- Compounds with anti-inflammatory properties can be found in a wide variety of foods.
- Omega 3s in fish, curcumin in turmeric, and resveratrol in grapes are just a few examples.
- Chronic inflammation has been associated with a host of medical conditions and eating these anti-inflammatory compounds may help reduce your risk.
Your body uses inflammation — an immune system reaction — to help you heal from injuries and fight off infections. But if you have chronic inflammation that goes on too long, it may lead to dangerous conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Many natural compounds — like omega-3 fatty acids and ginger — may help fight inflammation and prevent serious diseases.
Here are six natural supplements you can take to reduce inflammation and boost your health.
1. Omega-3 fish oil
“Omega-3 fatty acids increase certain molecules in our blood called specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) that have anti-inflammatory properties,” says Keri Gans, a registered dietician nutritionist and author of “The Small Change Diet.”
In particular, there are two compounds found in fish oil that may help fight inflammation:
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
In a small study, people with high blood pressure or diabetes who had high levels of inflammation were treated with EPA and DHA acids for eight weeks. After the treatment, patients showed lower levels of inflammatory proteins and also saw reductions in their blood sugar and in harmful fat compounds.
Your doctor may also be able to give you a recommendation for a safe, low-mercury fish oil supplement.
Curcumin is the compound in turmeric that gives it its yellow pigment — and it’s packed with anti-inflammatory substances called polyphenols.
Curcumin fights inflammation by shutting down certain pathways in your body that lead to an inflammatory response, Gans says.
It’s also a great option to help fight several chronic health conditions, including cancer.
The anti-inflammatory properties may also help relieve muscle pain after exercise and reduce the negative effects of stress.
Spirulina is a type of algae that’s rich in nutrients like iron and an antioxidant called beta-carotene.
In addition, “spirulina contains a plant-based compound called phycocyanin that may have anti-inflammatory properties,” Gans says.
More research is still needed to prove the health benefits of spirulina, but a review of several studies found that spirulina may help fight inflammatory disorders like heart disease and cancer.
4. Ginger extract
Ginger has more than 400 natural compounds, and many of them act as anti-inflammatories — including gingerol and zingerone.
Importantly, eating ginger may help decrease your levels of leukotrienes, compounds that trigger inflammation in your body, Gans says.
Ginger supplements are a potent source of healthy compounds, but some experts say that eating raw ginger or ginger paste may be just as effective.
However, taking especially high doses of ginger may act as a blood thinner, so it’s important to follow the instructions on the bottle carefully, especially if you’re already on a blood thinning medication like Warfarin.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol compound naturally found in grapes and red wine that has important anti-oxidant effects in your body.
The antioxidants found in resveratrol may help to reduce inflammation in your body by protecting your cells against damage and helping to protect the lining of your blood vessels, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietician nutritionist and creator of BetterThanDieting.com.
This effect may be particularly important for your heart and brain health, which are heavily dependent on your blood vessel condition, Taub-Dix says.
A review of 28 studies found that resveratrol may help block the body’s inflammatory response, but the authors noted that the research is inconsistent and more studies are still needed.
6. Green tea extract
Green tea acts as a powerful antioxidant, which, “may have an inflammation-reducing effect,” Taub-Dix says.
This is because the compounds in green tea help decrease the activity of certain enzymes and proteins called cytokines that trigger inflammation.
A review of several studies found that green tea may reduce the risk of brain function decline in older people and help prevent diseases like cancer.
However, it’s important to check with your doctor before starting green tea supplements, and stick to the recommended dosage on the bottle.
“Green tea extract may be harmful for those with liver disease and some studies have shown that it could reduce iron levels,” Taub-Dix says.
Your body needs inflammation to protect itself, but chronic inflammation “may lead to a host of medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis,” Gans says.
Taking supplements like green tea extract, spirulina, and curcumin can all help fight off inflammation and reduce your risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.
And supplements will work even better if you combine them with a healthy diet — “a variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like avocado and almonds and beans should play regular roles in your daily diets,” Taub-Dix says.
Just make sure to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement and always follow the instructions on the label.