Sports injuries:The best supplements for healing

You may be able to speed recovery from sports injuries with the help of nutritional supplements.

* Vitamin C is necessary to make collagen, the ‘glue’ that strengthens connective tissue. Severe injury can increase vitamin C requirements (N Engl J Med, 1986; 314: 892-902), and a deficiency can delay healing (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc, 1994; 84: 456-62). Supplementing with 400-3000 mg/day of vitamin C can reduce pain, and speed recovery of muscle strength after intense exercise (Eur J Appl Physiol, 1993; 67: 426-30; Pain, 1992; 50: 317-21). It can also help heal fractures (Lancet, 1999; 354: 2025-8).

* Vitamin E supplementing at dosages of 400-1200 IU daily can reduce blood levels of free radicals and other indicators of muscle damage (Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1998; 30: 67-72; Int J Sport Nutr, 1994; 4: 253-64; Am J Physiol, 1993; 264: R992-8). However, this may not always translate into speedier recovery (Sports Med, 1995; 20: 12-23).

* Bioflavonoids have free radical-quenching, iron-chelating and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids such as quercetin can reduce the effects of brain and spinal cord injuries (J Spinal Cord Med, 1998; 21: 309-34). Aim for 500 mg/day of flavonoids.

* Magnesium decreases swelling. When levels of magnesium are low, the amounts of inflammatory cytokines and histamine tend to rise (Am J Physiol, 1992; 263: R734-7). It can also aid recovery from traumatic brain injuries (Scand J Clin Lab Invest, 1995; 55: 671-7). Take at least 250-350 mg/day.

* Zinc is a component of many enzymes, including some that are needed to repair wounds. Even a mild deficiency of zinc can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage as well as from more serious trauma (J Lab Clin Med, 1994; 124: 322-7). Take 15-50 mg/day.

* Glucosamine sulphate appears to speed the healing of damage to the cartilage around the kneecap. Other forms of this cartilage-repairing natural substance, such as glucosamine hydrochloride, are as effective for joint pain as the sulphate form (Rheumatology, 1999; 26: 2423-30; Br J Sports Med, 2003; 37: 45-9). Try taking 1000-2000 mg three times daily for 10 days, followed by 500 mg three times a day.

* Trace minerals, such as manganese, copper and silicon, are also known to be important in the biochemical process of tissue healing (Br J Dermatol, 1999; 140: 26-34; Biol Trace Elem Res, 1998; 65: 251-9).

* Probiotics can help to build lean muscle tissue, aid detoxification and boost immunity. Look for a product that blends several different strains of Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, and claims to contain at least one billion viable cells per daily dose.

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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