Anti-Inflammatory Diet For Dummies
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Changing your diet to include anti-inflammatory foods, spices, herbs, and beverages is the first and most important step in the battle against inflammation and chronic disease. Getting a lot of good exercise — both heart-pumping cardiovascular workouts and relaxing yoga — is another good step.

Finding those supplements — natural herbs and enzymes — that give your new diet that extra boost is an added bonus in the fight against inflammation. From herbs that keep migraines at bay to vitamins that help reduce the risk of cancer, supplements should be part of your daily routine. We discuss our top ten anti-inflammatory herb and supplement picks in this list.

Always consult a physician or pharmacist who is knowledgeable in herbs and supplements and their interactions before trying any herbs or supplements on your own.

Omega-3 fatty acids: mixed EPA and DHA from fish oils

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two essential fatty acids derived from fish and some vegetarian sources. You can’t make these fatty acids in your body — that’s why they’re essential fatty acids — so you need to get them from food or supplements daily. EPA and DHA are anti-inflammatory superstars because they compete against a pro-inflammatory compound called arachidonic acid (AA) for incorporation into cellular membranes.

Omega-3 fatty acids ©Kerdkanno/

Omega-3 fatty acids

Use fish (such as salmon and sardines) and fish oils as your primary sources of EPA and DHA. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids (flax and chia, for example) contain alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which gets converted into DHA.

If you can’t find fish that are low in mercury and other toxins, take a high-quality fish oil supplement with both EPA and DHA for an anti-inflammatory diet.

Just as important as the positives that take place when you do supplement your diet with fish oils is what happens when you don’t. Some studies have linked an omega-3 deficiency to an increased risk of depression.

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind before increasing your intake of mixed EPA and DHA from fish oils:

  • Dosing: Take 1 to 4 grams daily of a mixed EPA/DHA.
  • Cautions/contraindications: Because fish oils have benefits similar to blood thinners, they may increase the effect of pharmaceutical blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin).


The root of the ginger plant has multiple anti-inflammatory benefits and helps reduce symptoms in inflammatory disorders. Benefits of gingerroot, commonly referred simply as ginger, include the following:
  • It decreases pain in disorders such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • It has been shown to improve brain function and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It decreases the risk of heart and cardiovascular disease by increasing circulation and preventing the clotting of blood.
  • It may be used as a prophylactic for migraine headaches.
Ginger ©pilipphoto/


Here are some basic facts you should know about taking ginger:

  • Dosing: One to 2 grams of fresh or dried ginger a day can help with pain, aches, and inflammation. Drink 1 to 3 cups of ginger tea for aches and pains or add a @@bf/1/4-inch piece of peeled, diced ginger to your stir-fry.
  • Caution/contraindications: Ginger may interact with blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), so consult your physician before adding it to your diet in large amounts. People with gallstones or individuals who have experienced a peptic ulcer should take caution in taking ginger, as should anyone taking antacids.


Turmeric comes from the root of the Indian Curcuma longa plant and is a main ingredient in curry. It contains an extract called curcumin that researchers have studied extensively for its multiple anti-inflammatory benefits. Curcumin lends the spice its bright orange color.

turmeric © monticello/


Curcumin works in much the same way as ibuprofen but without the gastrointestinal side effects. Curcumin also works as an antioxidant and stimulates the immune system. However, turmeric doesn’t have a lot of curcumin, so in order to get the most out of this super spice, find a turmeric extract with high levels of curcumin.

Here are some of the anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin:

  • It has hepatoprotective effects, which protect against liver damage.
  • It helps with cognitive function and may decrease the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It reduces the pain and inflammation symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • It works as a cancer preventative by inhibiting tumor promotion, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, and reducing their blood supply.
Here are some basic facts you should know about taking curcumin:
  • Dosing: For anti-inflammatory benefit, you may need to take 500 milligrams up to three times a day. Curcumin is fat soluble, so you may want to take it with a fatty meal.
  • Caution/contraindications: People with gallstones or obstructed bile ducts shouldn’t take curcumin without first consulting a physician. It can increase risk of serious bleeding, so people with bleeding disorders or those who are taking blood thinners shouldn’t take it either.

NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a derivative of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. NAC reduces free-radical damage and stops inflammation by acting as an antioxidant.

Here are some of the anti-inflammatory benefits of NAC:

  • It promotes liver detoxification.
  • It helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing
  • It prevents bronchitis and improves the condition of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • It helps relieve compulsive psychiatric disorders.
Here are some basic facts you should know about taking NAC:
  • Dosing: A general safe dose is 600 milligrams once or twice a day. Always consult your physician before starting any new herbs or
  • Caution/contraindications: NAC is generally safe, although people taking blood pressure medications, diabetes medications, and anticoagulants should avoid NAC due to some gastrointestinal side effects. Pregnant women should also avoid taking NAC.


Zinc is a mineral that plays an important role in the human body; in fact, it’s necessary for a healthy immune system. Not having enough zinc can lead to an increased risk of disease and inflammation.

Although zinc is found naturally in many foods, it’s also available as a supplement. Whether you get your zinc from your diet or by taking supplements, make sure to get the right amounts.

Here are some benefits of zinc:
  • It activates T lymphocytes (T cells) that regulate immune responses.
  • It affects your learning process and how memories are formed.
  • It aids in healing wounds and rashes.
  • It can shorten the duration of the common cold.
Here are some basic facts you should know about taking zinc:
  • Dosing: A person needs a small amounts per day — just 40 milligrams for those over the age of 20.
  • Caution/contraindications: Zinc is likely safe when taking less than 40 milligrams per day. Anything higher than that cause anemia, fevers, coughing, pain, and fatigue. Prolonged use of more than 100 milligrams per day may lead to a higher risk of prostate cancer.


Boswellia, the tree resin from the Boswellia serrata plant, is also called Indian frankincense. It contains boswellic acid and alpha and beta boswellic acid, which researchers found to have anti-inflammatory properties in laboratory research.

Boswellia is an arthritis pain reliever in that it decreases the breakdown of cartilage and helps keep the joints lubricated. For autoimmune disease, boswellia appears to inhibit the chemical signals of autoimmune disease and reduce the formation of antibodies, the body’s attack cells.

Among boswellia’s benefits are the following:

  • It decreases inflammation in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, and general aches and pains.
  • It decreases inflammation in inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
  • It may help decrease inflammation in asthma and allergies.
  • It has been shown to prevent cancer cell growth and help with programmed cancer cell death in colon cancer.
Here are some basic facts you should know about taking Boswellia:
  • Dosing: People with arthritis and inflammatory disorders can use generally about 300 milligrams three times a day.
  • Caution/contraindications: Boswellia is generally safe.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is probably one of the easiest nutrients to obtain, yet it’s one in which the majority of people have deficiencies. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stimulated in the skin by exposure to the sun and is found in small amounts in some foods. To get the most benefits, be sure to take vitamin D3.

The following are among vitamin D’s many anti-inflammatory benefits:

  • It prevents osteoporosis and osteopenia and reduces the risk of bone fracture.
  • It lowers the risk of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and MS, and it improves symptoms in people with such disorders.
  • It protects against heart and cardiovascular disease.
  • It decreases the risk of cancer, specifically breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
Here are some basic facts you should know about vitamin D:
  • Dosing: In general, most adults need 1,000 to 5,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D daily, or 25 to 125 mcg. However, people with autoimmune disease and who are very deficient in the vitamin may need more to achieve optimal blood levels.

Spending time outside really can boost your vitamin D levels. In fact, full-body sun exposure for about 12 minutes during the sunniest part of the day (midday) produces approximately 10,000 units of vitamin D.

  • Caution/contraindications: Toxicity due to too much vitamin D is rare; in fact, the only studies that showed toxicity used 100,000 IU or more given intravenously.

Caution is advised with vitamin D in people with liver disease, high blood calcium levels, and granulomatous disorders such as sarcoidosis and tuberculosis (TB).

For more complete coverage of vitamin D, check out Vitamin D For Dummies by Alan L. Rubin, MD (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that decreases inflammation by acting as a potent antioxidant. Vitamin C also decreases C-reactive protein, the protein that gets elevated when your body is inflamed.

You can find high amounts of vitamin C in vegetables and fruits, including broccoli, papaya, bell peppers, oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries; eating these foods raw or slightly cooked will provide optimum benefits.

Among the anti-inflammatory benefits of vitamin C are the following:

  • It stimulates the immune system and prevents infections.
  • It may help lower blood pressure.
  • It helps people with cardiovascular disease by preventing free radical damage.
  • It’s being used in very high levels intravenously in cancer care (although consultation with an oncologist is necessary and appropriate).
Here are some basic facts you should know about increasing your intake of vitamin C:
  • Dosing: You need 1 to 3 grams a day for optimal function in preventing oxidative damage due to free radicals and increasing immune support.
  • Caution/contraindications: Too much vitamin C causes diarrhea and stomach upset. For adults, the recommended daily maximum of vitamin C is 2,000 milligrams.


Papain, derived from the fruit of the papaya plant, helps reduce inflammation by breaking down harmful substances in the body and releasing substances such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cytokines that reduce inflammation and have antioxidant function.

Here are some of papain’s anti-inflammatory benefits:

  • It’s used to help reduce inflammation and improve healing after surgery and trauma.
  • It can help reduce inflammation of the throat and may reduce symptoms of tonsillitis.
  • It aids in wound healing.
  • It may reduce pain and inflammation in rheumatic disease.
Here are some basic facts you should know about taking papain:
  • Dosing: 1,500 milligrams a day is the dose used to treat inflammation and swelling after surgery or trauma. Take it on an empty stomach for best results.
  • Caution/contraindications: Some people may be allergic to papaya and papain. People with GERD and ulcers, as well as those taking immunosuppression therapy and radiation therapy, should be especially cautious when eating papain.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like substance that provides energy to all the cells of your body. It’s an antioxidant, and it helps stabilize the cell membranes. You need coenzyme Q10 to complete many of your metabolic functions. For example, the mitochondria in your cells use it to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your cells’ main energy source.

Among the anti-inflammatory benefits of coenzyme Q10 are the following:

  • It protects the heart and body against free-radical damage.
  • It reduces the risk of heart disease and helps normalize blood pressure.
  • It may protect the brain against damage and aids in treating Parkinson’s disease.
  • It helps reduce the occurrence of migraine headaches.
Here are some basic facts you should know about taking coenzyme Q10:
  • Dosing: Generally, 60 to 100 milligrams a day provides good antioxidant protection.
  • Caution/contraindications: Coenzyme Q10 looks like the blood thinning vitamin, vitamin K, so coenzyme Q10 may interact with other blood thinners. Have your physician monitor your blood if you’re on a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin).

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Dr. Artemis Morris is the co- academic director of the Masters in Integrative Heath and Healing at The Graduate Institute, professor of nutrition, and founder of Artemis Wellness Center, an integrative medical center in Milford, Connecticut. Molly Rossiter is an award-winning writer who focuses on emerging research in science and self-improvement.

Dr. Artemis Morris is the co- academic director of the Masters in Integrative Heath and Healing at The Graduate Institute, professor of nutrition, and founder of Artemis Wellness Center, an integrative medical center in Milford, Connecticut. Molly Rossiter is an award-winning writer who focuses on emerging research in science and self-improvement.

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