Fighting chronic inflammation takes an integrative approach together with strategies for stress management, strengthening the gut-brain connection and physical exercise. There is no magic bullet that will make it go away. Supplements can, however, play a helpful role in an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and diet. Here’s my list of top natural anti-inflammatory supplements, including turmeric and CBD.
As a registered dietitian, I believe strongly that food comes first: if you’re eating a diet of hyper-processed foods, that is where you should put your focus and your dollars. Supplements do just that–supplement your lifestyle efforts. Also, consistency is key to fighting chronic inflammation naturally.
This is a lifestyle, not a quick fix. If you’re looking to dive in head first, pick up Eat More Plants Cookbook for a delicious head start!
Supplements are also a part of my strategy as they represent a natural approach that complements our dietary efforts. I believe pretty strongly that food comes first: if you are eating a hyper-processed diet, that’s where you should put your focus and your dollars. Supplements do just that – supplement your lifestyle efforts. Consistency is key, as you won’t feel relief overnight, except in some very rare cases with potent products.
I also recommend that you are deliberate in how you introduce anti-inflammatory supplements into your lifestyle. Try them one at a time, and give them time to do their work. You may feel a probiotic working within a week, whereas omega 3 fats might take a month or more. If you multiple products at once, you will have no way of knowing which one is working for you – and potentially waste your money.
The Best Natural Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
Turmeric is probably the best known supplement for inflammation, and one that has been studied the longest. However, it isn’t without controversy. Turmeric – or its main component, curcumin – is notoriously un-bioavailable and rapidly cleared by the kidneys. However, despite this, numerous studies show it effective for fighting inflammation in a range of conditions such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis and metabolic syndrome. I recommend eating turmeric as often as possible in smoothies, curries and sauces.
To enhance absorption, always pair with a fat as well as black pepper, which contains a molecule called piperine that enhances bioavailability. For those with significant inflammation, a supplement is necessary to get up to the therapeutic dosages found in clinical trials. Be careful when buying supplements as the quality and potency of products varies widely.
Because of the deep connection between the gut, the immune system and the microbes that share their space, probiotics are an important part of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle for me. Fermented foods are a delicious addition to your diet, but they won’t provide the concentration of human-strain bacteria required to really make an impact. There are many things I look for in a good probiotic, but the most important is human clinical trials to demonstrate their effectiveness. Then, it’s about finding the product that works for you. Each one of us has a unique microbiome and you need to find the probiotic that suits you best.
You may feel an increase in gut symptoms in the first few days when starting a new probiotic, however, it should subside. Give a product a month to see if you notice a difference – and continue to take for at least 3 months to really have an impact. Many of my clients take probiotics long term.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are critical for human health – fighting chronic inflammation is just one of their benefits. I generally recommend that people take 1-3 tablespoons of an omega 3-rich seed such as ground flax, chia or hemp daily. In addition, decreasing your intake of omega 6-rich meats, vegetable oils and hyper-processed foods will support better utilization of omega 3 fatty acids.
For people with significant inflammation, a supplement is a great idea. I encourage you to look for a product that contains a high level of EPA, at least 600mg for a more balanced anti-inflammatory activity.
Vitamin D is the one supplement on this list that every person should be taking, no matter what. Vitamin D is minimal in our food supply; instead, our skin makes vitamin D upon exposure to UV radiation. These days, indoor living and (justifiable) sunscreen use minimize vitamin D production and many of us are insufficient.
While there is controversy around the role of supplementation of Vitamin D in chronic disease – including whether or not low vitamin D levels are a cause or a consequence of disease – Vitamin D is a known immunomodulator that is critical for human health. What’s more, Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to decrease inflammation in Crohn’s disease, and diabetes. I typically recommend that people take 1000IU of vitamin D3 in summer and 2000IU in winter. However, for inflammation, that dose may be higher particularly if your blood levels are low. Talk to a health practitioner about a safe and effective dose for you.