Inflammation, also known as the ‘silent killer’, is a component of many degenerative diseases including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s. It may occur as a result of unhealthy diets and lifestyles or in response to illness, trauma and stress.
Alongside a healthy lifestyle that incorporates stress management, eating well, exercising and adequate sleep, there is evidence to suggest that some vitamins and supplements can help to reduce or manage inflammation.
Vitamin A is essential in the healthy function of your immune system and has an important role as an anti-inflammatory agent. It is a fat-soluble vitamin stored in the liver. Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies globally and is associated with inducing inflammation and worsening pre-existing inflammation. In some select scenarios, vitamin A supplements can help to ease inflammation.
One study, published by the School of Nutritional Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found that vitamin A is involved in the vital functions of the body and immune system as a structural component and cofactor, and helps to alleviate oxidative stress. It may also directly affect gene expression in the inflammatory process.
However, this same study warns that the anti-inflammatory role of vitamin A has been exploited for profit by pharmaceutical companies. The recommended daily intake of vitamin A is 700 micrograms (mcg) for women and 900mcg for men. By eating a healthy and well-rounded diet, you will likely reach this target.
Vitamin A can be found in animal products such as fish, meat and dairy products, and plant-based foods such as carrots, kale, spinach, collard greens, leafy vegetables and fruit.
Eating too much vitamin A can be bad for you. A single high dose of around 200,000mcg can cause nausea, vomiting, vertigo and blurred vision. Taking more than 10,000mcg a day, or consistently taking supplements when you don’t have a deficiency, can cause long-term effects including liver damage, headaches, skin irritation, bone thinning and joint and bone pain.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help to remove free radicals that would otherwise cause harm to your body’s tissue and cells. This may help to reduce potential triggers for inflammation.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin C is associated with a reduction in inflammation because it is inversely associated with C-reactive protein, one of the major markers for inflammation.
Another study found that 500mg of vitamin C taken twice daily may help to alleviate inflammation in hypertensive, diabetic obese patients.
However, researchers are not yet convinced that healthy people taking vitamin C supplements would reap any significant health benefits. Foods rich in vitamin C include chilli peppers, capsicums, guavas, black currants, thyme, spinach, broccoli, lemons, oranges and strawberries.
While vitamins are something that you’re likely to eat regularly if you follow a healthy diet, curcumin is not. It is a component of turmeric but can be taken in higher doses as a supplement.
It has been shown to ease the symptoms of people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis by reducing inflammation. Curcumin has also been found to reduce inflammation in people with inflammatory bowel syndrome, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. One study found that taking 150mg of curcumin daily reduced most of the inflammatory markers in patients with solid cancerous tumours.
However, on its own curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body. Taking it alongside piperine, an alkaloid found in black peppers, has been found to increase absorption of curcumin by up to 2000 per cent.
While doses up to 10g per day have been studied and found to be safe, the recommended dose of curcumin is 100–500mg daily when taken with piperine.
Do you struggle with inflammation? Do you take any vitamins or supplements to help manage it?
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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.