Inflammation is a mechanism that is normally used by the body and immune system to help in its fight against external invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Activation of the immune system leads cells to upregulate, or increase, their inflammation response in a controlled fashion by releasing chemical mediators designed to damage invading pathogens. This acute rise in inflammation then resolves and returns to normal once the invaders are eliminated, allowing the body and tissues to restore and recover. Once the threat has passed, a return to balance occurs.
However, in the presence of other social, psychological, environmental, and biological factors, the acute inflammation response may fail to resolve. These are some of the factors that contribute to the causes of chronic inflammation. Whether this is due to the presence of chronic stress, the constant presence of toxins in our environment, or other factors, low grade inflammation tends to persist, leading to a state of chronic inflammation. When acute inflammation fails to resolve and chronic inflammation ensues, detrimental effects follow.
What is Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation leads to persistent cell and tissue damage, perpetuating or causing numerous diseases. First and foremost, chronic inflammation has negative effects on the body’s ability to fight off immune challenges and can cause changes in normal cellular function. These cellular changes lead to decreased function of various tissues and organs, making us more susceptible to diseases over our life span.
For this reason, chronic inflammation treatment is a key factor that must be addressed to protect against the development of long-term disease and disability. Lifestyle choices that result in effective management of stress and other psychological issues are important preventive tools as are measures that reduce our exposures to environmental toxins. These include cleaner dietary choices as well as external measures taken to improve our environment. In addition, several dietary supplements have shown an ability to support the body against the effects of chronic inflammation. We will highlight some of these below.
Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, is a well-known vitamin with antioxidant effects. Due to these effects, it functions to quench free radicals that lead to inflammation. It helps to keep the immune response functioning normally and is an indispensable vitamin for several reasons. Clinical studies have found that with supplementation of vitamin C inflammation is reduced. Specifically, research shows that supplementing with vitamin C may reduce cytokines such as IL-6 and the inflammation protein, C-reactive protein (CRP). Given its role in neutralizing free radicals, vitamin C is a key nutrient for supporting a healthy inflammatory response in the body.
Black Seed Oil
Black seed extracts come from the plant Nigella sativa. Being rich in essential fatty acids as well as the constituent thymoquinone, the extract has been studied for its benefits on lung and sinus health, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and for other inflammation-related conditions. With a history of use dating back thousands of years, black seeds powerfully reduce the body’s inflammatory response by impacting inflammatory mediators such as leukotrienes and prostaglandins. For these reasons, many cultures use black seed oil for inflammation.
N-actetyl Cysteine (NAC)
NAC is a cysteine containing amino acid that is a precursor to glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant. Studies have shown that glutathione is depleted in individuals with lung and sinus health issues and supplementing with NAC can restore glutathione to these tissues, reducing the inflammation response. Since the major function of glutathione is to detoxify and neutralize free radicals, by restoring glutathione levels NAC restores the body’s ability to manage inflammation. Studies show that NAC reduces inflammation by decreasing the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, bringing them back into balance.
Quercetin is a flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables that is responsible for the bright yellow and orange colors seen in these foods. One of quercetin’s main benefits is that it acts to block histamine and is therefore beneficial for sinus and nasal health conditions associated with environmental sensitivities. Quercetin also has direct anti-inflammatory effects by reducing levels of free radicals and modulating the functions of inflammatory cytokines such as interferon-γ and IL-4, balancing the Th-1 and Th-2 responses. The overall effect of quercetin is to block inflammation by inhibiting the effects of tumor necrosis factor-α, a major switch in the body’s inflammatory cascade.
As a protease enzyme that breaks down protein, serrapeptase was first discovered in Japan for its ability to dissolve particles in the body leading to inflammation. As an enzyme, one of its main roles is to enhance detoxification processes by removing decaying and dead tissue from the body. Research has shown these anti-inflammatory effects of serrapeptase lead to benefits on sinus and immune health, reducing sinus pressure and pain and decreasing swelling.
Addressing the causes of chronic inflammation is important for preventing disease and maintaining health. Along with implementing healthy lifestyle and dietary practices to address inflammation, several dietary supplement ingredients can be helpful in supporting a balanced inflammatory response.
- Furman D, et al. 2019. Nat Med 25, 1822–1832.