as inflammation, cholesterol levels, and hormone balance. This helps them tailor plans of care for patients.

Understanding inflammatory biomarkers

Biomarker levels change as a response of your body to inflammation. Examples include C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukins. [1]


Elevated inflammatory markers

Elevated levels of inflammatory markers may indicate underlying infections, autoimmune diseases, and chronic conditions. Consistently high levels of them in your blood can have far-reaching health implications.

This could be due to various factors like:

  • Infections
  • Chronic diseases
  • Stress
  • Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Obesity or poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Insufficient sleep

Additionally, elevated markers on a test result can indicate an increased risk of heart disease or diabetes. Chronic inflammation can also accelerate the aging process and impair your overall well-being.

Blood tests for measuring inflammation

To assess the presence and severity of inflammation in the body, doctors may use the following blood tests:

  • C-reactive protein (CRP): A protein the liver produces in response to inflammation.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): Measures the rate at which red blood cells settle at the bottom of a test tube.
  • Interleukin-6 (IL-6): A cytokine involved in inflammation.
  • Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α): Another cytokine that plays a role in systemic inflammation.

Test reliability and accuracy

While these tests are generally reliable, the following factors can affect their accuracy:

  • Marker specificity: Different markers have varying levels of accuracy.
  • Timing: The levels of these markers can fluctuate throughout the day.
  • Individual health conditions: Existing health issues and medications can affect the results.
  • Quality of lab: The reliability of the test also depends on the quality of the lab where it's done.

Steps to identify and leverage elevated inflammatory markers

If your blood test results indicate high levels of inflammatory markers, doctors usually take these steps:

  1. Medical history review: A thorough review of your medical history to identify any potential causes.
  2. Physical examination: A complete physical check-up for signs of inflammation or other health issues.
  3. Additional tests: Doctors can assign further blood tests or imaging to rule out infections, autoimmune disorders, or chronic conditions.
  4. Lifestyle assessment: Healthcare professionals consider diet, exercise, and stress levels.
  5. Tailored treatment: Based on the diagnosis, the doctor creates a
    treatment plan to address the underlying issue and reduce inflammation.

Nutrient effects on inflammation

Nutrients are essential for proper body function and to help reduce inflammation. The connection between specific nutrients and inflammation is complex, but iron is one example.

Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and provides information about the body's state of inflammation.

Ferritin and inflammation

Ferritin serves as an acute-phase protein produced by the liver. During episodes of inflammation, the body releases specific molecules known as cytokines. These cytokines signal the liver to ramp up the production of ferritin. This increase serves a critical defensive role; it helps to sequester iron, thereby limiting its availability to pathogens that might thrive on it.

Elevated ferritin levels in the blood may indicate ongoing inflammation, infection, or other underlying health issues. [2] Monitoring ferritin levels along with other markers of inflammation can help assess the impact of inflammation on your overall health.

The paradox of low ferritin and inflammation

Low ferritin levels can also be linked to inflammation. As the body's defense mechanism boosts ferritin during inflammation, serum ferritin levels may decrease, giving a false impression of iron deficiency.

Iron and inflammation

Inflammation has a notable impact on iron regulation in the body. During an inflammatory response, the body increases the production of a hormone called hepcidin.

This hormone controls iron absorption from the intestines and its release from storage cells. [2] Elevated hepcidin levels can block iron absorption and trap it in storage cells, leading to lower iron levels in the bloodstream.

Health implications of lowered iron levels

Reduced iron levels may lead to iron deficiency anemia, a condition characterized by reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

This can result in symptoms like:

  • Fatigue
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Weakened immune response

Because of the complex relationship between iron and inflammation, monitoring is important to optimize your health.

Future research and development

As medical technology and understanding continue to advance, so does the use of inflammatory markers for understanding the body's health state. Researchers consider multiple markers like CRP, IL-6, and TNF-alpha simultaneously to better understand inflammation's impact on health.

Furthermore, while precision medicine continues to make strides, tools like InsideTracker are emerging as pivotal players in health management, offering personalized insights and empowering you to take your health into your own hands. These technologies facilitate the tailoring of health strategies to individual needs, paving the way for more effective outcomes and fostering improved long-term health. [3]

Inflammatory biomarkers and health

Understanding certain biomarkers can offer valuable information about inflammation occurring within your body. InsideTracker provides in-depth biomarker analyses, a personalized action plan, and valuable resources to improve your health and increase your healthspan.

InsideTracker doesn't provide disease detection or medical diagnoses, so contact a qualified healthcare professional for any medically related concerns.