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Nutrition strategies for connective tissue injury prevention and recovery

Injuries to connective tissue such as the tendons and ligaments are common place in stunt performers and sports. Recovery can take much longer than muscle injuries and often bone injuries due to the poor blood flow making it hard to remove waste products and deliver injury fighting nutrients. Here’s how nutrition and supplementation can help.

Conventional treatment for connective tissue injury usually involves rest and immobilisation of the joint and thus connective tissue. Whilst this may be necessary for a period of time excess time spent immobilising the joint can further exacerbate the injury and increase the length of recovery. Those of you suffering from an injury should be investing in a good soft tissue therapist and perhaps a skilled dry needling practitioner or acupuncturist.

Nutrition can play a key role in connective tissue repair and looking at both the nutrients that help the injured connective tissue repair and how to increase blood flow to the tissue is all part of the healing process. Below I am going to list foods that can aid tendon and ligament health and also list supplements I would recommend during acute injury and perhaps for maintenance.

Foods that aid the health of connective tissue

Tendons and ligaments are made up of predominately collagen, around 97-98% of that collagen is what is known as type one collagen. Eating foods that contain collagen or boost type 1 collagen is one way to help support the health of your tendons and ligaments.

The best sources of collagen are from foods such as bone broth stocks that can then make up soups and stews. Given that the connective tissue is protein, it is important to be supplying the body with optimal amounts of amino acids through protein foods. Bone broths are an especially well digested form of amino acids and contain high levels of the amino acids that promote connective tissue repair but the gelatine is also very anti-inflammatory. Other good foods for amino acids include, eggs, meats, fish and dairy.

Foods rich in vitamin C can be a great help in connective tissue repair as it helps the body in the production of collagen. Vitamin C is also required to change the amino acid proline into hydroxyproline (the collagen form) and lysine into hydroxylisine (the collagen form).

Food that are rich in vitamin C include, oranges, peppers, kiwi fruit, papaya, pineapple, Brussels sprouts, strawberries and many others.

Certain phytochemicals are able to play an important role in collagen health. One group of phytochemicals that are found in high levels in green tea, known as catechins are found to help prevent the breakdown of collagen. Another group of phytochemicals known as anthocyandins that are found in deep coloured red and blue berries and other fruits have been shown to help collagen fibers link together, this may aid in the strength/recovery of the connective tissue.

  • Foods Rich in Catechins – Green tea, dark chocolate, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, apricot, apples, red wine and rhubarb are all good sources. Green tea is by far the most dominant in this category.
  • Foods Rich in Anthocyandins – Dark fruit berries, plums, blackcurrants, red wine, pomegranates, aubergine, red cabbage.

It should be noted that whilst red wine can be a great source of phytonutrients, in many people the alcohol can cause digestive inflammation that may compromise absorption of other nutrients, however in those that can tolerate the odd glass of red wine this can be a good choice.

Food that help lower inflammation

After the acute phase where inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process, using foods to help lower inflammation or block certain inflammatory cascades can help improve the speed of recovery.

A Mediterranean diet is the most well research diet in terms of reducing inflammation levels through diet. Here are some key points that will help lower inflammation from foods:

  • Avoid vegetable oil fats, especially hardened margarines.
  • Eat grass fed red meats when possible.
  • Consume lots of different coloured fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat undamaged omega-3 oils from fish.
  • No grains, especially gluten.
  • Removal of anything artificial.
  • Drink plenty of water, use the equation body weight in kg x 0.033 = minimum consumption in litres per day

There are some other specific compounds found naturally in spices that can also be of benefit, these include:

  • Turmeric – the major anti-inflammatory component of turmeric is curcumin. Research has shown curcumin to be beneficial against joint inflammation and also inhibiting the process associated with joint arthritis.
  • Ginger – has been shown to suppress inflammation at a number of levels, including the suppression of inflammation related genes.

A good way of getting extra levels of these nutrients in is to make a tea with the above spices. Simply ½ tsp of each and add hot water.

Supplements that aid Connective Tissue Health and Repair

If you are looking for nutrition and supplementation support to assist with injury recovery and the improvement of musculoskeletal health, please complete the enquiry form below to discuss this with one of our practitioners.

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