Calprotectin is a protein that arises from the activity of white blood cells in crucial parts of the digestive system. Neutrophils are the white cells that contain calprotectin. When neutrophils disintegrate, they release calprotectin. Higher levels of calprotectin indicate that neutrophils are actively involved in an inflammatory process. Stool calprotectin is considered a marker of inflammation. Elevated calprotectin levels indicate increased immune activity, such as inflammation, occurring in the digestive system.
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Typically, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is associated with elevated calprotectin levels. Calprotectin elevation doesn’t occur with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is why calprotectin levels can help distinguish between IBD and IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome is more likely to result in elevated levels of lysozyme, another inflammatory marker, in the stool.
Certain medications can increase calprotectin levels. For example, paracetamol and ibuprofen can elevate calprotectin.
Interestingly, elevated calprotectin is also associated with high blood pressure.
High levels of calprotectin warrant further investigation. It is essential to identify the source of inflammation in the gut to address it appropriately.