Supplements for Fighting Inflammation

Supplements for fighting inflammation

I am dedicating this segment to my little sister, Fran, who is also my hero, the best lamb mommy, best grandma and of course best sisty ever. She has been pestering me to get this one done. Here it is sweetheart☺

Let’s start with defining inflammation as I believe if you understand what it is, and especially if you understand what causes it, you can prevent most of it by avoiding these things.  Then you may not even need the supplements.  

Scientists now believe that continuous, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions.  

In a nutshell inflammation is the body’s response to an attack from allergens, carcinogens, autogens, (cause autoimmune disease) pathogens like bacteria, viruses or fungi, infections, poisons, toxins or even a splinter in your finger. In other words, anything that attacks the body will trigger a response from the immune system.  That response will cause a runny nose (for sinus infection,) swelling and redness (for a bee sting) phlegm and mucous (for bronchial infection) pus (for a wound)  arthritis (for damaged joints) and bloating (for foods attacking the gut) to name just a few of the myriad of examples of inflammation.

There are five signs of acute inflammation:

  • Redness
  • Heat
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Loss of function

Diseases or medical conditions that cause inflammation, or are caused by inflammation, often have a name ending in “-itis.” For example:

  • Cystitis: inflammation of the bladder
  • Bronchitis: an inflammation of the bronchi
  • Otitis media: an inflammation of the middle ear
  • Dermatitis: a disease where the skin is inflamed

What Actually Happens to Cause Inflammation?

When the body is attacked, immune cells go into action by releasing substances known as “inflammatory mediators” such as the hormones “bradykinin” and “histamine.”  These guys cause the small blood vessels near the injury to dilate allowing more blood to reach the injured tissue. That is what causes the swelling and redness.

Another cool thing that happens is that these two hormones irritate the nerves around the injury, causing pain signals to be sent to the brain. This is the body’s attempt at protecting the injury as we tend to baby the swollen knee, gums, or fractured bone more if it hurts when we touch it than we do if it does not hurt.

This all sounds really good, right? Here is the problem, inflammation can also cause chronic diseases such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, where many joints throughout the body are permanently inflamed
  • Psoriasis – a chronic skin disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) like Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis

These diseases occur after repeated assault on the body from an attacker that triggers the immune response constantly.  In other words, the immune response never shuts off.  Look to life-style issues as the source for many such attacks.  For example, in the case of IBS, the bowel is under attack from foods doused in Glyphosate, the insecticide sprayed on GMOs.  

Collectively known as chronic inflammatory diseases, they can last for years or even a lifetime. Their severity and level of activity varies, but some may not be reversible.

Causes of Inflammation

  1. Diet

Do not even get me started on this one.  The US diet stinks causing Americans to be #1 for obesity in the world and dead last for wellness.  To put it bluntly, diet plays a major role in inflammation. The biggest culprit is sugar, followed closely by white flour, processed foods and refined carbohydrates. In contrast, other foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and fish have been shown to reduce inflammation.

  1. Stomach

Excessive alcohol consumption, GI tract conditions, certain medications, and vomiting cause inflammation of the stomach. Sometimes, gastritis becomes a chronic condition that damages the stomach lining. This is particularly true for those suffering from Bulimia.

  1. Fake Fibers

Fibers in plastics, latex, and other products can trigger inflammation in people who are sensitive to these fibers. I discovered after years of having a rash on my upper back that I was allergic to polyester or anything not made of cotton.  Actually, my body prefers organic cotton.  Huh. Anyway since I switched out my fake fabrics for the real thing, no more rash.  (Do you know how amazing 100 organic cotton feels? Or wears?) 

  1. Fight or Flight in Action

Studies show psychological stress interferes with the body’s ability to control inflammation, which heightens the risk of inflammatory diseases. Emotional stress triggers the production of cortisol, the fight-or-flight stress hormone, which shuts down many other functions, like burning calories and fighting infection, to save the individual. The brain interprets cortisol as a death threat and shuts down everything other than what is needed to “fight” (arousal) or “flight” (run) like hell. 

  1. Over-doing It Physically

Chronic physical stress, such as over-exercising, grueling work or an injury  can also result in excessive inflammation. On the other hand, regular exercise in moderation has an anti-inflammatory effect and may help keep inflammation in check. I tell my patients there is a big difference between over-exertion and exercise, which are often confused with each other.  Shoveling your driveway is not exercise unless you are in really good shape; it is exertion and can injure you if you are not in good shape.

  1. Type 2 Diabetes & Insulin Resistance

A condition found in type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, has been linked with chronic, low-grade inflammation.  This is a treatable condition and you can reverse out of it completely in many cases by eating clean food, eliminating ALL added sugar and incorporating foods with a low glycemic load. (link to article) So do that.

  1. Menopause and/or Hormone Imbalance

Inflammation could be a byproduct of an imbalance of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. I take bio-identical hormones (not hormone replacement) to combat the affects of such hormone reduction.  Check with your doctor to see if you are a candidate. Chronic inflammation in women going through menopause can cause osteoporosis. 

      8. Allergies to Foods

Food allergies, whether they are genetic or acquired, are brought about by IgE antibodies. Allergies can show up thorough out life, although often develop when we are children. Nuts, fish, and milk are common allergens, and in some, contact or ingestion can cause a life-threatening reaction. People can also be sensitive to certain foods or dietary components without having a true allergy, i.e. individuals with Celiac disease, experience an immune response to gluten and develop inflammation, despite the fact that it is not a true food allergy. A doctor or nutritionist can help patients determine to which foods they are allergic through allergy tests and elimination diets.

      9. A Lot of Chemicals

Ingredients in many personal care and cleaning products can be absorbed and cause reactions either on or beneath the skin. The signs of skin inflammation include redness, itching, tenderness, and swelling. But these chemicals can cause autoimmune disease and all manner of other problems. I use only organic cosmetics and body lotions and highly recommend the same to my patients.

Anti-Inflammatory Spices/Foods

One easy way to incorporate anti-inflammatories into your diet is through the use of spices. 

  1. Curcurmin/Turmeric

Curcumin is a component of the spice turmeric that provides several impressive health benefits. It can decrease inflammation in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid aarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer, to name a few.

turmeric curcumin
turmeric curcumin

Recommended dosage: 100–500 mg daily, when taken with piperine for more effective absorption. Doses up to 10 grams per day have been studied and are considered safe, but they may cause digestive side effects . Not recommended for pregnant women.

Concerns: None if taken at the recommended dosage.

  1. Ginger

Ginger is a spice used in many cuisines that can be bought it powdered form or as a fresh root in most supermarkets that has been used in traditional medicine for upset stomach, headache and infection. It has been recognized as a potent anti-inflammatory for centuries. 

  1. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is not only great for your pumpkin pies, it has anti-inflammatory properties, which can also ease swelling. I put a teaspoon or more in my coffee every morning. Delicious!

  1. Cayenne

Both cayenne and other hot chili pepper   contain natural compounds called capsaicinoids which are what give cayenne its anti-inflammatory properties. 

  1. Garlic

The anti-inflammatory properties of garlic have long been recognized when it comes to relieving the inflammation of arthritis.  You can and should use fresh garlic in almost every savory dish. Or you can roast it for a milder flavor.

  1. Black pepper

Black pepper, though not as hot as cayenne has also been identified for its anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that the chemical compounds of black pepper, particularly piperine, may be effective in the early acute inflammatory process. It is also added to a number of other supplements because it helps them to absorb better.


  1. Cloves, which have been used as an expectorant, and to treat stomach upset and nausea are also considered an anti-inflammatory of the mouth and throat.  upset stomachnausea, and inflammation of the mouth and throat. Research is still mixed, but 

Anti-inflammatory Supplements

In addition to the spices above, the following supplements have all been shown to provide considerable relief.  Always check with your doctor first.

1. Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)

Alpha-lipoic acid is a fatty acid made by your body that plays a key role in metabolism and energy production. Even more importantly, it functions as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells from damage.  ALA is awesome as it also supports vitamins C and E which are perhaps the body’s most important antioxidants. 

Studies show that it reduces the inflammation linked to insulin resistance,  cancer, liver disease, heart disease and other disorders.   

Recommended dosage: 300–600 mg daily. Not recommended for pregnant women

Concerns: None reported in people taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid for up to seven months. Not recommended for pregnant women.

Fish Oil

  1. I learned about fish oil from my grandma Shoemaker who dosed us on Cod Liver Oil any chance she got.  Turns out she was right.  It contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital to good health.

They can decrease the inflammation associated with diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many other conditions  Two especially beneficial types of omega-3s are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA, in particular, appears to work the best in the gut and on the muscles in the event that we damage the muscle.  

Recommended dosage: 1–1.5 grams of omega-3s from EPA and DHA per day. Look for fish oil supplements with undetectable mercury content. I use Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Krill Oil.  Krill is amazingly clean (no mercury) and plentiful and the cod, well what can I say? Grandma was right.

Concerns: Fish oil may thin the blood at higher doses, which can increase bleeding.  Not recommended for people taking blood thinners or aspirin, unless authorized by their doctor.

5. Resveratrol

This is my favorite supplement because 5 minutes after I take it, I can see a noticeable difference in the texture of the skin on my face.  Seriously. Knocks off about 10 years. It is the  antioxidant found in grapes, blueberries and other fruits with purple skin, as well as red wine.

Resveratrol supplements may reduce inflammation in individuals with heart disease, insulin resistance, gastritis, ulcerative colitis and other conditions.   


Recommended dosage: 150–500 mg per day 

Concerns: None at the recommended dosage, but digestive issues may occur with large amounts (5 grams per day). Not recommended for people taking blood thinners or for pregnant women


  1. Spirulina is an unusual antioxidant as it is a type of blue-green algae with strong antioxidant effects. It has been shown to reduce inflammation, lead to healthier aging in general and strengthen the immune system. You can add powered spirulina to your smoothie. 

Recommended dosage: 1–8 grams per day, based on most studies and manufacturers recommendations. 

Concerns: Not recommended for people with immune system disorders or allergies to spirulina or algae. Otherwise, none at the recommended dosage.

Be Smart When it Comes to Supplements

If you want to try any of these supplements, then it’s important to:

  • Look for the ones with the fewest extra ingredients
  • Avoid supplements with silicon dioxide, magnesium stearate, sugar or sugar substitutes, safflower and sunflower and especially canola oils
  • Buy them from a reputable manufacturer.
  • Follow the dosage instructions.
  • Check with your doctor first if you have a medical condition or take medication.

Dr. Renae Norton specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.

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Materials contained on this site are made available solely for educational purposes and as part of an effort to raise general awareness of the psychological treatments available to individuals with health issues. These materials are not intended to be, and are not a substitute for, direct professional medical or psychological care based on your individual condition and circumstances.  Dr. J. Renae Norton does not diagnose or treat medical conditions. While this site may contain descriptions of pharmacological, psychiatric and psychological treatments, such descriptions and any related materials should not be used to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified mental health care provider.  You are advised to consult your medical health provider about your personal questions or concerns.