Reducing Inflammation Naturally
The simplest physiological way of turning down the body’s pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and cytokines is by restoring a balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory foods. From a dietary standpoint, this means switching from vegetable oils to extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil or walnut oil. It also means avoiding most processed (boxed, canned, or frozen) foods, because their makers frequently add omega-6 fatty acids. By eating simple unprocessed foods-such as roasted or grilled pastured meat, a salad, and steamed vegetables-it becomes easier to consume a more balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Other foods which are pro-inflammatory and should be avoided include peanuts, wheat, red meats, alcohol, the nightshade family (white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, tobacco, red and green peppers, paprika), carbonated drinks and fried foods. However, most people have been eating a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in antioxidants for years. Simply restoring a balance is not enough to quickly offset accumulated damage, because the fatty acid composition of the body’s cells reflects their dietary ratios. It’s imperative to increase consumption of anti-inflammatory fatty acids and antioxidants. The take home message in all this is relatively simple: pharmaceutical drugs, while providing rapid relief of symptoms, do not correct the underlying cause of chronic inflammation. The cause is often a diet that’s either unbalanced or lacking in key nutrients. No drug can correct a nutritional deficiency or imbalance. Only nutrients can do that.
Supplements with Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Omega-3 essential fatty acids
EPA and DHA are essential building blocks for the body’s anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (e.g., prostaglandin E1) and for turning off Cox-2 and the body’s pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1, IL-6, and TNFa). In addition, omega-3 fatty acids block the activity of an enzyme that breaks down joint cartilage.
Although GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid, it has anti-inflammatory properties. Relatively little GLA is converted to arachidonic acid and prostaglandin E2. Instead, GLA increases production of the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin E1.
Although Cox-2 and prostaglandin E2 levels rise with age, animal studies have shown that vitamin E supplements reverse the increase in Cox-2 and prostaglandin E2. Vitamin E also turns off nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB) and activator protein-1 (AP-1), compounds that turn on inflammatory genes. One recent study found that arthritics taking supplements of natural vitamin E (600 mg twice daily) for 12 weeks had their pain reduced by 50%.
Long recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties, the effects of vitamin C are enhanced by other nutrients. In a study of people exposed to simulated sunlight, researchers found that vitamin C and E worked synergistically to reduce skin inflammation. In a cell study, Italian researchers noted that quercetin and vitamin C worked together to protect cells from inflammation-induced damage.
Polyphenols and Flavonoids
The antioxidant polyphenols in green tea have anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting Cox-2 and TNFa. Genistein inhibits prostaglandin E2 and Cox-2, and quercetin inhibits the activity of inflammation-promoting adhesion; molecules. It’s likely that Pycnogenol, grape seed extract, and other flavonoids work through similar mechanisms.
St. John’s wort
Better known for its antidepressant effect, this herb also has anti-inflammatory properties. In a laboratory experiment, researchers from the University of Frieburg, Germany found that hypericin, one of the constituents of St. John’s wort, inhibited NF-kB, which activates pro-inflammatory genes.
With a long history as a folk medicine, ginger inhibits Cox-2 and another proinflammatory compound, 5-lipoxygenase. This simple herb and condiment contains almost 500 different compounds, many of which are anti-inflammatory.
This common kitchen herb is rich in ursolic acid and many of its derivatives. In laboratory experiments, Swedish researchers found that the ursolic acid extract of rosemary was a potent inhibitor of Cox-2 activity.
A natural pigment that accounts for the yellow color of the spice turmeric, curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant. A recent cell study by researchers at Cornell University, New York, found that curcumin blocked the activity of Cox-2. The researchers suggested that this property might explain some of the herb’s anticancer effects.
Known as una de gato and Uncaria tomentosa, this Peruvian herb has a long history as a remedy for inflammatory arthritis. Recent cell-culture and animal experiments at the Albany Medical College, New York, found that cat’s claw inhibited inflammation by blocking the activity of NF-kB.
Have a great day,
The Vitality Team