The 10 Best Anti-Inflammatory Supplements According To A Functional Medicine Expert
By now, most of us have probably heard about inflammation. This insidious health problem has roots in almost every condition that we face today. From weight loss resistance to full-blown autoimmune disease, we are somewhere on what I call The Inflammation Spectrum.
In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, it's hard not to find someone dealing with elevated inflammation levels. With so many aspects of our modern lifestyles acting as a trigger for inflammation, healing chronic inflammation can be overwhelming.
But I’m here to tell you that there is hope. We have more control over inflammation than we realize through our choices - including the supplements that we take. Read on to learn more about the best supplements for inflammation and how to beat the chronic issue once-and-for-all.
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What is inflammation?
Inflammation is an important bodily process that, when triggered by factors like an unhealthy lifestyle, stress, and toxic exposures, can spin out of control. When inflammation is allowed to run wild, it can damage the body by creating too many pro-inflammatory cells and molecules, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interleukins (ILs), nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), prostaglandins, and free radicals. Having too many of these pesky pro-inflammatory substances being produced can cause damage to the body, leading to inflammation-related health issues and conditions, such as autoimmune disease.
But how do you know whether or not you have chronic inflammation? Since inflammation can manifest in multiple areas of your body, symptoms can look different for each person. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Brain fog
- Chronic pain
- Digestive distress (constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea)
- Skin problems (rash, eczema, psoriasis, acne)
- Weight loss resistance
10 Amazing Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
If you are struggling with chronic inflammation, there are thankfully many anti-inflammatory vitamins and supplements that you can choose from. While this is not a comprehensive list, these are the best 10 supplements to reduce inflammation in the body that I’ve seen be the most effective in my telehealth functional medicine clinic.
Curcumin is the active compound found in turmeric that boasts all of the powerful anti-inflammatory properties. While studies are continuing to look at the relationship between curcumin and inflammation, research has shown curcumin to be helpful at relieving many inflammation-based health issues including rheumatoid arthritis, (1) autoimmune conditions, (2) and brain problems (3) like dementia.
Curcumin works best as a supplement for inflammation when it is combined with piperine from black pepper as that helps increase (4) curcumin’s bioavailability by 2,000 percent. You can cook with turmeric and black pepper together or look for a supplement like The Curcumin from my supplement line The Collection. If you are dealing with chronic inflammation a supplement like this can help you drive-down inflammation more effectively.
This antioxidant is found in fruits like grapes and blueberries as well as red wine and dark chocolate. Resveratrol has been linked to its ability to lower pro-inflammatory cytokines (5) like TNF-a and CRP. That’s why many people vouch for enjoying a glass of red wine every now and again. While that might give you some anti-inflammatory benefits, the best way to get the full benefits of resveratrol is to take it in supplement form as it will be at a higher, more targeted dose without the inflammatory side-effects of alcohol.
As one of the oldest go-to anti-inflammatory supplements, Ginger root has been used for thousands of years for its many medicinal benefits including soothing nausea and indigestion. It is also high in antioxidant compounds gingerols, shogaol, and paradols that fight against free radical damage to your cells that lead to (6) chronic inflammation. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is being studied as a potential tool for cancer prevention.
Another study found that regular ginger supplementation was able to also lower (7) pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and CRP in women with chronic inflammation due to breast cancer. You can find ginger in supplement form or buy fresh ginger root to add to recipes or steep in hot water for a daily tea.
- Fish oil
Fish oil contains two essential omega-3 fatty acids - docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) - that are extremely anti-inflammatory when taken together. Not only have these fatty acids been shown to inhibit the pro-inflammatory Nf-kb pathway, they can enhance anti-inflammatory mediators known as resolvins in the body with studies (8) linking fish oil consumption to improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Most people don’t get enough of these fatty acids in their diets, so supplementation is usually necessary when making a conscious effort to lower inflammation. However, a lot of supplements can be hit or miss in terms of bioavailability. That’s why I formulated my supplement The Omega+ with MaxSimil® monoglyceride fish oil that has a three times greater EPA+DHA absorption rate than an equivalent dose of other leading fish oils.
- Vitamin C
Several studies (9) have linked low vitamin C with inflammatory conditions. Considering inflammation is part of your body’s immune response and that vitamin C plays such a big role (10) in a healthy immune system, it makes sense that vitamin C is one of the best inflammation supplements.
What makes this one of the best vitamins for inflammation is its powerful antioxidant capabilities that reduce inflammation by neutralizing free radicals to stop cellular damage. Vitamin C can also impact inflammatory cytokines with one study (11) of 3,258 healthy 60 to 79-year-old men, showing that vitamin C intake significantly impacted inflammatory CRP and t-PA levels.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential part of the body’s capability to squelch the inflammatory storm going on inside. In fact, low levels of vitamin D are associated with inflammatory-autoimmune conditions such as MS, (12) Parkinson’s, (13) type 1 diabetes, (14) inflammatory bowel disorders, (15) Grave’s disease,(16) and rheumatoid arthritis. (17)
Unfortunately, vitamin D is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies. While it's possible to get vitamin D through food and sunshine, many of us don’t spend enough time outdoors or eat enough vitamin D-rich foods. Depending on your level of deficiency, I typically suggest supplementing with anywhere between 2,000 and 6,000 IU of vitamin D each day.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble it is also good to pair it with dietary healthy fats or other fat-soluble vitamins for inflammation relief. I personally created The D3-K2 with vitamin K2 - another popular nutrient deficiency - to take advantage of vitamin synergy as they enhance absorption of one another.
- Green tea extract
If you know me, you know I love a good cup of green tea. Not only do I love the taste, but I know I am supporting healthy inflammation with every sip due to its high epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) content. EGCG is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties due to its ability to fight free radical damage to your cells and its ability to activate the anti-inflammatory Nrf-2 pathway. Green tea has also been shown (18) to activate Peroxisome Proliferator-activated Receptors (PPARs) that can help improve inflammatory conditions like MS. (19)
To take advantage of green tea’s anti-inflammatory benefits, I suggest drinking a few cups a day or taking a green tea extract supplement for a higher dose without having to drink multiple cups of tea every day.
CBD interacts with a larger system in the body called the endocannabinoid system, which is intricately involved in the inflammatory response and the immune system. Researchers have found that CBD can induce T-reg cells (20) that fight off inflammation and improve inflammatory-autoimmune diseases.
CBD can be taken daily as a sublingual oil or supplement capsule. If you’re looking for a little extra anti-inflammatory support, it’s a great place to start.
S-adenosylmethionine is naturally produced by your body and is responsible for regulating your genes and monitoring (21) your body’s inflammatory response. Multiple studies have shown SAM-e supplementation to be just as powerful (22) as popular NSAIDs like ibuprofen for treating chronic pain and inflammation in conditions like arthritis. One thing to note is that it can possibly interfere with certain medications like antidepressants so talk to your doctor before adding this anti-inflammatory supplement to your routine.
- Cat’s claw
This vine is native to Central and South America and has shown a lot of promise for reducing inflammation due to its ability to inhibit (23) the pro-inflammatory TNF-alpha pathway in the body. Most of the recent studies involving cat’s claw have been surrounding its effectiveness (24) in treating patients with arthritis.
Alternative treatment options for inflammation
Taking supplements for inflammation is going to play a big role in your health journey when actively working toward healthy inflammation levels. But as I always say, you can’t supplement your way out of a poor diet and supplements are just one piece of the puzzle. Here are some other ways to support healthy inflammation in all areas of your life.
- Switch to an anti-inflammatory diet
The first step to fighting inflammation through diet is to remove junk foods that are filled with processed sugar and other inflammatory additives and replace them with clean, whole foods like plant-based healthy fats, wild-caught fish, and vegetables. However, it doesn’t just stop there.
I’ve seen many healthy foods trigger inflammation in people with food intolerances and sensitivities. By uncovering what foods trigger inflammation in you, you can begin to win the battle against inflammation. Since there’s no one right diet for all people I recommend doing an elimination diet, the gold standard for discovering which foods are not working for you.
- Manage your stress levels
I can’t tell you enough how much stress plays a role in chronic inflammation. In fact, stress is often the trigger for many people’s inflammatory-autoimmune conditions. You can be eating all the right things and taking the right supplements for inflammation but if you are feeding your body a slice of stress everyday it's not going to make a big difference.
Incorporating a daily mindfulness practice like breathwork, meditation, or journaling can help bring you back to the present moment whenever stress begins to strike. It’s also important to evaluate your relationships in your work and personal life to set up healthy boundaries if necessary.
- Try intermittent fasting
Food can be a powerful tool to fight inflammation, but taking extended breaks from eating any food can also be beneficial with intermittent fasting being linked to improvement in inflammatory conditions like Lupus and IBS. Check out my book Intuitive Fasting to learn more about how intermittent fasting can lower inflammation and how you can start incorporating fasting into your life without restriction or going hungry.
Seeking help from a functional medicine doctor
Inflammation is an insidious health problem that can quickly spiral out of control without you realizing it. The first signs of inflammation typically start off with symptoms that seem normal like fatigue or weight gain. However, without taking the proper action steps, inflammation can quickly turn into more serious health problems.
If you suspect that your symptoms are related to chronic inflammation, my telehealth functional medicine clinic can identify your level of inflammation through lab work and help determine your inflammatory triggers to put together an action plan that works for your specific health case. Together, we look at all aspects of your health to get to the root cause of your chronic inflammation.
If you are ready to take the next step in your journey to better health, check out our telehealth functional medicine consultation or shop this article to start incorporating these anti-inflammatory supplements into your daily routine.
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- Chandran, Binu, and Ajay Goel. “A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 26,11 (2012): 1719-25. doi:10.1002/ptr.4639
- Bright, John J. “Curcumin and autoimmune disease.” Advances in experimental medicine and biology vol. 595 (2007): 425-51. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-46401-5_19
- Agrawal, Rahul et al. “Effect of curcumin on brain insulin receptors and memory functions in STZ (ICV) induced dementia model of rat.” Pharmacological research vol. 61,3 (2010): 247-52. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2009.12.008
- Shoba, G et al. “Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers.” Planta medica vol. 64,4 (1998): 353-6. doi:10.1055/s-2006-957450
- Koushki, Mehdi et al. “Effect of Resveratrol Supplementation on Inflammatory Markers: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Clinical therapeutics vol. 40,7 (2018): 1180-1192.e5. doi:10.1016/j.clinthera.2018.05.015
- Mashhadi, Nafiseh Shokri et al. “Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence.” International journal of preventive medicine vol. 4,Suppl 1 (2013): S36-42.
- Karimi, Niloofar et al. “Individually and Combined Water-Based Exercise With Ginger Supplement, on Systemic Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome Indices, Among the Obese Women With Breast Neoplasms.” Iranian journal of cancer prevention vol. 8,6 (2015): e3856. doi:10.17795/ijcp-3856
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- Simpson, Steve Jr et al. “Higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with lower relapse risk in multiple sclerosis.” Annals of neurology vol. 68,2 (2010): 193-203. doi:10.1002/ana.22043
- Knekt, Paul et al. “Serum vitamin D and the risk of Parkinson disease.” Archives of neurology vol. 67,7 (2010): 808-11. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2010.120
- Dr Elina Hyppönen, PhD, Esa Läärä, MSc, Antti Reunanen, MD, Prof Marjo-Riitta Järvelin, MD, Suvi M Virtanen, MD "Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study" The Lancet VOLUME 358, ISSUE 9292, P1500-1503, NOVEMBER 03, 2001. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(01)06580-1
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- S-adenosylmethionine mediates inhibition of inflammatory response and changes in DNA methylation in human macrophages
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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