Swollen ankle after a fall? Redness and swelling around a cut? Runny nose and itchy eyes? These are signs that your immune system is in action and is helping you to heal.
Chronic pain and swelling in joints? Lingering, random pains anywhere else in the body? Leaky gut? These are the signs that your body is in a continuous state of inflammation, causing systemic damage to your tissues. Ongoing inflammation has the potential to trigger serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, insulin resistance and cancer.
What is inflammation and why you should do something to fix it? Can nutritional supplements help? What else can you do to fight inflammation and reduce your risk of chronic disease?
What is inflammation and why is it bad?
Inflammation is how your body heals and stays protected. Whenever you have a sprained ankle or when a virus or a bacteria attacks your body, there are some instant changes in the body that help you heal and recover. It will do what it takes to get rid of the trigger and make you better.
Your blood vessels begin to dilate so that more blood and oxygen can reach the site of injury. Your immune system recruits its army of cells that identify and destroy germs. Certain immune cells release chemicals such as cytokines that call out and activate other immune cells, proteins and hormones.
All this hustle and bustle helps your injuries to heal faster and prevents infection from spreading further. At the same time, you experience swelling, pain, redness and warmth at the site of the injury. In some cases, you are not able to move the affected area. This prevents more pain and damage. These are signs of acute inflammation which should go away when your injuries have healed, or the triggers have been destroyed.
But sometimes these triggers don’t go away, and that throws your immune system off track. It keeps doing what it knows best which is to protect the body, employing more immune cells and releasing more chemicals, getting into a mode where it doesn’t know when to stop. Non-stop responses by your immune system eventually cause totally unwanted damage in cells and tissues, even leading to auto-immune disorders. Joint pain, leaky gut, sugar imbalances, obesity, heart disease, IBS can be all traced to chronic inflammation.
What causes chronic inflammation?
Inflammation is a part and parcel of the ageing process. When you age, chronic, low-grade inflammation sets in, which contributes to disorders that we normally associate with ageing. This is called “inflammaging” - an immune-metabolic viewpoint for age-related diseases.
In fact, it works both ways. Most chronic diseases occur as a result of ageing and inflammation. These disorders also contribute to inflammation and speed up the process of ageing.
Let’s have a quick look at the factors that cause inflammation in the body.
- Unhealthy diet (refined sugar, vegetable oils, processed foods)
- Exposure to toxins, chemicals and heavy metals
- Chronic infections and diseases
- Lack of exercise
How do you know you have chronic inflammation? The signs of systemic inflammation may not be as visible or noticeable as those given off by acute inflammation. But there are some red flags to watch out for.
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Joint pain and swelling
- Leaky gut and poor digestive health (bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea)
- High blood sugar levels
- Weight gain, especially around the waist
- Constant fatigue
- Trouble sleeping
- Depression and anxiety
- Brain fog
- Persistent symptoms of allergies such as runny nose, itchy eyes, skin rashes
- Recurring bouts of cold and illness
- Skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema and acne
- Auto-immune disorders like thyroid, lupus, vitiligo
One of the most important factors that increase inflammation is ‘unhealthy lifestyle’. This is an umbrella term that includes sleeping less, eating too much processed food and excessive exposure to toxins and harsh chemicals.
Chronic infections and diseases also place additional burden of inflammation on the body. Studies show that those affected with diabetes, obesity, heart disease, thyroid and cancer have increased levels of inflammatory chemicals in their system.
Making immediate changes to your lifestyle and diet go a long way in curbing inflammation. These modifications support your body’s ability to heal itself, can remove toxins effectively, regulate inflammatory pathways and cut down your risk of most health conditions.
- Eliminate trans fats altogether
- Get rid of highly processed vegetable oils like canola, safflower, and soy oils
- Cut down on refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Avoid highly refined, processed carbohydrates
- Quit smoking
- Include more vegetables and fruits
- Increase your intake of nuts such as walnuts, cashew, brazil nuts, peanuts, pecans and almonds
- Exercise in moderation and stay active
- Sleep well and reduce stress
- Drink enough water to clear toxins
- Heal your gut
- Treat chronic health conditions
Getting anti-inflammatory support from supplements
Taking the right supplements can also lower your inflammation effectively. Certain supplements have high anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that work great for people who are already suffering from inflammatory health conditions.
Curcumin, one of the bioactive compounds in the spice turmeric, and shows tremendous potential in reducing pain and inflammation. Studies show that it blocks the activity of various enzymes, proteins and molecules involved in causing inflammation, pain and tissue damage.
For example, curcumin blocks the synthesis of cytokines. It also inhibits the production of cyclooxygenase (COX) family of enzymes. COX enzymes produce prostaglandins, chemicals that are tightly involved in inflammation and pain. Our article “How Curcumin Relieves Pain ” explores how curcumin reduces pain without causing undesirable side effects typically caused by NSAIDs and analgesics.
Curcumin also blocks the activity of NF-κB, a signalling molecule that triggers the release of other pro-inflammatory molecules in the body. NF-κB signalling pathway is the central pathway involved in causing inflammation.
Research shows that curcumin works better than over the counter and prescription drugs in reducing pain and inflammation in people with arthritis. 
Curcumin is also a strong anti-oxidant on its own and improves the levels of antioxidant enzymes in the body. In addition, curcumin is safe to use and produces no significant side effects like NSAIDs. All these properties make curcumin a potential supplement that fight inflammation.
Health Benefits of Curcumin
- Improves endothelial function and reduces the risk of heart disease
- Reduces inflammation in the brain, and delays neuro-degeneration and cognitive decline
- Relieves joint pain and swelling in people with arthritis
- Improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of developing type-2 diabetes
- May control the progression of pre-diabetic stage into fully blown diabetes
- Works as an effective adjunct in chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- Reduces damage caused by exposure to ionizing radiation
Omega-3 fatty acids (n-3) are a type of unsaturated fats found in nuts, fatty fish and fish oil supplements. These fatty acids control many aspects that are involved in inflammation.
For example they reduce the formation of molecules that cause inflammation, such as eicosanoids and cytokines. In addition, your body processes these fatty acids to make signalling molecules called resolvins, protectins, and maresins. These molecules are anti-inflammatory and help in resolving inflammation. 
You need a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 to maintain healthy inflammatory response. Omega 6 fats increase the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and adhesion molecules in the body. Most people are already consuming highly processed vegetable oils that are an over-abundant source of omega 6 fatty acids, tipping the balance in favour of molecules that cause inflammation.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least two times in a week to support cardiovascular health.
Health Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Supports heart health and reduces your risk of heart attack
- Supports healthy brain functions
- Protects against Alzheimer’s, depression and dementia
- Maintains eye health and prevents macular degeneration
- Reduces insulin resistance
- Reduces symptoms of ADHD in children
Glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants your body makes on its own. It is known for its powerful ability to scavenge free radicals that cause oxidative damage and inflammation. Since it is produced naturally within the cells, glutathione is always available to defend your cells and its mitochondria from the damage caused by free radicals.
This is not the only reason why it enjoys the status of “MASTER ANTIOXIDANT”. It also infuses life into other antioxidants that have done their job but have lost their ability to neutralize free radicals any further. Glutathione recycles vitamin C, E and vitamin A, strengthening your body’s total antioxidant capacity.
Glutathione is the mainstay of your body’s detox mechanism. It is a critical component of how your liver gets rid of waste products and toxins such as heavy metals, smoke, alcohol and drug residues. Glutathione binds to toxins and makes them water-soluble. This makes it easy for the body to eliminate waste and toxic stuff out of the body.
Glutathione deficiency means your cells are not effectively protected against oxidative damage. It also means you are not able to successfully dispose of all the toxins. Accumulation of heavy metals, drug residues and other toxic chemicals cause oxidative damage and inflammation throughout the body. This results in chronic pain, pain in muscles and joints, fatigue, allergies, hormonal imbalances and poor immunity.
Health Benefits of Glutathione
- Fights inflammation
- Helps in DNA synthesis and repair
- Supports liver in getting rid of toxins
- Helps in healthy function and activity of immune cells
- Improves skin health
- Boosts energy levels
Resveratrol is a polyphenol making waves for its role in delaying cellular ageing . Found in grapes, berries and peanuts, resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant. It also improves the levels of endogenous antioxidants, the ones that your body produces on its own. This is one important way it reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.
Resveratrol also activates Sirtuins, a special category of enzymes that regulate genes involved in inflammation, immune function and many other processes that are linked to ageing.
A recent review of randomized controlled trials found that resveratrol reduces levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and TNF-α. This property makes resveratrol a useful adjunct to manage metabolic disorders. 
Health Benefits of Resveratrol
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Improves skin health
Vitamin D can reduce inflammation because it plays a very critical role in regulating your immunity. It boosts your natural immunity and helps fight a range of infections. It is because vitamin D stimulates the production of proteins that work as natural antibiotics. This is one side of the coin. It also regulates your adaptive immunity and prevents your immune system from launching inappropriate, unwanted responses that could lead to chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with health conditions that stem from inflammation. In fact, health experts consider low levels of vitamin D to be a missing link in the development of many autoimmune disorders such as thyroid and rheumatoid arthritis.
We recommend taking vitamin D supplements along with Vitamin K2 and magnesium .
- Your cells can use and absorb Vitamin D only when you have enough magnesium 
- Vitamin K2 helps calcium go where it needs to be
- Vitamin K2 prevents calcium build up in places we don’t want such as in blood vessels and other soft tissues. Calcium build up in these places can cause atherosclerosis, heart attack, palpitations, angina, muscle pain, kidney stones and constipation.
- Reduces risk of heart diseases
- Cuts down the risk of autoimmune disorder
- Reduces risk of asthma, respiratory tract infections and allergies
- Improves sleep and mood
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Supports thyroid health
And before you try any of these supplements, talk to your health care professional. While most of the dietary supplements are safe and don’t cause major side effects, they can still interact with drugs and other supplements you may already be taking. Ideally, you may find that through supplementation with the right products, you can replace or at least reduce reliance on damaging NSAIDs.
- Chandran et al. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012
- Calder et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man. Biochem Soc Trans. 2017
- Koushki et al. Effect of Resveratrol Supplementation on Inflammatory Markers: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Clin Ther. 2018
- Uwitonze et al. Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 2018