Muscle and joint pain affects all of us at some point in life. Summer, in particular, is associated with body aches as we shake off hibernation for sports, gardening and household activities. However, you can enjoy warm-weather pursuits while keeping discomfort to a minimum. Here’s how.
Eat Pain-Fighting Foods
Fish (particularly salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines), flaxseed, avocado, and walnuts are all rich in omega-3 fats, which decrease the production of inflammatory chemicals produced by the immune system in response to exercise.
Kale, broccoli and collard greens are high in vitamin A, which protects the body from inflammatory cytokines—interferon and tumor necrosis factors (TNF)—which break down collagen in bones and joints. Beets, too, are a good choice; they contain the antioxidant betalain, which also protects collagen.
Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, inhibits a protein called NF-kappa B, which is involved in the control of genes responsible for inflammation. Ginger reduces the production of several inflammatory agents.
At the same time, ensure that you’re getting adequate protein to rebuild muscle, and keep hydrated to allow muscles to remain more pliable and elastic.
Avoid Foods That Can Make Pain Worse
Minimize your intake of sugars and refined carbohydrates to reduce the general inflammatory load within blood vessels.
Another food group to avoid: “nightshade” vegetables—bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes—since they contain alkaloids that may inflame your nerves, muscles, and joints.
As for exercise, be sure to warm up before you start any activity and then stretch afterward. Don’t be a weekend warrior – it’s better to exercise a little every day rather than overexert yourself once a week.
Consider Supplements for Joint Damage
Despite all these measures, you may still experience some aches and pains. Here are a few supplements to prevent and treat muscle and joint damage:
Natural eggshell membrane (NEM) contains all the vital structural elements of our articular cartilage to help rebuild. It also inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokines, providing long-lasting pain relief.
Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) may be helpful, too. It deactivates specific killer T-cells that secrete collagenases, the enzymes that break down collagen. In the small intestine, there are areas of high T-cell concentration known as Peyer’s patches. When UC-II enters these areas, the immune system recognizes them as similar to the body’s collagen and instructs the T-cells to leave this type of collagen alone. That message is then disseminated through the body, greatly suppressing the degradation of collagen and joint inflammation.
Taking a calcium and magnesium supplement to help control muscle contraction, relaxation, and repair can help maintain muscle health.
Being active has tremendous benefits for our physical and mental health. By following these simple food and exercise tips, you can enjoy a full and active summer, pain-free.
Penny Kendall-Reed is a naturopathic doctor/writer.
Summer 2015 issue of Best Health magazine.