There are many dietary or lifestyle changes that could be helpful in reducing inflammation, including dietary supplements. Here are nine anti-inflammatory supplements recommended by experts, backed by science.
Turmeric contains many different active cucurminoids, with curcumin being one of the most studied natural anti-inflammatories, notes Kelsey Kunik, RDN and nutritional consultant for Michigan-based Zenmaster Wellness.
[Curcumin] it reduces the number of inflammatory mediators in the body as well as the number of reactive oxygen species, which are responsible for oxidative stress, she explains.
Curcumin has been extensively researched for the condition of arthritis. Several clinical studies have found curcumin to be helpful for reducing pain and inflammation in people with arthritis symptoms, notes Kunik. For example, a 2021 review of turmeric’s effect on individuals with knee arthritis found that, compared to a placebo, turmeric appeared to positively affect both pain and function, with some studies showing its effects similar to those of NSAIDs.
However, more research is still needed to fully understand the extent of the benefit for many types of health conditions, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Ginger is an anti-inflammatory spice that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, explains Samantha Cassetty, a New York City-based registered dietitian and co-author of Sugar shock.
Scientists believe there are compounds in ginger that can turn off genes that promote inflammation. This makes ginger useful for inflammatory conditions, experts say.
Ginger may act on the same biochemical pathways as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, which may explain why it’s been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in people with osteoarthritis, says Cassetty.
The active compound in fish oil associated with an anti-inflammatory effect is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in high amounts in fatty fish such as salmon or sardines. They’re also found in supplements derived from fish fats, Cassetty explains. The omega-3 fatty acids from fish may play an essential role in an anti-inflammatory dietary pattern.
One way fish oil can help reduce inflammation is by increasing anti-inflammatory mediators that help regulate inflammation, adds Cassetty.
A review of 73 studies published in International immunopharmacology found that adults who take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, including fish oil, improve markers of inflammation in various health conditions such as cancer, kidney disease and diabetes. Additionally, omega-3 supplementation has shown promise when it comes to brain health, particularly when it comes to memory, cognition, and blood flow to the brain. However, the exact dose and length of time needed to see a consistent benefit require further research.
N-Acetyl Cysteine and Glutathione
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a compound made up of one of the building blocks of proteins, known as the amino acid L-cysteine, which is thought to have antioxidant functions.
One of NAC’s primary roles in the body is to act as a precursor to glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant known to fight oxidative stress, explains Elise Quinlan, a registered dietitian and owner of Eat With Elise based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
When glutathione is depleted, researchers believe the body may be more susceptible to chronic inflammation and disease progression. While it’s unclear whether there are additional benefits to taking NAC and glutathione together, supplementing with at least one may have anti-inflammatory effects, Quinlan notes.
Bromelain is an enzyme that occurs naturally in the fruit and stems of pineapples, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
While bromelain is thought to have a wide range of health benefits, including helping with inflammation and pain, all mechanisms of action are not fully understood, according to Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, RDN, founder of 360Girls&Women and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics based in the greater Boston area.
In one study of 103 people with osteoarthritis (OA), 52 were treated with a mixture containing bromelain and 51 were treated with diclofenac (an NSAID inflammation drug), Anderson-Haynes notes. The results showed that the bromelain-containing mixture can be considered an effective and safe alternative to NSAIDs in the treatment of painful episodes of knee OA, she explains.
Vitamin D is a critical nutrient that plays a role in regulating inflammation, among other things, Cassetty notes. It helps control the level of inflammation involved in the immune response, helping to ensure that the inflammatory response is appropriate for healing and doesn’t become overactive and damage tissue, she adds.
While people with low levels (i.e., deficiency) of vitamin D may be at greater risk for the disease, researchers are still learning whether higher levels can improve various conditions.
For example, low vitamin D status is associated with depression, but clinical trials involving vitamin D to treat symptoms have been mixed, with some showing a benefit and some not, Cassetty adds.
Green tea and its primary polyphenol, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), have powerful antioxidant properties, which could help reduce inflammation in the body, notes Kunik.
A small clinical study with 40 participants, half of whom had metabolic syndrome, found that people who consumed the equivalent of 5 cups of green tea a day experienced a reduction in blood sugar, intestinal inflammation and intestinal permeability both in those who had metabolic syndrome than in those who were healthy, he explains.
While these findings are promising, the findings were presented at a 2022 scientific conference and should be considered preliminary until more research becomes available.
Sulforaphane occurs naturally in food sources such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts, but its benefits are more profound when consumed through a supplement given the limitations around food preparation and consumption, Quinlan adds.
Research suggests that sulforaphane helps downregulate pro-inflammatory cytokines and helps reduce oxidative stress, it notes.
Capsicum Annuum (cayenne pepper)
Peppers of the Capsicum annuum species, like cayenne pepper, contain a high amount of antioxidant compounds that may be involved in managing inflammation in the body.
In particular, capsaicin, which is a plant compound found in the fruit of this type of pepper, could help manage pain and swelling and reduce inflammation.
One review found that in both animal and human studies, red bell peppers, including Capsicum annuum, were able to control metabolic disorders related to chronic inflammation by significantly lowering cholesterol levels and improving the way blood body uses insulin, explains Anderson-Haynes.
More research in healthy people and those with inflammatory conditions is largely needed to confirm the benefits of these anti-inflammatory supplements.
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