When body tissue is invaded by harmful foreign substances like bacteria and viruses, the immune system automatically sends white blood cells to the scene, where these cells then release chemicals to counter the foreign invaders. This natural "inflammatory response," which causes the site of infection to get red, hot, and swollen, encourages healing.
But inflammation is a funny thing. Sometimes, the body comes to believe that normal healthy tissue is infected or is a foreign object, and then the immune system starts to fight against and destroy that healthy tissue.
This second type of inflammation--when inflammation goes awry--is believed to be involved in many chronic illnesses that plague us today. Heart disease, many cancers, and possibly even diabetes and obesity seem to be due at least in part to the body becoming chronically inflamed.
Since inflammation can sometimes trigger these diseases, it seems logical to find ways of keeping low-level, chronic inflammation to a minimum inside our bodies.
Well, luckily, researchers have discovered that certain foods and dietary habits are linked to lowering levels of inflammation. Also, if you are already living with some of the diseases mentioned above, you might want to encourage your body's healing processes by eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
Actually, it’s not a diet per se, but a way of eating that, in short, encourages consumption of natural foods instead of packaged ones. Such a diet also calls for eating foods that have been identified by researchers as being able to decrease inflammation--for example, salmon. This fish is naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have turned out to be Mother Nature’s big-time inflammation tamers.
You can read about the anti-inflammatory diet in many places, but I’ve been most impressed by the information on Dr. Andrew Weil’s website. I’m going to summarize his main points below.
Dr. Weil’s outline above might sound overwhelming, but if you think about it, it's really pretty basic:
If you’re a vegan/vegetarian and aren't eating fish oils of any kind, you can still get the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids by taking high-quality DHA/EPA supplements. (DHA and EPA are abbreviations for two of the omega-3 fatty acids: docosahaxanoic acid and eicosapentanoic acid, respectively).
Consider adopting at least a few of these tips right now, particularly if your diet doesn't incorporate many anti-inflammatory practices. Then gradually begin to add other foods and strategies that appeal to you. See if such a diet helps you feel better overall.
Of course, always check with your doctor before starting or changing supplements. This includes the omega-3 supplements, which are natural blood thinners, or might otherwise be inappropriate for a particular person.