Using food to tame the body’s abnormal immune response

When viruses, bacteria, or injury strike, your body has a natural defense system in place to heal itself. One important part of your body’s immune response is inflammation. When foreign invaders are present, your white blood cells and other chemicals fight off the infection. Inflammation is the sign that your body is working hard to heal itself.

Unfortunately, the immune system doesn’t always work as it should. When this happens the immune system triggers chronic inflammation when there’s no reason, resulting in damage to healthy tissue. Symptoms of inflammation include swollen and painful joints, fatigue, headaches, fever, and loss of appetite.

Diseases caused by a faulty immune system include various forms of arthritis, asthma, peptic ulcers, colitis, Crohn’s disease, chronic hepatitis, gum disease, depression, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and fibromyalgia.

Because overweight people have more white blood cells than normal, they are at a greater risk for inflammation. Medications, surgeries, and lifestyle changes are all part of treating inflammation, but foods can also be an important part of reducing your body’s inflammatory response. Here are a few of the most effective.

Tart Cherries

Anyone with chronic inflammation, painful joints, sore muscles, or arthritis would do well to include tart cherries in their daily diet. Especially high in the antioxidant anthocyanin, tart cherries may have the greatest anti-inflammatory effect of any food. Snack on fresh or dried tart cherries, take a cherry extract supplement, or drink tart cherry juice to reap the benefits they offer while enjoying their mouth-tightening flavor.

Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are found in fish oil, are beneficial for people suffering from inflammation. The number of cytokines (the compounds responsible for triggering inflammation in your body) are reduced when you eat a diet rich in omega-3s. Fish-oil supplements are available or get your omega-3s in fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, or lake trout.

Green Tea

Loaded with powerful antioxidants, green tea is another weapon in the fight against inflammation. Studies show people who drink the most green tea have the lowest risk of chronic degenerative diseases like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Unsweetened green tea, served either hot or cold, is one of your healthiest beverage options.

Dark Leafy Greens

A green salad’s not just good for your waistline. It’s also good for reducing inflammation. The high vitamin E content of spinach, broccoli, kale, and collard greens is known to protect your body from the negative effect of cytokines. The darker the fruit or vegetable color, the more disease-fighting chemicals it contains. So serve up a salad tonight and load on as many bright-colored pieces of produce as you can.


The healthy fats found in nuts, particularly walnuts and almonds, are another great weapon against inflammation. Since they’re high in the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid as well as antioxidants, eating plenty of nuts helps protect your body from inflammation and repair the damage it causes.


Many people find tomatoes improve their symptoms of inflammation. That’s the power of red, juicy tomatoes, which are especially high in lycopene, a compound that reduces inflammation in the body and helps prevent certain cancers. You’ll get even more of that magical lycopene from cooked tomatoes than you will from their raw counterparts. Eating tomato sauce, tomato juice, and canned tomatoes are all great ways to benefit from lycopene.