Chronic Inflammation: Signs, Symptoms, and Testing

by Jordan Reasoner


Jim is a 45-year old white collar accountant working 60 hours a week. He’s married with three kids and in the last year, Jim hasn’t been feeling like himself. He picked up a spare tire and found it harder to get out of bed every morning. He always feels tired and keeps thinking he needs to make a Doctor’s appointment.

On Wednesday’s, Jim usually comes home to an empty house and cooks a loving dinner for the family. This Wednesday, when his wife got home with the kids, something seemed off.

The front door was wide open and when they walked in, dinner wasn’t ready. They paused in the foyer, paralyzed by the sinking feeling something was wrong. Heart beating faster, throat tightening up, Jim’s wife slowly peeked into the living room.

There lay Jim’s lifeless body, collapsed before he could reach the couch.

Panic.  Tears.  911.

But it was too late. Jim was dead from a massive heart attack that ended his life too early. How could this have happened?

Every Action Contributes to Health or Promotes Disease

Actions that promote disease create chronic inflammation, which is correlated with just about every disease known to man. (1) In 2004, Time Magazine called inflammation “The Secret Killer” and each day we make choices about this so called “secret killer,” just like Jim did. For example, every food we choose to eat, every pill we take, the time we decide to go to bed, the city we choose to live in, the job we choose to have… each one contributes to chronic inflammation or helps calm it down.

So, every choice we make about our health boils down to this: Pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.

Working 100 hours a week at a stressful job with no sleep? Pro-inflammatory.

Eating a high-carb, low-fat diet filled with grains and sugar? Pro-inflammatory.

Drinking a few beers a night? Pro-inflammatory.

Taking Fish Oil? Anti-inflammatory.

Getting 8 hours of sleep? Anti-inflammatory.

Avoiding all grains (especially gluten)? Anti-inflammatory.

Years of making pro-inflammatory choices add up to chronic inflammation…

Chronic Inflammation is Like a Fire Raging Inside You

Inflammation is a normal immune response in your body. It’s usually our friend. Think of it like the first responder to the scene of the injury. Pain, swelling, redness, and warmth are all signs of inflammation arriving at the site and helping your body with the healing process.

Acute inflammation is a brief inflammatory response to an injury or illness that only lasts a few days. Here’s a few examples where it helps:

  • Injury (twisted ankle, broken arm)
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Sunburn
  • Cuts

But chronic inflammation is when things go south.

Inflammation becomes chronic when it stops being an acute response and remains a constant low-level physiological response. Think of it like starting a small camp fire meant to keep you warm that doesn’t get put out and grows into an out of control forest fire, burning 100,000 acres.

Chronic inflammation is when your body no longer has the ability to turn off the inflammatory response and it starts damaging healthy tissue in your body. It could damage the intestinal lining in your gut and cause digestive problems, it could damage the arteries in your heart and cause heart disease, or it could damage your joints and cause rheumatoid arthritis.

At that point, too many pro-inflammatory choices have created a monster.

Signs You Have Chronic Inflammation

The red flag for Chronic inflammation comes when a disease associated with it shows up, like heart disease, cancer, or autoimmune disease like MS, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease or Rheumatoid Arthritis. If you already have one of these conditions like I do, the pro-inflammatory choices have already had a profound impact in your life.

Take Tom, he’s a high powered executive for a fortune 500 company, working 80 hours a week for the past 15 years. He’s got three kids at home and a busy life outside of work. Lately, he’s become 30 pounds overweight and started feeling fatigued. The last few weeks he’s noticed blood and mucous in his stool and he’s worried it’s going to start affecting his ability to do his job.

Then there’s Annie, she’s a stay at home Mom with three kids, two of which are home-schooled. After long days teaching her two oldest boys, she still gets up 2-3 times a night to feed her 4-month old daughter. Not only that, but in the evenings she helps out with the youth group at Church. She’s completely exhausted, losing too much weight, and recently got diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She’s worried about being able to raise her kids.

Some of the symptoms both Tom and Annie might have seen coming earlier in life are things like:

  • Ongoing, irritating pain in the body (like the joints or muscles)
  • Allergies or asthma (especially when they keep getting worse)
  • High blood pressure or blood sugar problems
  • Ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (constipation or diarrhea)
  • Constant fatigue or lethargy
  • Skin problems or red, bloodshot eyes

If you think you have signs or symptoms of chronic inflammation, you can get testing done to find out if you’re dealing with the “secret killer.”

Ways to Test for Chronic Inflammation

There isn’t a single silver bullet test for chronic inflammation. But there are a series of tests that, coupled with your history, can give you a picture of the levels of inflammation in your body.

Here’s 6 common inflammatory markers you can ask your Doctor to test for:

  • Elevated High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (HS-CRP)
  • SED Rate
  • High levels of Homocysteine
  • Elevated Ferritin in the blood
  • Elevated HDL
  • Elevated Monocytes can be a secondary indicator of inflammation
  • Elevated Blood Glucose is a leading indicator of inflammation

If the combination of these tests indicate you have signs of chronic inflammation, you need to focus on making anti-inflammatory choices from here on out.

This is life or death. Pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. The real problem with chronic inflammation is that it’s not short-term gratification. It’s easy to pick the inflammatory choices and rationalize that it’s not a big deal. But the bottom line is: these pro-inflammatory choices add up over time until one day, chronic inflammation is the reason you have IBD, or heart disease, or RA, or even the reason you’re dead.

How to Turn Off Inflammation

Many times, the inflammation cascade begins in the gut… and in order to reverse the process of inflammation in the body, we need to start by healing the gut first.

We’re hosting an online presentation called, “The 3 Keys to Digestive Health.”

It’s completely free, and in it we dive deep into your gut health and how to begin to stop the inflammation cascade by fixing something called “leaky gut.”

You can register for your seat here:

You could spend years trying to figure out how to reverse the effects of a lifetime of inflammatory choices… or you could register for this free one-hour webinar and we’ll show you how we did it through the gut.

If you can’t attend live, we will send you the recording, but you must click here to register to make sure you get the link the next morning.

In good health,


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About the author

Jordan Reasoner Jordan Reasoner is a health engineer and author. He was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007 and almost gave up hope when a gluten-free diet didn’t work. Since then, he transformed his health using the SCD Diet and started to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet Works

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Markus October 5, 2012 at 10:54 am

Hi Guys,
you are doing a great service for all of us.

i have a question regarding diet. It seems that i have a special problem with every food thats supposed to be healthy and ANTIBACTERIAL. Garlic, Onion, Ginger, ACV, Peppermint tea and so on. Do you guys think this is some sort of die off? I get diarrhea from these foods. You have any ideas whats causing this?

Thank you very much



Steven Wright October 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm

@Markus – Interesting for sure, yeah it’s probably a really good sign that you’ve got something growing in you that you don’t want. I’d try and rule out SIBO, parasties and yeast overgrowth through testing if you can. That’s the best option.


Scott McMillan October 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

This is a great info. I love reading Time magazine. I like fish oil but have found krill oil is great as an anti-inflammatory. It also lowers cholesterol. reduces blood pressure, joint pain and chronic disease. It’s the best anti-inflammatory I have found.


Bets' November 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm

skinny me ate anything I wanted-from cakes to McD’s-I never put on an ounce-I used to joke that I could eat a lb of chocolate and wake up even thinner- The joke’s on me-now-I am under the care of a functional neurologist/holistic chiroprator-When I dragged myself to his free seminar, I was 95 lbs. My blood oxygen levels were 85-I had parasites-pre-diabeties-high sodium levels-was filled w/ unusual rage-had constant hot flashes for the last 10 yrs-no appetite-thinning hair-extreme fatigue-and mal-nutrition from horrible diarreha. That was in August-I am 50% better and must avoid gluten forever and a day-but at least it’s not Celiac-The best part is-I love life again-I’m still weak but I have more good days than bad- I traded in my corned beef hash & toast breakfast for a plate of fresh dark leafies-bacon or cod and homemade saurkraut w/ beet slices-yummm! I’m no longer “sour” – I love my new diet of supplements and natural foods-and even better, I realized how many people actually love ME and care about ME.


Jordan Reasoner December 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Awesome Bets, thank you for sharing. You rock!



Navin May 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Truly inspiring Bets’,
Love life, be happy and make other happy, ultimate purpose of our life.


Martin @ Leaky gut research January 28, 2013 at 12:34 am

Very good story, so true. The only thing I am not sure about is the fish oil supplement. High quantities of fish oil increase intestinal permeability which can result in increased inflammation. I would rather go for whole fish.


Barb January 28, 2013 at 9:08 am

Your list of inflammatory markers includes elevated HDL. Is that correct, or do you mean LDL? I’m one of those people with an HDL over 100 and doctors generally just say I’ll live forever. If it’s a marker for inflammation can you point me to more articles about elevated HDL? Thanks, Barb


Jordan Reasoner January 31, 2013 at 3:33 am

Hi Barb, I’m sorry for any confusion. I was saying that elevated HDL can be a sign/marker of inflammation when included with those other signs.

Please see this tweet for a URL to my friend Chris Kresser explaining it:

In good health,



Tom February 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

I just ran across your link on a Crohn’s board. You might say I’m kinda new at reading the boards as I got Dxd finally 2 years ago, played the devil to get scoped Ins. co et al. My dad had Colon cancer. But what I find universally is that people tend to throw out acronyms continually. In your case SCD, I had to Google that one. care to throw out what the acronyms mean one in a while? I’m not trying to be disrespectful but constructive. New people to this exclusive club have to have as questions as I do.



Diane August 20, 2014 at 11:58 am

Hello, Jordan’s already providing plenty of information free mind you so at least we can do is look up words we may not be familiar with. It’s not that difficult..


[email protected] August 21, 2015 at 1:03 pm

hey diane, lets try to keep it friendly here. everyone is just looking for information for good health. any question is a good one, so lets try not to correct on another and mind our own business. thanks!


Victoria March 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm

So important – thanks for sharing this. I do have a question, though. I just read on another site (a big name pro-vegetarian diet promoter) who was sharing with her readers that all meat and dairy is inflammatory (she didn’t say anything about grass-fed, pasture raised, and organic being any different). Since you guys have done so much research into this, can you comment? Thanks! 😉


Hannah April 5, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Thank you for this article! It was great and very informational! There are also some natural supplements out there that are supposed to help with inflammation. One that I have been reading up on is called Zyflamend has anyone taken this before?


Petra May 22, 2013 at 10:27 am

If you suspect you have an inflammation in your body, is there a risk with just changing your liftestyle to antiinflammatory WITHOUT doing any testing according to above? For example, just try your way forward with the SCD diet.


Laura Sheffler September 7, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I have delayed gastric emptying. Most of the foods on scd make me worse. MEat, eggs, nuts. The only foods that n’t hurt mys tomach are rice congee, carrots, squash, potatoes, ground turkey chewed very slowly, squash. Thats it. I am on low fat and high carb and feel better. When I ddi scd i got so much sicker. Everthing caused pain and nausea ( i was eating all meat, eggs and carrots. Cut eggs and worse. The intro diet was hell. I can only eat tiny amounts of meat. I am gluten and dairy free and stopped nuts too.


diana spencer April 15, 2016 at 11:24 am

So what you eat im the same but I dont know what to eat


Mariel Heiss April 15, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Diana – everyone is different and SCD has to be customized to you. It isn’t uncommon to have problems with nuts, eggs, and even high amounts of fat early in the diet (they were all problems for me!!) – we write about it here:

Finding the diet that works for you takes work but it is worth it 🙂 I’d recommend starting by finding your food safe zone (that is what Laura is describing heres) – here’s how:


PetrosT September 30, 2013 at 6:43 am

Elevated HDL as an inflammatory marker surprises me. As I am trying to avoid the serious damage of metabolic syndrome, which is known also to increase inflammation due to the high-carb diet usually associated with it, then I would see elevated HDL as a good thing rather than negative.


Steven Wright October 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Elevated HDL above 100 can be a sign of high inflammation and or a sign your immune system is in overdrive fighting something.


Joe October 16, 2013 at 10:17 am


I have high monocyte levels.
The rest of my blood tests are fine.
Is this a sign of serious inflamation ? what could it be ?
I am kind of worried
tks a lot


Dora Love October 30, 2013 at 9:52 am

Thank you for writing this piece on inflamation. I want to know where I can find the next article on the bath tub theory you mentioned at the end of the article. I couldn’t find it on your website. Please send me the link? Thank you.


Steven Wright November 3, 2013 at 10:59 pm
Kathryn Lampkin December 12, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I was so sick in 2009 that I almost died. I was feeling weak and ill for months, possibly years. All of the sudden I lost 30 lbs in two weeks. I had no idea what was going on. I gave up gluten, but it only helped a bit. My brother told me about the SCD diet. I went on it for a few months and felt SO much better. I do not follow the diet, any more, and I am doing well. Although it has taken a long time to feel better and stronger. I occasionally go back to the SCD diet when I feel the need. I love her recipe for yogurt.


Cindi Fletcher January 30, 2014 at 11:27 am

I have had hives for over 10 years and take zyrtec daily. Have been to Naturopathic doctors who have done food allergy testing, metal testing. Removed all irritants from my system with no improvement. I am unable to lose weight. I would like to find out what is causing the irritation, but don’t know where to go next.


Val January 30, 2014 at 11:49 am

Turmeric is a very strong anti-inflammatory natural substance and when eaten with ground black pepper, the absorption is even stronger (but you also need to QUIT eating meats/dairy/processed junk foods too) Dr. Michael Greger of has a few short videos with citations and peer reviews on this in case anyone is interested. The Standard American Diet is killing us, folks, but you don’t HAVE to eat it. Heal yourselves with dark leafies, other veggies and fruits, beans and legumes…many are already doing so!


Cris February 14, 2014 at 1:30 pm

A test specific for vascular inflammation is a Plac2 test. lp-PLA2 to be specific. Check it out!


Tina April 11, 2014 at 9:59 am

HI I have been doing research to find a more natural way to help my body. I became type 1 diabetic at 26 because of getting the flu that attack my pancreas and shut it down literally over night. I am now 28 and have an autoimmune disorder and inflammation problem that is causing scleritis (inflammation of the eyes) and the doctors can not seem to get it under control. I have been on a high dose of steriods and now on a medicine they give to people on chemo therapy that lowers white blood cells, affects the kidneys and liver. YIKES. Well my eyes are still very RED and now have other side affects from the meds. At this point in my research i am getting so confused between what to eat, cleaning my gut for leaky gut and supplements to take. Can you help point me int he right direction please.


Terri May 25, 2015 at 7:51 pm

Interesting read. I’ve almost always made health choices in the last 20+yrs… in my diet. 90% veg and healthy foods, 10% binge eg chocolate, crisps (chips), red wine.
I’m 47 now, and last year endured the most difficult stress in what has been a challenging life anyway.
My 90/10 rule became more 70/30, I packed on 10kg (22 lbs) and lately, I’ve had some very challenging health concerns which no doctor has yet been able to address I’m waiting on blood test results checking for inflammatory stuff, potentially for RA as my old injuries are hurting more than ever, and a viral issue I’ve had for 20yrs is worsening with no obvious triggers. I just want to get back to the gym, lose the weight and feel good again 🙂


Lori Jo Berg May 25, 2015 at 11:36 pm

Hi Terri, thanks for sharing with us. We believe in you and highly suggest this webinar on autoimmmunity:


Lisa May 26, 2015 at 2:37 pm

My iron, vit d and calcium are in the single digits. I’m BALD at 49, ALWAYS burning up, have high cholesterol and blood pressure and am a hypoglycemic. My guts are spastic at odd times and I’m always in danger of squatting on the side of the road. It’s a nightmare and not one “Dr” seems to want to do anything other than write another freaking prescription! I’m at my wits end and quite frankly, I don’t think there ARE any answeres for my situation.


Lori Jo Berg May 27, 2015 at 10:00 am

Hi Lisa, we see many people in your same shoes and we highly suggest you start the path to healing by addressing your diet. The SCD diet is effective at healing the gut as well as helping with the loose bowel movements. You can begin by starting here: Also, this article is a great read:


Mel June 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm

I was diagnosed on Wednesday, 3 days ago, with a chronic tissue disease, Sharp Syndrome. It has been a lot to wrap my head around. Can anyone offer me any advice or suggestions. I can’t get in with a Rheumatologist until August and I would like to make lifestyle, diet and supplement changes immediately. I’m currently taking a strong dose of steroids for the next week to help with inflammation and supression.
I have four kids, I know I need to slow down but man is it hard. I want to be around to watch my kids meet every milestone in their lives. They are my world..


Mariel Heiss June 30, 2015 at 7:41 pm

Thanks for reaching out to us, Mel. Our Solving Leaky Gut program would be perfect for you because it addresses lifestyle, diet, and supplements. The best place to start your journey to better health is by signing up for a free webinar where you can learn more about the program and how it helps people in similar situations to yours


chris August 17, 2015 at 7:50 pm

About 3 months ago I woke up and my left butt cheek hurt so bad in the middle that I could hardly move, but as the day went on it was better, this continued for about a month then when that stopped both of my upper arms hurt, not the joints, just upper arms and everywhere else I am just stiff-finally went to doctor is doing an immune panel bloodwork on me, i am scared to death, what can it be? This hurts so bad that i wake up in the night and can hardly move, same way in the morning till I take tylenol then eases up a little but not much, can someone please give me some advice


Mariel Heiss August 17, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Hi Chris, thanks for reaching out to us. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, as it sounds really scary 🙁 You’ve made the right choice by seeing your doctor – that is definitely the first step! We’re here for you. Hope you’re feeling much better really soon.


BRI November 5, 2015 at 12:57 am



BRI November 5, 2015 at 12:58 am



Joan August 18, 2015 at 10:11 pm

Hi Chris sounds like you may have Lyme disease look it up and find a Lyme literate doctor


Olivia Witherow August 19, 2015 at 9:21 am

Digestive system problems and inflammation I want to get a healthy gut


Mariel Heiss August 20, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Hi Olivia! thanks for commenting 🙂

If you want to get a healthy gut the best place to start is by taking the personalized quiz, which will help you sort through some of your issues and give you direction:

We also highly recommend you register for one of our free Solving Leaky Gut Webinar’s, where the following will be addressed and much more:

-Why your digestion is often the root cause behind problems like brain fog, bad skin, hormone problems, food sensitivities, autoimmunity, and more

-Your top digestive risk factor – what it means and how to fix it

-The 19 triggers that poke holes in your gut wall

-The 3 step process to rebuilding your gut

-Specific anti-inflammatory foods to eat (and not eat) to stop suffering

-2 game-changing supplements that can fix your digestive complaints tomorrow

Link to register:


Baby Squirrel January 18, 2016 at 1:08 pm

I am going to Vanderbilt ASAP, because I have gotten worse over last few months. .. But my issues have been going on over a year….. The pain management Doctor, is claiming he can cure my Systemic Sclerderma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, ADHD ,Thyroid disease, IBS, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and more….. He thinks it’s in my head…. while I have been constantly loosing weight, I wear a girls size 10 -12…. I look like I’m in chemo, from my hair loss…. painful joints caused me to head to ER… where I found out ,My count shows Extreme inflammation…. but the pain specialist never tested, me… I am constantly complaining about my pain remains a 7, an my life scale is a 2…. (he even force me to see a head doc)….. Please help, any information. ….


Mariel Heiss January 18, 2016 at 2:48 pm

We’re so sorry to hear the issues you’re struggling with right now. A diet like SCD may be able to help with some of these symptoms because it promotes whole-body health – you can get started here: I hope you’re feeling much better very soon.


Westin March 4, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Great work, guys.

I love the research and evidence that you use in each post! And I definitely agree that most inflammation has roots in the gut.


cody abshire April 7, 2016 at 12:10 am

My body feels like its all inflamed. Burning and itching is driving me crazy. Feels like my whole body is hot but no temperature. Ran blood tests all normal xray of chest normal catscan. Been like this for over a month. Worst inflammation is left lower side of back 🙁


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