There's a big difference between regular inflammation and chronic inflammation. The former occurs when there's an injury or infection present, and believe it or not, it's actually a good thing. It's natural, and it signals the body to begin the healing process. Take it from nutritionist Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, who says "inflammation can be caused by numerous things, but it’s important that inflammation as a whole isn’t always a bad thing. Acutely, it’s a healthy immune response to some type of injury, illness, or infection. Think of swelling from a sprain or even a scab. Chronic and systemic inflammation, on the other hand, is when there's an unhealthy reaction that can be caused by poor diet, lack of sleep, stress, chemical exposure, and more."
Meet the Expert
Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN, is a nutrition expert, author, and founder of the nutrition counseling service, B Nutritious. She has been featured on The Today Show, Access Hollywood, as well as on Dr. Oz.
The latter is what we're concerned with today, and also what we're aiming to prevent. While lifestyle habits—namely proper nutrition, sleep, and stress management—play a huge role, there are also supplements that can help keep inflammation at bay.
Here are four supplements Alpert recommends taking for chronic inflammation.
Before we jump right into which anti-inflammatory supplements are best, let's first take a look at how they work in the first place. "Anti-inflammatory medications work by reducing the production of certain enzymes that promote inflammation," Alpert explains. If those enzymes aren't present, the inflammatory response isn't initiated.
However, supplements shouldn't necessarily be the first line of defense. As mentioned before, that should come in the form of a healthy lifestyle and diet—namely an anti-inflammatory diet. "Some foods can cause inflammation, so an anti-inflammatory diet would first be reducing those foods so that less inflammation is produced," Alpert says. "Other foods and supplements work by increasing antioxidants and polyphenols—both can also reduce inflammation." In other words, it's important to marry anti-inflammatory supplements with a healthy lifestyle. The first won't completely make up for the second.
Now, onto the supplements…
One of the most widely-known anti-inflammatory supplements is curcumin. This is a compound that occurs naturally in turmeric and happens to be its most active constituent, giving it medicinal properties, which explains why the herb is so lauded in the wellness world. Alpert names it as one of the top supplements to take for chronic inflammation, explaining that "curcumin can reduce inflammation in diabetes and heart disease." Other studies show its effects on chronic inflammation associated with diseases like asthma, bronchitis, colitis, and arthritis, among others.
Remember: curcumin and turmeric go hand in hand. The former is found inside the other. This Turmeric supplement provides 50 milligrams of curcumin along with organic black pepper, which is thought to boost the body's absorption of the anti-inflammatory compound. The best part is that they come in gummy form, making them much easier (and tastier) to take than traditional capsules. That's exactly why it made our list of the best turmeric supplements.
Like turmeric/curcumin, ginger is another well-known anti-inflammatory supplement. It's all thanks to its chemistry, which studies show have anti-inflammatory effects, possibly preventing the onset of oxidative stress and certain diseases (even cancer). Alpert references breast cancer specifically. "Studies have shown that ginger root can help lower inflammation in breast cancer patients," Alpert explains. "But any supplement that helps with lowering/reducing inflammation will have a systemic benefit for the whole body."
Even though it's easy enough to incorporate ginger into your diet (our favorite ways to incorporate it is through tea, wellness shots, and smoothies), a ginger supplement will ensure you're getting an effective dosage. Plus, taking a capsule is much easier than ingesting pure ginger for someone who might not be partial to the bitter taste.
Although there are many ginger supplements out there, we think this one is worth highlighting for the fact that each capsule is vegetarian, gluten-free, and non-GMO.
Fish oil is normally touted for promoting heart health, but Alpert says it can also function as an effective anti-inflammatory supplement (specifically omega-3 fish oil). Science reflects that. One study, in particular, asked arthritic participants to self-report changes in wellbeing after taking omega-3 fish oil supplements for four months. Sixty percent of the participants stated that their joint pain, as well as "overall pain", was improved. Another study found a correlation between fish oil and decreased anxiety and inflammation in medical students.
There is a seemingly endless amount of fish oil supplements out there. Whichever one you choose, be sure that it's providing you with omega-3 fatty acids in particular, since that's the type that has the particular anti-inflammatory effects you're looking for.
CBD (otherwise known as the non-psychoactive component of marijuana that's derived from hemp) isn't just a buzzy wellness trend with no merit. No, according to Alpert, it has real substance and efficacy, especially when it comes to chronic inflammation."CBD is gaining traction as one of the best anti-inflammatory supplements that you can find," Alpert says. While she recommends all of the anti-inflammatory supplements on this list, she admits she recommends CBD most often. "It’s amazing for so many conditions from inflammation, anxiety, stress reactions, and more."
"In fact, after studying the incredible benefits of CBD and becoming certified as a cannabis practitioner, I created my own Daily Habit, to be able to provide my clients with the best CBD out there," Alpert says. Her new CBD supplement provides 300mg of full-spectrum CBD, combined with MCT-rich coconut oil powder. It's meant to be taken daily (as the name implies) for the best results. Add it into smoothies, coffee, dressings, and more to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits.
There you have it. Curcumin, ginger, fish oil, and CBD are the four best anti-inflammatory supplements according to a nutritionist. So, if chronic inflammation is a serious problem for you, these supplements might be able to help. Just remember to always consult a medical expert before significantly changing your diet or beginning to take new supplements. Health is wealth.