Inflammation is the body’s process of defense against things that harm it, such as infections, injuries, and toxins. When cellular damage is detected, the body releases antibodies and proteins (CRP) and increases blood flow to the affected region. Inflammation plays a crucial role in healing, yet chronic inflammation increases the risk of various diseases. Signs of short-term (acute) inflammation include redness, impairment of function, swelling, heat, and pain.
Pain may be constant or intermittent, steady or throbbing. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) use provides temporary relief from such pain, but they come with undesirable side effects. For most acute inflammation, there is no need for medical intervention since the body can repair itself. While this repair process occurs, natural remedies can reduce pain and other symptoms by combatting inflammation. Two proven food-based options to consider are fish oil and turmeric.
What Is It?
Fish oil is comprised of two omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA): eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Consuming EPA and DHA directly from food or supplements is the only practical way to increase these fatty acids’ levels since the body can’t manufacture them. Microalgae produce them naturally. These algae are consumed by phytoplankton, which is eaten and digested by fish, stimulating EPA and DHA accumulation in the fish’s tissue. The best sources are mackerel and salmon, fatty cold-water fish.
How Does It Work?
When the body goes into defense mode, it produces chemicals that destroy unwanted or damaged cells so that repairs can begin. Unfortunately, these chemicals may also harm healthy, desirable cells. Fatty acids are able to offset several inflammatory responses within the body and increase anti-inflammatory mechanisms. These responses create a shift from a strongly pro-inflammatory environment to one of reduced inflammation, counteracting pain, and other discomforts. These results have been reported in trials with healthy human volunteers and clinical trials with various patient groups.
In one study, researchers investigated the efficacy of fish oil supplementation for low back pain. A majority of participants discontinued their NSAID prescription, reported a reduced pain level, and 88% said they would continue taking the fish oil supplement.
Omega-3 is an essential part of the diet. Most clinicians agree that raising EPA and DHA blood levels are beneficial, yet this is difficult to achieve through food alone. Supplementing with liquid or capsules up to 5,000mg daily is considered safe.
Who Should Avoid It?
- Bleeding Disorders / Blood Thinner users – Excessive fish oil supplementation can reduce the ability of blood to clot.
- Low Blood Pressure – Omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood pressure, interfere with certain medications, and cause problems for individuals with low blood pressure.
What Is It?
Turmeric is a root-like perennial plant related to ginger. Its unmistakable deep yellow color will stain your hands, yet imbues hot dog mustard and many rice and curry dishes from the eastern world with a characteristic golden shade. Turmeric has received interest from the scientific world due to it supplying the polyphenol curcumin. Intense color, flavor, and bitterness often indicate polyphenols’ presence, beneficial compounds found in plant-based foods.
How Does It Work?
Research has shown that curcumin provides multiple health benefits associated with common complaints. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are the two primary aspects that generate positive impacts on various conditions. Curcumin is difficult for the body to process and utilize on its own. When mixed with piperine (derived from black pepper) and olive oil, the complex is an effective, naturally sourced therapy for muscle, back, and joint pain.
Who Should Avoid It?
Typical consumption of turmeric eaten in food is safe. While curcumin comes from something that grows in nature, people with the following conditions should avoid supplementation.
- Iron Deficiency – Curcumin supplements may interfere with iron absorption.
- Kidney Stones – Turmeric is high in oxalate, which can bind with calcium to form kidney stones.
- Gallbladder Disease – Curcumin supplements may cause the gallbladder to contract, worsening symptoms.
- Bleeding Disorders / Blood Thinner users – Curcumin supplements can reduce the ability of blood to clot.
“Let food be thy medicine” is a quote often attributed to Hippocrates. As modern humans, we face a daily struggle to nourish ourselves properly so our bodies can function as they should. Eating foods close to their original form is a big step in the right direction. Sometimes we need to take it a step further and use natural supplements to get some extra support. Fish oil and turmeric are two foods that will benefit many of us as we work not just to survive but thrive.