Inflammation is a process that is controlled by the immune system. It occurs when the immune system detects an injury, or harmful foreign invaders and organisms, and attacks them with white blood cells. This results in swelling, redness, pain and warmth in the region. Inflammation is part of the healing process, however excess inflammation is the basis of many illnesses and diseases. Some of these diseases include arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, pelvic inflammatory disease and more.
Reducing unnecessary inflammation can help to fight inflammatory diseases and illnesses, improve your wellbeing, and your overall health in profound ways. There are several ways to reduce inflammation, such as eating well, ensuring you drink enough water, and sometimes by taking supplements.
How Can Supplements Help Reduce Inflammation?
There is a variety of good supplements for inflammation that work in different ways. Some provide your body with an additional boost of antioxidants that support and modulate the immune system, as well as reduce oxidative and free radical damages that may trigger inflammatory response.
Other good inflammation supplements contain beneficial compounds that either neutralize inflammatory substances, or stimulate the body to produce substances that inhibit inflammatory compounds. Certain natural antioxidant substances that come from plants seem to have these anti-inflammatory benefits.
Some supplements are more beneficial for specific types of inflammation, while others are good anti-inflammatory substances in general.
Why Should You Take Anti-Inflammatory Supplements?
Inflammation can cause diseases and illnesses in localized regions, or can affect your whole body. You can contribute to whole body inflammation by leading a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, drinking alcohol and through stress.
Diet also plays a large role in how much inflamed your body is on regular basis. Lack of exercise and being overweight also can cause chronic (long term) inflammation that may not be as visible as acute (short term) inflammation that results from injuries.
Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Supplements to Consider
What is Curcumin?
Curcumin is a polyphenol antioxidant that comes from a spice called turmeric. It is the compound that gives turmeric its yellow-orange color, and it is known to be the major source of turmeric health benefits. Turmeric has been used for thousands of years as an Indian spice in curry dishes and in ayurvedic traditional medicine. In ayurveda, turmeric is considered a pitta-pacifying food.
Pitta dosha is the energy that controls the metabolism, body heat, digestion and absorption according to ayurvedic tradition. This traditional use of turmeric (to reduce pitta, or heat) carries over into the modern day, because it is sometimes effective. Curcumin is the reason it is known to be helpful at reducing heat, AKA inflammation. Curcumin is generally available in the forms of curcumin pills, powders, extracts and tinctures.
How Curcumin May Help Inflammation
Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, and studies have shown that it may also modify immune system responses. It can also help with other health problems related to inflammation, and it has additional benefits: it is antibacterial and antifungal, which helps protect you from infections.
How to Take Curcumin
Curcumin has low bioavailability, so make sure to get a curcumin supplement that is formulated to enhance absorption. One way of enhancing curcumin absorption is by taking it with black pepper extract, which many formulations include. Many products advise that you take it with food as well.
Curcumin Food Sources
Curcumin foods include anything with turmeric in it. Turmeric is a versatile spice, and though it is most well known for its use in curry, there are many other ways to use it. You can flavor your chicken with it, make tea from it, season salads and eggs with it and much more.
Curcumin Side Effects
Curcumin is a natural substance that is generally well-tolerated, however some people may experience unwanted side effects. These side effects may include stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea etc.
What is Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that is naturally produced by the body and present in many foods. It helps to turn glucose (sugar) into energy, and it also helps to improve the function of other antioxidants. It is a unique antioxidant because it is soluble in both water and fat, while most antioxidants are only water soluble. In supplement form, it is available in alpha-lipoic acid pills or as an intravenous injection performed by a health care provider.
How Alpha-Lipoic Acid May Help Inflammation
Alpha-lipoic acid can act as an anti-inflammatory agent, a powerful antioxidant and a cardiovascular supporter.
How to Take Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid is both water and fat soluble. Studies are not conclusive over whether it is better to take it with or without a meal, so you can take it based on your preference. There is some evidence that taking it alongside raw egg whites may reduce its efficacy.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid Food Sources
Alpha-lipoic acid foods include broccoli, yams, spinach, potatoes, yeast, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots and more. However, the amount present in these foods is very low. One of the more rich sources of alpha-lipoic acid is organ meats. This is because it binds to proteins.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid Side Effects
Alpha-lipoic acid supplements are considered generally safe, however some people who take it may get a rash. Alpha-lipoic acid may also lower blood sugar, so talk to your doctor before supplementing.
What is Ginger?
Ginger is a plant with roots that are used as a spice, herbal tea and medicine. It is a type of tuberous rhizome, just like turmeric. It is native to warmer Asian and Indian climates, and it is now grown in the Middle East, South America and Africa.
It has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it has been a staple of traditional medicine for centuries. Its most common use throughout history has been to help digestive ailments. It is available as a supplement in multiple forms, including ginger root powder, extracts, tinctures, teas, oils and ginger pills.
How Ginger May Help Inflammation
The active ingredients in ginger are called phenols, and they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial to your health. Ginger and its metabolites have been found to accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract, which is part of the reason it may be effective for digestive issues.
How to Take Ginger
The best ginger supplements are available in different forms, including extracts, tablets, ginger pills, tinctures and teas, so administration may differ do to form.
Ginger Food Sources
Ginger foods include any product that is made with ginger. As a spice, you can also cook with it at home. It is often used in Asian recipes and to spice up meats. It is also a popular spice to use in desserts.
Ginger Side Effects
Ginger is generally well tolerated. However, ginger taken in large doses may cause heartburn, gas, nausea etc. It may also interact with blood thinners. Consult your doctor before taking ginger.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is a supplement that comes from the tissues of fatty cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, herring, anchovies, mackerel etc. It contains a group of healthy fats, called omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary to human health.
How Fish Oil May Help Inflammation
Fish oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits are most studied in reference to rheumatoid arthritis. Some small studies have found that it may help to reduce joint pain and morning stiffness.
How to Take Fish Oil
Fish oil can be taken with or without a meal, but taking it with food may reduce the instance of fishy burps or fishy breath. You can also freeze your fish oil supplements to reduce fishiness.
Fish Oil Food Sources
Fish oil foods are fatty, coldwater fish. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in some nuts, eggs, and oils, but these sources often do not contain both of the fatty acids that fish oil does; known as EPA and DHA.
Fish Oil Side Effects
Fish oil supplements are usually safe and well tolerated, and the most common side effects are fishy burps and fishy breath. However, large doses may interfere with blood coagulation. Large doses may also increase risk of bleeding.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is a process that can degrade cells. For example, when you slice open an apple, it quickly starts to turn brown because of the process of oxidation. Oxidative stress in the body produces free radicals, which are highly reactive and short lived molecules that can damage your cells and contribute to the process of aging.
Antioxidants help to fight oxidative stress, and to help neutralize free radicals; protecting your body and your cells from potential damages.
How Antioxidants Help Reduce Inflammation
Antioxidants are effective supplements for inflammation because they help to fight cellular damage that may cause inflammatory response. They also help to support and modulate immune response, which helps the immune system from overreacting. Antioxidants are well known for their skin health benefits as well. Your skin is bombarded with toxins and oxidizing agents the most, so this makes sense.
How to Take Antioxidants
There are antioxidant supplements that are both water and fat soluble, so depending on the supplement, there will be different beneficial ways to absorb it. Read the supplement facts and follow the dosing directions on the product.
Antioxidant Food Sources
Antioxidant foods that provide the most rich sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. Many superfoods contain lots of antioxidants, such as kale, goji berries, acai berries, wild blueberries and more.
Antioxidant Side Effects
Antioxidants are typically safe and well tolerated. However, certain antioxidant supplements, when taken in large doses, may increase risk of certain diseases. These include beta-carotene and vitamin E.
What is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant that is commonly found in red wine. Moderate consumption of red wine has long been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. It belongs to a class of polyphenols called stilbenes, which are produced by certain plants in response to injury, UV radiation or stress. The antioxidant was first discovered in wine in the 1990s, and has since been studied for its potential health benefits.
How Resveratrol May Help Inflammation
As a powerful antioxidant, resveratrol has anti-inflammatory and immune supporting health benefits. Studies have found that resveratrol is capable of inhibiting inflammatory enzymes, and may also be able to inhibit substances called pro-inflammatory transcription factors.
How to Take Resveratrol
Resveratrol is soluble in water, so it does not have to be taken with foods. Resveratrol can interact with certain prescription medications, so talk to your doctor before taking a resveratrol supplement.
Resveratrol Food Sources
Resveratrol foods include red wine, red grape skins, purple grape juice, blueberries and peanuts. The most rich sources of resveratrol come from supplements, however.
Resveratrol Side Effects
Resveratrol is generally considered safe, and most people do not experience negative side effects from it. However, it may slow blood clotting. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to a doctor before supplementing with resveratrol.
What is Bromelain?
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapples. It helps to improve the digestion of proteins, which is why pineapple has been used historically in Central and South America to help indigestion and inflammation.
The enzyme was first isolated in the late 1800s, and was approved in German medicine for purpose of swelling and inflammation after surgeries.
How Bromelain May Help Inflammation
Bromelain stimulates the body to produce substances that fight pain and swelling. It is most notably effective for inflammation of the sinuses. If you are looking for a well rounded anti-inflammatory supplement, bromelain may be the right choice for you!
How to Take Bromelain
Bromelain should be taken on an empty stomach, unless it is taken as a digestive aid. Bromelain may interact with different drugs, so talk to a doctor before taking a bromelain supplement.
Bromelain Food Sources
The only bromelain food that exists is pineapple. Recipes and foods that include pineapple, therefore, include bromelain.
Bromelain Side Effects
Bromelain is generally safe for most people when taken in proper amounts. However, bromelain may cause side effects such as intestinal discomfort and diarrhea. Bromelain may also interact with medications.
What is Evening Primrose?
Evening primrose is a natural supplement that comes from the seeds of the evening primrose; a plant native to North America. It now grows in Europe and the southern hemisphere, and it produces a yellow flower. The leaves were traditionally used by Native Americans for minor wounds, sore throats, and gastrointestinal problems. The oil contains a fatty acid called gamma-linoleic acid which is used for skin conditions, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular conditions, among other things.
How Evening Primrose May Help Inflammation
Fatty acids that are found in evening primrose oil can be used by the body and may help fight inflammation.
How to Take Evening Primrose
Evening primrose oil does not have to be taken with or without food. This supplement may interact with pharmaceuticals, so talk to your doctor before taking evening primrose oil.
Evening Primrose Food Sources
Evening primrose is the only source of evening primrose. The roots can be cooked and eaten, or the leaves used in a salad. However, the beneficial gamma-linoleic acid is present in the seeds.
Evening Primrose Side Effects
Evening primrose oil is typically a safe natural supplement, however some people do experience side effects. These may include acne, abdominal pain, anxiety, bloating etc.
What is Flaxseed Oil?
Flax is a plant that is an herbaceous annual that is cultivated for its fibres and its seeds. The fibers of the flax plant are used to make linen, and the seeds are eaten due to their high nutrient content. Flaxseed, also called linseed, is high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and lignans. Lignans are another type of polyphenol antioxidant.
Omega-3 fatty acids have cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health benefits, and fiber can help to maintain a healthy weight and digestive system; making flaxseed a superfood. Flaxseed oil extracts the omega-3 fatty acids and the lignans to supplement for health purposes.
How Flaxseed Oil May Help Inflammation
The healthy polyunsaturated omega-3’s and antioxidant lignans in flaxseed oil are anti-inflammatory, making it one of the best supplements for inflammation.
Similar to fish oil, flaxseed oil has the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. However, flaxseed oil does not contain all of the important omega-3’s. Fish oil contains the fats known as EPA and DHA, while flaxseed oil contains ALA.
How to Take Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil can be taken with or without food, but it may interact with certain medications. Consult a doctor before taking flaxseed oil.
Flaxseed Oil Food Sources
Flaxseed oil foods include – flaxseeds! Flaxseeds are a popular addition to smoothies for their nutrition and fiber content. Flaxseeds can also be added to salads, soups and baked goods.
Flaxseed Oil Side Effects
Flaxseed oil is generally safe and natural. Large doses of flaxseed oil (30 grams or more) may soften stools or cause diarrhea, but regular doses are well tolerated.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is is a cyanobacteria that is known as a blue-green algae. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and antioxidants. Some of these nutrients include vitamin E, vitamin B complex, zinc, copper, manganese, beta-carotene, iron, selenium and gamma-linoleic acid.
How Spirulina May Help Inflammation
Spirulina makes it onto our list of the top supplements for inflammation due to its antioxidants and gamma-linoleic acid contents. Both gamma-linoleic acid and the beneficial antioxidants in spirulina work synergistically to create a supplement for inflammation. On top of this, it is rich in nutrients.
How to Take Spirulina
Spirulina can be taken as a pill, or as a powder. The powder can be mixed in drinks or added to food. Spirulina can be taken with or without food.
Spirulina Food Sources
Spirulina foods are only available from spirulina. You can buy it as a supplement. Some people grow it at home.
Spirulina Side Effects
Spirulina is typically safe and natural. However, ensure that you get your spirulina from a reliable source, because the algae can be easily contaminated by toxins or harmful bacteria. We recommend speaking with your doctor before taking spirulina.