Are you hindered by recurring sports injuries?
Do you feel like you have tried every type of therapy to reduce the risk of recurring sports injuries or to help your recovery? Despite eating enough calories to maintain your body and sustain your training and ensuring that you are consuming sufficient protein following exercise to repair the damage, you are still plagued by injury. So what other nutrition strategies could you include tthat can help with injury recovery or prevention?
Firstly, are you keeping inflammation under control with the right balance of the types of fat in your diet? A diet containing large amounts of trans-fats and hydrogenated fats (found for example in margarine, biscuits, cakes and pies), saturated fat (found in butter, fatty cuts of meat, cheese, cream), and omega-6 rich vegetable oils may worsen inflammation. Whereas a diet high in monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts i.e. almonds and walnuts) and omega-3 fats (found in oily fish i.e. mackerel, sardines, and salmon) can be anti-inflammatory.
Inflammation is affected by the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in your diet. The ratio should be from 3:1 to 1:1 to help keep inflammation under control. So in practical terms how do you eat to achieve this? Try avoiding trans and hydrogenated fats, eating only a small amount of foods containing omega-6 fats and saturated fat and purposely eating more foods rich in the monounsaturated and omega-3 fats (for example eating wild or organic oily fish several times each week). This should help with collagen production and support injury recovery.
Sometimes it is also beneficial to take fish oil supplements to help manage inflammation during injury after the acute phase has passed (especially if you are not a fan of fish). However, always check first with your doctor and nutritional therapist before taking any of the suggested nutritional supplements.
In addition to the desired omega 6:3 ratio, research has shown that by increasing nut, seed and olive oil within your diet, it can slightly reduce inflammation. This may be due to the compounds they contain that reduce enzyme activity. For example, the compound oleocanthal that gives olive oil its taste has been shown to have a similar effect as some anti-inflammatory drugs.
Secondly, certain dietary herbs have been shown to help control inflammation. These include turmeric, garlic, bromelain and boswellia.
Turmeric is taken from a plant, and is often used as a curry spice. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. Research shows that curcumin can be beneficial in decreasing inflammation by helping to turn off a protein that regulates the immune system (NF-kappa B). A good strategy is to add turmeric to food, or it may be more manageable to take turmeric as a nutritional supplement.
Garlic has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. It contains compounds 1, 2-DT and thiacremonone that inhibit the activity of inflammatory messenger moleculesproperties. Including additional garlic in your diet is a good plan, however garlic extracts may be required for a greater anti-inflammatory effect. Try to include two to four whole garlic cloves each day or 600-1200 mg of supplemental aged garlic extract.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple that can be taken as a nutritional supplement. It is used to reduce swelling by causing the body to produce substance to fight pain and inflammation.
Boswellia Serrata is a gum resin extracted from a tree taken in supplement form. Boswellia has been shown to be anti-inflammatory through the inhibition of five lipoxygenase and other cytokines.
Also, try to eat more flavonoid-rich foods in general, and during acute injuries. Colourful fruit (such as berries) and vegetables (such as peppers and beetroot) tend to have high levels of antioxidants. Flavonoids found in fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses, cacao, green tea, and red wine can help manage inflammation through their antioxidant actions. If your inflammation becomes chronic or is severe it may be easier to use nutritional supplement containing bioflavonoids for a greater effect. Always discuss this with your doctor first.
By including soya in the diet (in the form of tofu and edamame beans) studies have suggested that they contain isoflavones that may help to lower inflammation levels.
Lastly, try to avoid eating refined grains like white bread, rice and pasta and opt for the whole grain variety containing more fibre and less sugar. These have been shown to reduce a marker of the inflammation in the blood known as C-reactive protein.
During the acute phase of any injury (i.e. the first few days of a muscle or ligament injury) it is important not to completely suppress the inflammatory response as this is an essential part of the recovery process. It is advisable therefore not to include all the anti-inflammatory foods and/or supplements at this stage. Whereas if you are suffering a recurring injury or trying to prevent an injury occurring, try adding the suggested foods to give your body the nutrients it needs to keep inflammation under control, protect itself and mend.
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