Shaun Ward MSc ANutr
Inflammation is the body’s natural defense mechanism that protects against things that harm it, such as infections, injuries, and toxins.
When something is damaging the cells within the body, it releases chemical signals that trigger for a response from the immune system.
However, a large current health problem is chronic inflammation, which is a frequent and prolonged inflammatory response that ultimately ends up damaging the bodies healthy cells for unnecessary reasons.
Chronic inflammation is now even viewed as the main underlying physiological cause of most, if not all, dietary-induced diseases.
It is well-known that avoiding inflammatory foods is the best way to avoid chronic inflammation, but certain supplements may also be able to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Curcumin is a bioactive molecule within turmeric that has a polyphenolic structure.
These molecules are well-documented to possess both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Not only that, but curcumin can inhibit several pro-inflammatory transcription factors and enzymes involved in inflammation, and decrease the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The inhibition of pro-inflammatory molecules such as TNF‐α has been validated in lab, animal, and human studies .
It is hypothesized that curcumin achieves this by reducing the expression of endotoxin - a toxin present inside a bacterial cell .
Curcumin may also be able to neutralize the activity of free radicals, reduce the oxidation of lipids such as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and upregulate the production antioxidant enzymes.
Studies have confirmed this by assessing the prolonged incubation with curcumin and its impact on enhancing cellular resistance to oxidative damage on vascular endothelial cells - an important component in protecting against oxidative stress .
Curcumins ability to reduce inflammation is likely the primary reason why it appears to be very beneficial for improving symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis .
The great thing about curcumin is that it is very inexpensive, orally bioavailable, and highly safe in humans. However, piperine (found in black pepper) is necessary to consume with curcumin to ensure it is absorbed properly.
Ginger has been cultivated for thousands of years as a flavoring agent and a cooking spice.
The main active components of ginger that are related to inflammation are gingerol and zingerone.
According to lab studies, rhizome, gingerols, and shogaols, found in ginger, can inhibit the synthesis of several pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-1, TNF-α and IL-8 .
From the conclusions of different scientific investigations, ginger has a direct effect on several genes which are responsible for encoding inflammatory molecules which thereby decreasing their production .
Interestingly, some evidence suggests that some components of ginger can be even more effective than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are commonly used to treat chronic inflammation, but with far less negative side effects .
The anti-inflammatory effects of ginger are most frequently linked with reducing the amount of pain associated with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis . It was this scientific discovery that marked the first signs of evidence that ginger modulates biochemical pathways activated in chronic inflammation .
In terms of interventional studies, people with diabetes that were given 1,600 mg of ginger a day daily noted lower c-reactive protein levels – a key marker of inflammation- compared to a control group .
3. Fish Oil
Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are an essential group of unsaturated fats.
One of only a few reliable human studies found that levels of key inflammatory markers reduced by ~30% when taking 2 grams of DHA (from fish oil) per day compared to a control group .
It has long been recognized that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids help to decrease the production of arachidonic acid derived pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes .
In addition, omega-3’s been found to increase the amount of resolvins and protectins, two types of lipid mediators derived from DHA.
Both these enzymes are critical to modulating the inflammatory response by not only reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, but also by actively promoting the resolution of inflammation .
Arguably even more important is the ability of omega 3’s to maintain the integrity of intestinal walls and thus decrease the amount of bacteria and potential pathogens from “leaking” out the gut and initiating an inflammatory response . This is particularly important in regards to lipopolysaccharide, an endotoxin released from the cell walls of gram-negative bacteria, that causes high levels of inflammation if it manages to leak into circulation through the intestinal walls .
However, the effect of fish oil on epithelial integrity has only been confirmed in animal models, and more data is needed to see the same result in humans .
4. CBD Oil
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of hundreds of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Cannabinoids are molecules that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body and signal for a biological effect to occur.
Although many people are initially skeptical of CBD because it is part of cannabis, it is important to note that it is one of over a hundred chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, and is not responsible for any of the psychoactive effects that cause the feeling of “getting high”.
CBD oil is the most popular form of CBD supplementation, which is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil.
Despite most of the research being relatively new, there is very convincing evidence that CBD has potent anti-inflammatory agents and can exert its effects through induction of apoptosis, inhibition of cell proliferation, and the suppression of cytokine production.
It goes without saying that not many substances are able to have such a broad anti-inflammatory effect, and so it is no wonder why CBD has been getting such rave reviews on online forums.
It has also shown to be particularly effective for treating autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, and seems to work by protecting against apoptosis of oligodendrocytes via binding to cannabinoid receptors and signaling activity through the PI3K/AKT pathway.
At least in preclinical trials, the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD have been so potent that it is now regarded as a suitable treatment for pain relief . This effect is initiated by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors and neurotransmitters .
Chronic inflammation is the root cause of most dietary-induced diseases, and preventing this condition may just be the most important health consideration that everyone needs to know about.
The removal of sugar and processed foods from the diet are certainly key to reducing excess inflammatory responses, but various supplements may also benefit people.
The key ones to look out for are curcumin, ginger, fish oil, and CBD oil. Combined with a healthy diet, these could go a long way to avoiding a lot of common diseases.