The recent panic buying in shops extended beyond toilet paper to over-the-counter medicines like Ibuprofen and Paracetamol. For a while the shelves were bare and this set some people to thinking about whether there were other alternatives to these everyday medicines.
For people and animals living with chronic long-term health conditions like arthritis, supportive supplements and alterations to their diet are commonplace. Taking medication like Ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), for a long time is not very good for you. But managing these health issues is about more than popping a pill or taking some powder. Some of the popular dietary supplements are powerful substances in their own right and so should be taken with care and in appropriate amounts.
Here is a large selection of the most popular products that people reach for to help combat inflammation in their bodies. There are many more but these are probably the most popular.
They are useful for a variety of conditions both ongoing and chronic and for more acute episodes which may be the result of surgery or flare-ups of a long-standing condition.
- Turmeric – that orange curry spice is everywhere at the moment. Related to ginger, Turmeric has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. It works by blocking inflammatory enzymes and cytokines. Some people take capsules but you can use powder too, perhaps in your cooking.
- Boswellia – sometimes known as Indian frankincense, Boswellia is another Ayurvedic herb and has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Boswellia is usually supplied as a pill or capsule
- Bromelain – this is found in the stem and fruit of the pineapple and has an anti-inflammatory effect by dissolving protein through enzymes
- Cat’s Claw – this substance comes from a woody vine found in the Amazon rainforests and is available in lots of different forms from capsules and tablets to a liquid and even tea bags. Cat’s Claw has a reputation not just for anti-inflammatory influence but also stimulates the immune system so is useful after an acute illness or operation
- Chondroitin – Chondroitin is an essential element of human connective tissue and many people take it as a supplement or give it to their animals both for its anti-inflammatory effects and its pain-relieving properties. It improves joint function and manages, even delays, the progression of osteoarthritis. It is usually available as a powder for large animal supplementation and a capsule for people. Chondroitin is often supplied in conjunction with MSM or Methylsulfonylmethane which is an organic sulfur compound with anti-inflammatory properties
- Devil’s Claw – harvested from a shrub that grows in South Africa, it is the tubers of the plant that are used for their medicinal properties. Devil’s Claw is a common choice to reduce uric acid in patients who suffer from gout but is also used more generally to relieve pain and inflammation. It can be bought in powder, liquid, capsule or tincture form
- Fish Oil – oils from cold-water fish have long been used to support joint health and most people are familiar with them as a source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have a noted anti-inflammatory effect by blocking prostaglandins and cytokines. They are usually available in an easy-to-swallow capsule as they don’t taste that great!
- Flax – the flax plant produces wonderful blue flowers which in turn create seeds or linseed which is the other name for flax oil. Flax or linseed can be taken in many different forms, as food in almost powder form so ground or milled (golden linseed is lovely in porridge) or as a quick capsule. It shares Omega-3 with fish oil but also contains Omega-6
- Ginger – ginger has long been popular to promote health and well-being, just a little of the root in hot water as an infusion. Ginger can be used dried or fresh and has strong anti-inflammatory properties which mimic the effect of Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs). It works by inhibiting chemicals that create and promote inflammation. It is popular in fresh, powdered or oil form because of its lovely taste
- Quercetin – Quercetin is a naturally occurring chemical that is found in many foods including onions, apples, berries, and happily, red wine. Quercetin blocks the pro-inflammatory chemicals, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins
Where you purchase supplements from is very important. They need to be both safe and effective so you should only buy from reputable sources where you can verify the quality and percentage of the supplement you are buying. It is important to study labeling closely as many products will contain fillers and a surprisingly low percentage of the actual ingredient you are looking for.
Fighting inflammation in the body whether it is caused by a chronic, long-term condition or an acute episode, requires a holistic approach that includes dietary changes as well as dietary supplementation.
Following a good and balanced diet has numerous health benefits. Here are some key tips specifically for diets that can help decrease inflammation:-
- Avoid processed foods that are high in chemicals, salt, refined sugar, and fat. All of these can increase inflammation in the body as well as causing weight gain and obesity with all of the attendant problems that come with this such as elevated blood glucose
- Choose fresh fruits and vegetables and consume a variety each week
- Ensure your diet contains whole grains
- Opt for chicken, fish and eggs as your protein source and limit red meat and processed meats like bacon, sausage and salami which are high in saturated fat and increase inflammation
- Olive oil, avocados and nuts contain Omega-3 and monosaturated fats. The human body cannot manufacture Omega-3
- Limit saturated fat so dairy products such as butter, non-skimmed milk and cheese and the skin on poultry
- Avoid trans fats completely so pre-packaged baked goods, chocolate-coated snacks and peanut butter
Using a carefully considered diet and supplementation from nature’s larder can make a big impact when it comes to managing long-term inflammatory conditions. It can reduce or eliminate your reliance on over-the-counter medication.
References / Further Reading
Options for anti-inflammatory supplements: https://www.verywellhealth.com/anti-inflammatory-supplements-options-190474
9 diet tips to help you fight inflammation: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/9-diet-tips-to-help-you-fight-inflammation/
Supplements for inflammation: https://www.byrdie.com/supplements-for-inflammation
6 anti-inflammatory supplements: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-anti-inflammatory-supplements