When something harmful or irritating affects the body, albeit an injury, allergen, infection, disease, or any number of other conditions, the body responds by becoming inflamed.
For acute conditions, inflammation is a protective response and a good thing—it is part of the body’s natural attempt to heal itself and restore all systems to a state of health and equilibrium.
But if inflammation becomes overactive or chronic, it can cause the body harm. Long-term inflammation can lead to autoimmune diseases such as arthritis. It has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other serious conditions.
Your diet plays an important role in controlling the inflammation within your body, and supplements can also help. Research has shown that the following nutrients are among the top substances that can boost your body’s anti-inflammatory potential.
Omega-3 fish oil
Fish oil, with its high omega-3 content, can help stop inflammation and treat inflammation that’s actively present in the body, according to a study reported in Life Extension Magazine. Findings show omega-3 fatty acids may help to lower blood pressure, reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke, treat gastrointestinal disorders including Celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, and relieve symptoms associated with arthritis, rheumatism, and similar conditions.1
You can get omega-3s by eating cold-water fish, such as tuna or salmon, twice a week. You can also take fish oil in capsule or liquid form. Look for molecularly distilled products certified to be free of heavy metals and other contaminants.
Quercetin is a yellow pigment found in many plants and foods that has anti-inflammatory and antihistimine benefits. One study found that quercetin was shown to prevent the progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).2 It also supports cardiovascular health, reduces inflammation in prostate conditions, and can help protect against cancer.
Food sources of quercetin include onions, parsley, sage, tomatoes, citrus, apples, and berries. You can also obtain quercetin in supplement form.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the yellow curry spice turmeric. In India, it is referred to as the “spice of life” because of its many healing properties. It has been shown to improve Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and stroke damage; help to destroy cancer cells and promote healthy cell function; and serve as a neuroprotective agent for neurological disorders. Curcumin also helps treat symptoms of arthritis, often more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. It’s good for the heart, too.
Turmeric and curcumin supplements are available, though some healthcare experts recommend whole turmeric over the isolated form of curcumin. To enhance absorption, find a product that also contains black pepper or piperine, a constituent of black pepper. Otherwise, most of the curcumin will pass right through your digestive tract.
Coenzyme Q10 is an enzyme that is naturally present in almost all of the cells of your body. CoQ10, when combined with natural vitamin E, can reduce inflammation that is associated with the progression and development of vascular diseases of the circulatory system, such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. It can also restore neurological health.
CoQ10 levels decline with age, and some cholesterol-lowering state drugs can reduce blood levels of CoQ10 even further. Supplementing the diet with CoQ10 can help restore normal levels and lower inflammation.
Ginger is anti-inflammatory and a valuable food for pain relief. It has been shown to help reduce muscle and joint pain and the severity of migraine headaches. It is beneficial for many chronic inflammatory diseases including cancer, and because it helps prevent the toxic effects of many substances (including cancer drugs), ginger may be useful to take in addition to conventional cancer treatments.
You can consume ginger in the form of tea or by adding it to cooked dishes. For most potent medicinal properties, ginger extract may be needed.
1 Bronwell L. “Groundbreaking study reveals new mechanism behind fish oil’s health benefits.” Life Extension. http://www.lef.org/Magazine/2012/9/Fish-Oils-Health-Benefits/Page-01?checked=1. Published September 2012. Accessed March 2015.
2 Ganesan S, et al. Quercetin prevents progression of disease in elastase/LPS-exposed mice by negatively regulating MMP expression. Respiratory Research. 2010:11(131).