Last month we covered the basics of inflammation and the difference between acute inflammation—when you bang your knee hard against a table—and chronic inflammation, which flies beneath the pain radar but can essentially destroy your body. I also covered a list of foods known to be high in anti-inflammatories. (To read part one, click HERE).
But supplements are also a powerful ally in the war against chronic inflammation
Many supplements have been clinically shown to lower important markers of inflammation. Here’s a short guide to the most important ones.
Omega-3: The Wellness Molecule
Omega-3s are among the most anti-inflammatory substances on the planet and should be part of everyone’s supplement program. At this point, so much research exists to confirm this that it doesn’t seem necessary to reiterate it here. Omega-3s (especially from fish) lower triglycerides, blood pressure and…most especially…inflammation.
Omega-7: Bold New Discovery, Researched at the Cleveland Clinic
Omega-7 is a fatty acid found in cold-water fish, as well as macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn berries. It has beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome, diabetes, weight, triglycerides and insulin resistance. A study at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic found that omega-7 lowered C-Reactive Protein—a test for systemic inflammation—by 44%. (Barlean’s has a superb omega-7 product called “Heart Remedy” that contains the exact dose (210) of omega-7 used in the Cleveland Clinic study.)
Magnesium: The Great Relaxer
Magnesium supplements are a must for those who want to protect their heart. Magnesium lowers blood pressure, helps control blood sugar and relaxes the lining of the blood vessels. And almost all dietary surveys show that Americans aren’t getting nearly enough.
Magnesium dilates the arteries, thus reducing blood pressure and making it far easier for the heart to pump blood and for the blood to flow freely. Because blood pressure can contribute to inflammatory lesions in the vascular walls, it’s a good idea to include it in an anti-inflammatory supplement program.
Curcumin: The New Superstar of Supplements
This extract from the Indian spice turmeric has multiple benefits, not the least of which is that it’s highly anti-inflammatory. Scientific research has demonstrated its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-thrombotic, and cardiovascular-protective effects (1). It also reduces oxidized LDL cholesterol (2). Curcumin in general isn’t well absorbed, so I like supplements with either C-3 or BCM-95 curcumin, as those two forms have been shown to be the most absorbable.
Resveratrol: Not just for anti-aging
Resveratrol is the ingredient in red wine that’s best known for its “anti-aging” activity. It helps protect the arteries, improves their elasticity, inhibits blood clots, and lowers both oxidized LDL and blood pressure (3). Not a bad résumé! It’s both a strong anti-oxidant and a strong anti-inflammatory, inhibiting a number of inflammatory enzymes that can contribute to heart disease. It also inhibits the ability of certain molecules to stick to the walls of the artery where they can take up residence and contribute to inflammation (4). The recommended dose is 200 mg a day of trans-resveratrol, the active component of resveratrol. Read labels carefully: Many won’t tell you how much resveratrol is of the trans- variety.
MSM is methyl sulfonyl-methane, a naturally anti-inflammatory that blocks the transmission of impulses in nerve fibers that carry pain signals. It’s long had the reputation of being great for joint health and the pain of arthritis. It has a high sulfur content, which makes sense when you realize that for centuries people have visited sulfur-rich hot springs for muscle aches and pains. The biochemical precursor to MSM—dimethyl sulfoxide—has been studied extensively for pain and reduction of inflammation for years.
The herb boswellia is well-known for its ability to lower inflammation. 150 mg three times a day (or the equivalent) is recommended for two or three months. It has been used effectively in combination with ginger, turmeric, and ashwagandha, and has proved beneficial for inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (7). You can often find it at the store combined with curcumin.
GLA (gamma linolenic acid) is an anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid (8) and the active ingredient in evening primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant oil. (The average 1,000 mg dose of evening primrose oil contains about 100 mg of GLA.) GLA seems to have a synergistic effect with the long-chain fatty acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and should be given together with omega-3 fish oil. Try to get 1,000 mg a day of GLA (in conjunction with 2-4 grams of combined EPA-DHA from fish oil).
The bottom line
Inflammation is likely to emerge as the health concern of the decade, but the good news is that you can do a great deal to combat it. Healthy, whole foods, plenty of omega-3 fats, and a minimum of sugar in your diet is a great place to start!
PS: Stress is inflammatory. As are toxic emotions. So a real anti-inflammation lifestyle needs to include some attention on those variables as well! Pay attention to your feelings—they make a difference in both your mental and your physical health.
- M. Houston, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Heart Disease (New York: Grand Central Life and Style, 2002)