There is a well-established body of research in the scientific community that shows chronic inflammation promotes a wide range of health problems and disease. There are two different types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Your body needs acute inflammatory reactions to wounds or broken bones, for example, to trigger an immune response. This lets you know something is wrong and allows your body to heal itself. But, inflammation becomes exponentially problematic if it occurs at a low-grade level over a long period of time—also known as chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation throws your body into a permanent state of emergency, forcing white blood cells to attack healthy tissues and organ systems. There are a variety of ways this can occur, whether it’s due to poor diet and lifestyle, an autoimmune disorder, or long-term exposure to pollutants or other irritants.
If you have a good handle on proper diet and exercise, don’t smoke, and are managing your stress levels, but are still looking for other ways to reduce or ease inflammation in your body, consider incorporating some of the supplements below.
An ancient Indian spice with proven health benefits, turmeric’s antioxidant properties come from its active compound curcumin (scientifically referred to as curcuminoids). Curcumin is a bioactive substance that can help fight inflammation at the molecular level, by blocking molecules that turn on other genes that relate to inflammation. You can add turmeric to your food, but it would be challenging to gain all the anti-inflammatory benefits on a meal-by-meal basis. Consider adding a turmeric supplement to your daily routine to promote heart, brain, and joint health. Look for a product that contains BioPerine, which enhances curcumin absorption in your body.
Native to India, Boswellia is an Indian herbal extract. Now available as a resin, pill, or topical cream, Boswellia has also been used for centuries as Ayurvedic medicine to treat inflammatory conditions. Current research shows Boswellia may reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. Although you should always discuss adding a supplement or extract with your doctor to rule out any medication interferences, boswellic acids have been shown to prevent the formation of leukotrienes (molecules that trigger inflammation), making it particularly useful for arthritic conditions.
An enzyme derived from pineapples, bromelain is typically used to reduce swelling and inflammation. Bromelain can be used topically to exfoliate dead skin cells from burns or it can be taken orally to reduce swelling of the sinus cavity. Additionally, some studies show it can be an effective anti-inflammatory for pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and can be taken with meals to aid digestion and reduce stomach inflammation. However, it would be difficult to get the dosage you need from pure pineapple juice, which is why many people take supplements. Bromelain should not be used if you have a pineapple allergy or have a history of cross-reactivity with grass pollen, latex, celery, fennel, carrots, and wheat.
Proteolytic enzymes help your body digest protein and to break down food for energy. Although the human body naturally produces them, these enzymes are also available in certain foods and as supplements. The three main proteolytic enzymes produced naturally in your digestive system are pepsin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin. Research shows that the best sources of proteolytic enzymes come from papaya and pineapple. However, other sources include kiwi, ginger, asparagus, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir. But if you’d rather take a supplement, you can find those that are either plant-based or animal-based.
Studies have shown that proteolytic enzymes can aid in both general digestion and also dairy digestion. This is exciting news for people who have a dairy sensitivity or who are lactose intolerant because these supplements can help those who don’t have sufficient enzymes to break dairy down and digest it on their own. Interestingly, another study found that a supplement containing bromelain and trypsin was as effective in treating pain from osteoarthritis.
Fish oil supplements are associated with a long list of benefits, including decreased triglycerides (the fats in your blood), decreased risk of heart disease and stroke, increased brain health, and diabetes management.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can be effective as an anti-inflammatory. And as some studies suggest, you can use it as an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for some types of pain. Two types of omega-3s have proven to be especially beneficial: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA, in particular, has been shown to promote gut health and have anti-inflammatory effects that reduce inflammation-promoting cytokine molecules. High levels of cytokines are associated with arthritis, atherosclerosis, and asthma.
However, if your doctor does not recommend fish oil for your routine, you can always add more foods to your diet that are high in omega-3s, such as fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
Remember to check the expiration date whenever you buy supplements and to purchase from a reputable retailer.