Supplements for Inflammation: Guide for Natural Pain Management
Ward off illness, increase immunity and boost your overall health by taking these six supplements for inflammation.
Whether you’re suffering from tendinitis or bronchitis, inflammation can make you feel awful. You pop an NSAID (like ibuprofen or aspirin), but it doesn’t seem to touch your pain. Plus, now you’re suffering from its side effects—nausea, vomiting, constipation, and headaches. If only there was something you could do (or take) to help speed up the healing process or, better yet, prevent you from getting ill in the first place. Fear not. Your road to wellness will take a dramatic shortcut once you start taking supplements for inflammation.
Before we talk about what you should be taking, let’s clear up the rumors about inflammation.
While it’s been getting a lot of negative press lately, inflammation isn’t always bad. In fact, acute inflammation (the kind that happens quickly) is a normal immune system response. When you’ve torn a muscle, cut yourself or fallen prey to a nasty virus, inflammation rushes in to save the day.
Think of it as your personal superhero. Inflammation uses its powers to boost blood flow and rally immune cells to help attack, protect and heal damaged tissue. It removes harmful substances, such as bacteria, from the injured area.
How to Prevent Acute Inflammation
If acute inflammation is not resolved, however, your body could suffer the long-term negative effects of something called chronic inflammation. This type lasts for much longer than the acute phase, and symptoms can spiral out of control, leading to diseases such as, diabetes (Types 1 and 2), heart disease, stroke, asthma, ulcerative colitis and multiple types of cancer.
(For more information on inflammation, please see our article What Does Inflammation Mean? Understanding the Link Between Inflammation and Disease.)
What can we do to prevent our acute inflammation from turning chronic? The same things we do to improve our overall health, say researchers: exercise, quit smoking, reduce stress, get a good amount of sleep and eat well. (For a more in-depth look at a healthy anti-inflammatory diet, see our post: Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Do They Work? ).
Another efficient way to stay on top of our health is to take supplements for inflammation. Research has proven that certain supplements can help us heal, protect our cells from damage and improve our immune systems. Taking them regularly has been linked to reduced inflammation and other major symptoms of illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. Add these six supplements for inflammation to your diet today.
“Between 40 percent and 60 percent of Americans use complementary and alternative medicine to manage medical conditions, prevent disease, and promote health and well-being,” found a study published in the journal Pain.
#1. Alpha-Lipoic Acid
This antioxidant is made by our bodies and boasts a bevy of benefits. It can turn glucose into energy, attack free radicals (waste products that damage cells) and, according to researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center, alpha-lipoic acid may help regenerate other antioxidants (like vitamins E and C) after they’ve been used up to fight free radicals. A 2015 study of rats published in the Journal Life Science also found that alpha-lipoic acid helped lessen the effects of oxidative stress, insulin resistance and inflammation.
Recommended dose: 300 to 600 mg daily. While there is no current safe upper limit, a study in the journal Diabetes Care found that taking 600mg daily for up to seven months was safe. Not recommended for pregnant women.
#2. Fish Oil
High in omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), fish oil has been proven to reduce inflammation and joint pain in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s diabetes and heart disease. “Many of the most significant U.S. health concerns today are modulated by omega-3 fatty acids,” say authors of an article published in the journal California Agriculture (Berkeley). They work by reducing cytokines (molecules that signal inflammation in the body) and lowering the amount of fat molecules and secretion from the liver. (Read more about omega-3s in our post: Omega-3 Benefits and Deficiency Symptoms: Why You Need This Essential Fatty Acid.)
Recommended dose: According to the National Institutues of Health, there’s nao recommended dose for DHA or EPA. That said, 200 mg daily was found to decrease the chance of death from cardiac arrest by 50 per cent in a 1999 study. And drugs.com claims that 1g to 2g per day could help fight coronary heart disease. Not recommended for people taking aspirin or blood thinners.
#3. Flax Seeds
This health-booster is high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an antioxidant-rich omega-3 fatty acid that your body converts into EPA and DHA. These can help prevent chronic illnesses such as heart disease, asthma, Parkinson’s and arthritis. Flax seeds also contain lignans, chemicals which have anti-oxidant properties and can lower the level of inflammation in the body.
Recommended dose: Clinical studies have found 15 g to 50 g per day to be safe. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, however, there is no recommended dose for flax seed or flax seed oil (a more concentrated product that does not include the lignans found in flax seeds). Tip: Take flax seeds (or oil) with plenty of water to avoid constipation. Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women or those taking blood thinning or blood sugar lowering medications.
Long used in Asian medicine to treat nausea, ginger is more than just an accompaniment to sushi. The root contains gingerol and zingerone, two chemicals that have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. These can help reduce the inflammation in diseases like colitis, diabetes, heart disease and various forms of cancer. A 2014 study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition also found a link between consuming ginger and a reduction in insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Recommended dose: 1 mg daily. Not recommended for people with gallstone disease, or for those taking aspirin or blood thinners.
A blue-green algae that is high in protein, B-vitamins, and iron, the antioxidant effects of spriulina are currently under investigation. So far, the results seem promising. Sprirulina has been found to reduce inflammation in both rat and human studies, and may even boost the immune system. Although more research is needed, these results show promise for the treatment of conditions such as diabetes, anemia, stress, hay fever, anxiety and, depression. (Find out more by reading our post: “Spirulina: A Green Food That Lowers Cholesterol Naturally.”)
Recommended dose: Aim for at least 1 g a day. According to the National Institutes of Health(NIH), 10 grams daily has been used safely for up to six months. Not recommended for pregnant women, those with autoimmune diseases, bleeding disorders or phenylketonuria. Warning: Make sure that your supplement is free of contaminants, otherwise you could suffer liver damage, rapid heartbeat, nausea, shock or death.
A member of the ginger family, turmeric (a.k.a. Curcumin longa) found fame as the powder that lends its yellow color to Indian curries. Its roots are loaded with curcumin, a chemical that has proven anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Chinese researchers found that “Curcumin could favorably affect most of the leading aspects of diabetes, including insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and islet apoptosis and necrosis.” Other conditions that could be improved with the help of turmeric include, depression, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, among many others. (To learn more about turmeric’s benefits and how to take it, see our post: How to Get the Most Turmeric Supplement Benefits)
Recommended dose: 200 to 500 mg daily appear to be safe, but doses higher than that do not appear to be toxic. Not recommended for pregnant women.
- Check with your doctor before taking a new supplement; especially if you have a serious health condition or are taking other medications.
- Take the recommended dose as recommended by your doctor, or as stated on the packaging.
- Do your research before you start taking supplements for inflammation. Check websites like the CDC or NIH to find articles and research about the product you’re interested in.
- Buy your supplements from a reputable source. If you’ve found it super cheap online, chances are it’s not going to be as effective or could even make you sick.
Sprirulina has been found to reduce inflammation in both rat and human studies, and may even boost the immune system.
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