Reducing Inflammation. 2 Anti-inflammatory supplements to fight inflammation
What is inflammation? It can be defined as a process by which the body is protected from external infections such as bacteria and viruses by the body’s white blood cells or immune system. There are occasions when the immune system triggers an inflammatory response at a time when there are no unwanted intrusions. When this happens, the immune system may end up causing damage to its own tissues. This leads to diseases called autoimmune diseases. Examples of inflammatory diseases are allergic and nonallergic rhinitis, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and arthritis (all types).
It is normal to experience inflammation at some point, but it becomes a problem for our health when it turns out to be chronic. Chronic inflammation has the tendency of developing into a series of related diseases if it goes unchecked. For example;
- Excessive weight or obesity increases the risk of diabetes
- Excessive weight and obesity are linked to heart-related diseases
- Inflammation in the joints is related to arthritis
- Chronic inflammation may increase the risk of developing cancer
Symptoms of Inflammation
Some symptoms of inflammation are
- Stiffness in the joints
- Joint pain
- Morning stiffness
- Frequent pains in the back and muscles
- Frequent colds or flu
Other signs of acute inflammation are
- Excessive pain
- Loss of function
If you regularly take medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. to deal with “pain”, chances are that you may be reducing inflammation with these drugs. These drugs are classed as Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and are widely used as pain relief and to reduce inflammation. In the UK alone, over £70 million is spent annually on all NSAIDs to help treat some diseases that are associated with inflammation.
Rheumatoid arthritis is one common example of a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects people. When this happens, the body’s immune system turns on itself and attacks the joints and organs which affects the whole body. This also results in chronic inflammation of some joints, muscles, blood skin and blood vessels. Other medical conditions that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis include fatigue, weight loss, anemia, and tingling hands and feet. For example, in a study, it was shown that patients taking curcumin showed a statistically significant improvement in walking time, joint swelling and morning stiffness.
Unhealthy eating habits may contribute to inflammation in the body. The foods we consume can be a powerful tool to help fight inflammation. Below are some anti-inflammatory foods
- Fatty Fish – Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel
- Lean meat
- Nuts and seeds – Almonds, Walnuts
- Olive oil
- Green leafy vegetables
- Fruits – Oranges, strawberries, blueberries
On the other hand, some foods or habits that promote inflammation are;
- Sugary foods
- Processed meat
- Dairy foods
- Fizzy or soft drinks
- Pre-packaged microwave meals
- Refined carbohydrates
Omega 3 Fish Oils for Inflammation
Omega 3 fatty acids contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and these are important for supporting the body as they have anti-inflammatory properties. There are extensive scientific researches that have been carried out on the health benefits of omega 3. It is known to protect the body from cardiovascular-related diseases, may help reduce the risk of cancer, supports mental health, supports in maintaining healthy joints and reducing the risk of arthritis.
One key benefit of taking omega 3 fish oil supplement is that it quickly provides the body with EPA and DHA which would have otherwise been obtained through the conversion from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Aside from taking fish oil supplements, DHA and EPA can be obtained from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna. Examples of plant-based sources for ALA are nuts and flaxseeds.
Notably, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines. Studies have consistently observed a connection between higher omega-3 intake and reduced inflammation. (Source). These benefits are obtained from the anti-inflammatory properties of DHA and EPA.
Turmeric or Curcumin for Inflammation
The botanical name for Turmeric is Curcuma longa and it is a perennial shrub that is common in India and some parts of Asia. The most important part of this plant is the root and it has many uses which include, cooking, medicinal purposes, and religious purposes. The rhizome from the plant is used to produce the yellowish powder that is used in curries. The same yellowish powder is used in French mustards and on the robes of Hindu priests.
Turmeric contains protein (6.3%), fat (5.1%), carbohydrates (69.4%), minerals (3.5%) and moisture (13.1%). It is also made up of 5% phenolic curcuminoids which give turmeric its yellowish colour. Curcumin is the main bioactive ingredient in turmeric that gives it most of its medicinal properties. It has been known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antifertility, antibacterial, antiviral and antidiabetic properties. Clinically, curcumin has been shown to have a positive effect on inflammation.
Because of its wide applications, turmeric has been studied to understand its efficacy in health care as it has been linked to medical conditions like jaundice, diabetic wounds, inflammation. Sinusitis, rheumatism, arthritis, osteoarthritis, etc
The strong anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin (turmeric) has been confirmed and is supported by scientific research. Curcumin has a special ability in reducing inflammation through various biological mechanisms.
Curcumin has been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects via phospholipase, lipo-oxygenase, COX-2, leukotrienes, thromboxane, PGs, NO, collagenase, elastase, hyaluronidase, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, IFN-inducible protein, TNF and IL-12 (Chainani- Wu 2003, Lantz et al 2005).
Inflammation is a normal process in the body that helps protect the body from foreign substances. It becomes a problem when it turns out to be chronic as that isn’t normal. Chronic inflammation results in so many unwanted diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain, cancer, asthma, periodontitis, sinusitis, and tuberculosis. Choosing the right supplement and diet will help you address the underlying causes of chronic inflammation without the typical side-effects you get from the use of drugs.
Supplements such as Turmeric and Omega 3 Fish oil can play an important role in reducing inflammation in the body.
Have you experienced any chronic inflammatory condition? How have you dealt with it? Kindly share your thoughts and experience
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Braun, L. and Cohen, M. (2015). Herbs & natural supplements. Sydney [i pozostałe]: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
Challem, J. (2010). The inflammation syndrome. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.
Harris, W. (2004). Fish oil supplementation: evidence for health benefits. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 71(3), pp.208-210.
Watson, R. (2015). Foods and dietary supplements in the prevention and treatment of disease in older adults. San Diego: Academic Press.
Webb, G. (2009). Dietary supplements and functional foods. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.