Supplements For Inflammation

Apr 23, 2020

 by Sunny S.

We all know what inflammation is: you get a cut, and 1. it swells, 2. it hurts, it gets 3. red and 4. hot. Each of these symptoms are important: 1. Opening of cell junctions to increase flow of the body’s defense system 2. Let’s you know there’s a problem in that area 3. More blood flow = more “defenders,” and 4. Mild, local fever to help kill stuff. Your body puts a lot of effort into annihilating the area when a cut happens because the infection can pose such a risk to your health. While this is helpful when you get a cut, it is not so helpful when inflammation becomes a chronic problem in your gut, brain, or cardiovascular system.

Exercise is a stressor on the body and will cause an inflammatory response internally. The inflammatory response plays a role in the delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, that many people feel after a tough workout. By addressing the inflammation with supplements, you can reduce some of the muscle damage and soreness from the exercise, which helps you get back in the gym quicker.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is a supplement with a bunch of benefits. It is maybe the only supplement that we recommend to people of all ages: from womb to tomb. Since it works in so many different ways in the body, we can’t extol all of its virtues, so we will focus on inflammation only. The two most important fatty acids in fish oil are the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. When an inflammatory response is initiated, a fatty acid is liberated from fat tissue to convert into either a pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory signaling molecule. EPA will convert into an anti-inflammatory molecule and DHA will not convert and the inflammatory signal will stop, so having plenty of fish oil in your body will prevent inflammation right at the source. Fish oil works along the same pathways as aspirin and other NSAID pain relievers, so in some ways, its effectiveness is similar. Regarding exercise, studies have demonstrated that fish oil can reduce DOMS. After a muscle-damaging protocol, omega-3 consumption induced lower pain and higher range of motion in the knees of untrained men.

Dosage: 2-3 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids a day. (Read labels because most fish oils contain different amounts of Omega-3 fatty acid content.)

When to take it: Take with meals


Curcumin is a bioactive compound that is found in turmeric root. Turmeric is what makes Indian curries and mustard yellow, and has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. While demonstrating antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, studies have shown curcumin to be a highly effective anti-inflammatory. Many inflammatory diseases have been improved by curcumin consumption, such as oral inflammation, osteoarthritis, and ulcerative colitis. Exercise studies have also demonstrated the benefits of curcumin use for helping with muscle damage and soreness. Curcumin improved both time to exhaustion and a variety of inflammatory biomarkers in a post-exercise muscle damage model.

Dosage: If using turmeric powder, 1 tbsp per day (added to food/drink for mustard/curry flavor); capsules: 1-3 per day

When to take it: Take with meals


Ginger is a common spice that can be consumed in a variety of ways: raw, pickled with sushi, crystallized with sugar, dried powder as a spice, or in supplement form. Also common to both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, ginger has excellent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, similar to aspirin in some cases. One study demonstrated that ginger supplementation can reduce the same inflammatory molecules that are affected by fish oil and curcumin. Ginger also improves recovery from exercise. Reduced pain and inflammatory markers were observed in subjects consuming ginger after an eccentric protocol, which is commonly used to induce muscle damage. Lower pain and inflammatory markers were observed in another study in females after performing a 20 minute step test.

Dosage: If using ginger powder, 1+ tsp a day (added to food/drink for spicy ginger flavor); capsules: 1-3 per day

When to take it: Take with meals

Tart Cherry

Packed with antioxidants, tart cherry juice is a very popular post-exercise supplement – for endurance athletes and weightlifters alike. Its effectiveness has been shown on inflammation and pain caused by both disease and exercise. In trained cyclists, tart cherry juice twice per day induced greater recovery of strength and lower inflammation after high-intensity cycling. The same lab observed similar findings in trained runners, such that tart cherry consumption increased strength recovery and lowered inflammation after marathon running. But tart cherry juice doesn’t just work for elite athletes. Fourteen college-age men engaged in an eccentric exercise protocol, and strength recovery and muscle soreness both improved after drinking tart cherry juice. Having studies in highly trained and untrained individuals showing benefits with cycling, running, and weight training shows that tart cherry can benefit a wide range of people and should be part of the arsenal for every athlete. As a side benefit, it also helps with sleep, which is a key part of good recovery.

Dosage: One typical serving; ex: concentrate is about 1.5 fl. Oz. ( Caution: High in Carbs!)

When to take it: Take with meals

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a fatty acid in the mitochondria that serves as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Since mitochondria are the engines of the cell (they turn fuel into energy), they create much of the oxidative stress in the body. Therefore, ALA is well located to improve recovery on the cellular level, especially during exercise, when the mitochondria are pumping out a ton of ATP and generating plenty of pro-oxidant molecules. People who had metabolic syndrome showed reduced inflammation after 300mg per day of ALA. After a running protocol to induce muscle damage, ALA consumption induced lower muscle damage and lower oxidative stress. Not only can exercise-induced muscle damage be reduced by ALA, but it also may increase lifespan, so that’s a bonus.

Dosage: 300mg per day

When to take it: Can take at anytime