Inflammation is both good and bad for the body. If you have ever gotten a bruise or a cut you know that the site swells and becomes red and may even get warm to the touch. The body has mechanisms in place to deal with potential infections by increasing blood flow to certain areas and allowing the immune system access to a potential infected area.

But a problem with inflammation is that it can get out of hand. Autoimmune diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Colitis or Rheumatoid Arthritis occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies some part of the body as an invader. The immune system then relentlessly attacks the area and this can result in chronic inflammation that can be painful and debilitating.

"The inflammation process has one goal: to respond immediately to detect and destroy the toxic material in damaged tissues before it can spread throughout the body," explained Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., University of Alabama, Birmingham Employee Wellness director and adjunct professor of personal health. "The trouble with inflammation occurs when the defense system gets out-of-control and begins to destroy healthy tissue, causing more damage than the original issue."

Many next-generation treatments attempt to change or dampen the immune system so that it stops attacking the body using steroids and immunosuppressent therapies. These treatments can open people up to infections because the immune system is not operating at peak efficiency.

Dr. Whitt has released a list of anti-inflammatory foods that may help:

  • Citrus fruits - Vitamin C and Vitamin E are essential antioxidants
  • Dark, leafy greens - High in Vitamin K
  • Tomatoes - The fruit's red pigment, lycopene, is a potent antioxidant
  • Wild-caught salmon - Contains a rich concentration of omega-3 fatty acids

"Americans are constantly on the lookout for a quick-fix, so when our immune systems kick into overdrive, we would generally prefer to pop a pill and keep moving," Whitt said. "But if we focus on our diets, we can alleviate the need for the anti-inflammatory medications in many cases."