5 Supplements That Help Reduce Inflammation

Aug 8, 2023

Inflammation. It’s the root cause of many diseases, yet it's an important part of your immune system response, helping you to fend off foreign invaders and facilitate healing when you are injured. 

Inflammation can be your friend or foe; it just depends on how long it sticks around. There are two levels of inflammation. Acute inflammation and Chronic inflammation. With Acute inflammation, it's like having a very helpful houseguest (inflammatory cells) over who likes to clean up “messes” (injuries, infections) and keeps “unwanted visitors” (pathogenic bacteria) from coming into the house. They (inflammatory cells) stay for a short while, tidy up the house, and then go home. With Chronic inflammation, that nice houseguest (inflammatory cells) becomes an unruly, destructive houseguest that just doesn’t want to leave, and their style of cleaning up ends up leaving even bigger messes, and furthermore, they start to confuse the good visitors for the bad visitors (healthy cells vs pathogenic bacteria). Things start to spiral out of control! 

Once inflammation is out of control, like in the case of Chronic inflammation, its effects spread like wildfire throughout the body, causing pain, swelling, fever, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and many, many other symptoms. (1) Long term chronic inflammation has been linked to many health conditions including Auto-immune disease, Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, various forms of Arthritis, Mental health issues, and the list goes on and on.  

There are many different tools that can be used to fight and conquer inflammation. Just like you would want to employ many different strategies to get a wildfire under control, it's also beneficial to use a variety of techniques to get that “wildfire” like inflammation back under control. 

Here are 5 supplements that will help you address chronic inflammation and support a healthy immune response, as well as some tips on lifestyle and diet changes that will help to get inflammation under control. 

Let's get started! 

Fish oils 

Fish oils are my top pick because of their ability to lower inflammation throughout the body, and also modulate immune system function (2). Fish oils contain Omega 3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA. Both of them are capable of reducing inflammation, however it has always been a hot debate about which one does it better. Truth be told, they both make a great team, and they work really well together, rather than separate. DHA works its magic by lowering the expression of certain pro-inflammatory proteins, having a stronger anti-inflammatory effect than EPA. However, EPA is far better at balancing pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory proteins (3). This helps with modulating immune system response. So, when the two work together, they are like two superheroes joining forces, both bringing their special abilities to fight the evil villain, being chronic inflammation. 

Curcumin

Here is another hot debate for you! Turmeric or Curcumin, which one do you choose for reducing inflammation? Curcumin is the main active ingredient in Turmeric that has really powerful anti-inflammatory capabilities and has been the most studied. When isolated and concentrated, it can be much more effective at getting inflammation under control. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effect is a result of its ability to inhibit the NF-kB pathway (4). NF-kB pathway can kind of be seen as the highway to inflammation hell, as it is considered a pro-inflammatory signaling pathway (5). Curcumin has really poor bioavailability, so it's ideal to take piperine with it, it enhances Curcumin’s absorption.  

A lot of people reach for curcumin when they have joint inflammation, but a lesser-known use for it is in digestive disorders (6). A few studies have shown it to be quite effective at reducing inflammation in the intestinal lining. (7) Curcumin can accumulate in the intestinal lining, helping to increase beneficial strains of bacteria in the gut, creating a more favorable gut microbiome. It also helps with leaky gut issues and can help to reduce symptoms of IBS (8). 

I don’t want to throw Turmeric on the back burner here, because there are a lot of other beneficial properties and other curcuminoids that are found in the whole Turmeric and not in Curcumin alone. Liberally use Turmeric in your cooking to benefit from these other compounds and antioxidants, just remember to consume Turmeric in a fat containing meal, as Turmeric needs fat to be absorbed optimally. 

A word of caution, Turmeric and Curcumin can stimulate the gallbladder, so if you have gallstones or a bile duct dysfunction, this can cause serious issues. Also, Curcumin has been shown to have iron chelating properties, so this would not be ideal for those who struggle with anemia (9). However, it may be good news for those who deal with Hemochromatosis. As always with any supplement, always check with your doctor before taking it.  

Chaga

Known as the “King of Mushrooms”, it is not technically a mushroom, but a type of fungus that can be found growing on Birch trees in the Boreal forests. It has quite a reputation for being highly concentrated in antioxidants and for containing over 200 phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals (10). Chaga is rich in beta-glucans, which is a polysaccharide that is found in fungus that has immune modulating and anti-inflammatory properties (11). The antioxidants in Chaga help to protect tissues in the body from being damaged from ROS and other free radicals, helping to prevent inflammation from even occurring in the first place. In one study (12) Chaga was shown to have anti-inflammatory and protective effects on the skin, and it may help to repair skin damage. Did you know that Chaga is the highest known food source of Superoxide Dismutase (SOD)? This may help to combat oxidative stress, improve mitochondrial function and reduce inflammation throughout the body, although studies are very limited on the bioavailability of plant sourced SOD, as it may be inactivated in the stomach. Overall, Chaga has so many health benefits and is worth including in your diet every day! 

Astaxanthin

Watch out Free Radicals, here comes Astaxanthin! Like a bounty hunter ruthlessly catching criminals and turning them in, Astaxanthin collects free radicals and disarms them. The most amazing thing about Astaxanthin is that it never becomes pro-oxidant like other antioxidants when they disable free radicals, and Astaxanthin can work with other antioxidants, helping to recycle them. Also, Astaxanthin can tackle free radicals intracellular and extracellular, which no other antioxidants are capable of. This makes for another king on this list, as Astaxanthin is known as the “King of Antioxidants”. Astaxanthin can powerfully lower inflammation throughout the body, the degree that it can do so is dependent on the dosage used. 

So where does astaxanthin come from? It is a type of carotenoid that has a reddish pigment to it. You can find it in certain types of algae, in crustaceans, Salmon and Krill. It's also what makes flamingoes pink and gives Salmon that pink hue (don’t worry, it won't turn you pink too).  

Astaxanthin has been shown to be neuroprotective and can help to reduce chronic neuroinflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines via the NF-κB pathway. It can potentially modulate neuroinflammation and maintain blood brain barrier integrity (13) This may give Astaxanthin therapeutic potential for reducing neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative diseases. 

Astaxanthin is also beneficial for eye health. It can cross the retinal blood barrier, increasing retinal and choroidal blood flow (14). It can help reduce inflammation and oxidation in the retinol, as well as reduce UV damage. Astaxanthin may prove to be useful for reducing inflammation and improving the health of the eye in various ocular diseases and in inflammatory conditions that affect the eye (15). 

Black Seed Oil

Also known as “The remedy for everything but death”, Nigella sativa and Black Cumin Seed oil (yes, it’s the exact same as Black seed oil), Black seed oil exerts powerful anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. This is due to a major active compound in Black Seed oil called Thymoquinone, Thymohydroquinone and Thymol. Black Seed oil has antihistamine properties, as it inhibits histamine release from mast cells. This can be really helpful for reducing allergy symptoms and potentially reducing inflammation in certain cases of asthma (16). For those who suffer with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Black Seed oil may be a beneficial adjunct therapy to help further reduce inflammation and reduce oxidative stress in the body, due to its ability to inhibit the activity of NF-κB pathway and its immunomodulating properties (17). There are so many uses for Black Seed oil; the list would be endless. It is an excellent addition to any anti-inflammatory protocol. 

Ok, so let’s have a discussion about how diet and lifestyle play a HUGE role in inflammation. You can't ignore this part, because it makes a big difference in overall inflammation throughout the body. 

Let's start with diet. To get a handle on inflammation, it is best to eat a diet that is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that will help to combat oxidative stress, as well as a diet rich in specific nutrients that help support healthy immune function. Eating more fruits and vegetables will help you to get more antioxidants in your diet, and look for foods that are high in zinc, selenium, vitamin C, iron and vitamin D. Ensure that you are getting adequate protein each day, especially sources that contain higher amounts of glutamine, either animal or plant sourced (18). Also, it's important to find out if you have any food sensitivities and avoid them if you do, because they can trigger inflammation. I want to shine the spotlight on the Mediterranean diet, and its potential to help fight inflammation in the body. The Mediterranean diet provides a wide array of antioxidants and nutrients that are necessary for optimal immune function and help to lower chronic inflammation. It emphasizes fruit and vegetable consumption, use of olive oil, nuts and seeds, minimal red meat consumption and consuming more fish and plant-based proteins (19). Avoid the use of refined, heavily processed foods, excess oil and fat, and limit sugar consumption, as this can trigger inflammation. 

Exercise is another important factor in taming chronic inflammation. Even just 20 mins a day of walking can help reduce inflammation! (20) When you exercise and get your muscles going, your muscles release a small protein called IL-6 (Interleukin-6). IL-6 can have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing another protein that can trigger inflammation called TNF alpha. Exercise also can reduce visceral fat, which can also trigger a lot of inflammation throughout the body. Everyone’s exercise needs will vary depending on age and health condition. It’s important to always speak with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.  

Last but not least, chronic long-term stress can trigger inflammation. It's really important to manage your stress levels, as it sets off a cascade of reactions that tell the adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is our friend! It is anti-inflammatory and wants to help bring things back in balance. It's important for regulating many things including your immune system. The issue is that when the body is stuck in this chronic stress mode, aka flight or fight mode, circulating cortisol levels can get too high, and due to the constant exposure to cortisol, the tissues in the body can develop a kind of “cortisol resistance” called glucocorticoid receptor resistance. Cortisol can no longer be utilized efficiently, resulting in escalating inflammation. This is where stress related inflammation starts. It can lead to numerous and very serious health conditions, making it even more important to reduce stress now before stress ruins your health. Did you know that stress can affect the structure of your brain? It can make you less resilient to stress, affect your ability to remember things and learn, and it can trigger neuroinflammation. 

Another thing that is affected by stress is sleep. It impacts the quantity and the quality of sleep. As we all know, lack of sleep can make us feel like garbage...garbage on fire that is, because lack of sleep also triggers inflammation (back to the cortisol issue again). Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night to support optimal health and overall immune function. Having a calming bedtime routine, avoiding electronic devices at least an hour before bed, and certain visualization exercises can help you get a better quality sleep. 

 Find healthy ways and techniques to deal with your stress. Again, exercise can have a profound effect on improving mental health and can help you to become more resilient to stress. Meditation can be useful, as it can help rewire the part of the brain that is always getting activated by chronic stress, helping to improve your ability to handle and respond better to stressful situations. Socialization is also important, especially during stressful times. Socialization increases the levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which can also stimulate the release of dopamine. This can help inhibit the production of stress hormones, helping you to feel calmer and happier. Socialization can be with humans and/or animals, both will create the same effect. 

Getting chronic inflammation under control can seem like an arduous task, but making small, healthy changes each day will help you to reap the rewards down the road. Those small changes will lead to bigger changes in the long run. 

Article By: Jennifer Fraser, C.H.N.C and Customer Engagement Expert

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/ 
  2. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2018.03160/full?ref=healthtips.kr 
  3. https://www.atherosclerosis-journal.com/article/S0021-9150(20)31527-6/fulltext 
  4. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/curcumin 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2882124/ 
  6. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-56153-6_18 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7551052/ 
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36447978/ 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2615657/ 
  10. https://harmonicarts.ca/blogs/harmonic-arts-blog/getting-to-know-chaga-the-king-of-the-fungal-forest?_pos=8&_sid=d88bc198e&_ss=r 
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224414001939#:~:text=%CE%B2%2DGlucan%20is%20known%20to,et%20al.%2C%202011). 
  12. https://www.scirp.org/html/11-1050490_92972.htm?pagespeed=noscript 
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9263351/ 
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22072378/ 
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7281326/ 
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6194640/ 
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8539759/ 
  18. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/ 
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400632/ 
  20. https://www.livescience.com/57498-exercise-reduces-inflammation.html 
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