Holistic Ways to Recover from Injury & Maintain Health
Inflammation Due to Running Injuries
Many runners come to ChiRunning because they’re suffering from an injury or want to avoid another running injury. Running technique is extremely important in preventing injury, but nutrition also plays a vital role in staying healthy. We’ve reached out to Certified ChiRunning Instructor Dick Felton, from Canada, and ChiRunning Instructor Candidate and accomplished ultra-marathoner/trail runner Damian Stoy, from Montana, for their advice on nutrition for runners.
When an injury occurs, an important step for recovery is controlling inflammation. Of course, we never recommend anyone take NSAIDs to reduce inflammation (or for anything, really), unless it’s absolutely mandatory and doctor-prescribed.
“There are so many side effects to oral NSAID's including stomach bleeding, that this should not be done,” said Canadian ChiRunning & ChiWalking Instructor Dick Felton. Besides, pain is really how the body communicates with you to tell you something is wrong, and masking this pain is dangerous because it could lead to a permanent injury.
As an alternative, Felton recommends using the topical treatment of arnica to help reduce inflammation and swelling from running injury. Arnica can be applied topically as a cream, ointment, liniment, salve or tincture, and can be purchased at your local health food store Europeans and Native Americans have used arnica to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation and heal wounds for hundreds of years. We also recommend “The Great Mender,” an herbal Chinese Medicine, sold in pill or powder form, which has been used for centuries by martial artists to reduce recovery time from injuries.
Controlling Inflammation with Nutrition
Apart from topical or pill formulas for relief from inflammation, we can also help decrease inflammation by nurturing our bodies with the right foods. Damian Stoy is a great nutritional resource and gave us some tips on different herbs, enzymes, fruits and veggies than can help reduce inflammation.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flax oil and fish oil, are very effective in reducing inflammation. For hundreds of years, certain plants have been known to help reduce inflammation. Some of the most potent plants include turmeric, ginger, cat's claw, boswellia and rosemary. An herbal product called Zyflamend (pill form) contains these herbs, as well as several others, and has successfully been used by many people in controlling inflammation.
Certain foods rich in specific enzymes also help with the healing process. The stem and juice of pineapple are rich in an enzyme called bromelain, which has been shown to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation, thereby speeding up the healing process.
To help decrease the time it takes heal soft tissues such as tendons and ligaments, collagen needs to be produced by the body, and sulfur and silicon are two components necessary for the synthesis of collagen. Foods rich in sulfur include garlic, onions, kale, broccoli and cabbage. Foods rich in silicon include celery, strawberries and oats.
Maintaining Health with an Alkaline Body
Once we recover from a running injury, the goal is to stay healthy and continue running injury-free, right? Maintaining an overall alkaline environment in the body not only assists in healing injuries, recovery and performance, it’s also incredibly important for overall well-being. Most people today are overly acidic, and an acidic body is more prone to inflammation, viruses, bacteria, arthritis and a host of other diseases. An alkaline body is able to use nutrients more efficiently, produce more energy for running and is more effective in ridding the body of wastes accumulated while running. Therefore, an athlete with an alkaline body is more efficient, less prone to running injuries and more energetic.
Acidic foods that should be consumed in moderation:
- refined grains
Other acidifying factors include stress, smoking and the use of pharmaceutical drugs.
When the body is acidic, it uses nutrients generally used in essential bodily processes to buffer (raise the alkalinity) the body, especially the blood. Calcium and magnesium, as well as other minerals, are used by the body to buffer an acidic environment. The result of a constantly acidic body is that the bones are 'robbed' of these two essential minerals. This can cause calcium deposits to build up in soft tissues, which can lead to osteoporosis, arthritis, and tendonitis. This is just one example of how important maintaining an alkaline body is.
Alkalizing foods you can’t get enough of:
- most fruits and vegetables (especially raw green vegetables and lemons)
- fresh juices
- apple cider vinegar
- high-quality salt (i.e. Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt)
Damian shared with us two drink recipes that he makes to ensure he is super alkalined before any races. Click here to get these drink mixtures.
Just as we can prevent running injury with mindful movement, we can also choose to maintain health every time we sit down to a meal. A nourished, balanced body is more likely to perform well and repair itself quickly. And, while we hope you never have to fight off inflammation or injuries, we do advise you to listen to your body and pursue natural treatments whenever possible. Our world brims with tried-and-true plants, herbs and foods that will gently heal you and keep you well.