Nutrition and diets are an ever-changing topic, and we know it can be hard to keep up with all of the recommendations we hear and see. We have put together a list of some of our go-to recommendations for decreasing inflammation, which can reduce pain, and for supporting healing tissues.
Inflammation is a natural process that occurs when we have an injury to bring attention and healing cells to the injured area, but sometimes inflammation can linger and be painful. Here are some anti-inflammatory foods to include in your diet to naturally decrease inflammation throughout the body:
Deep orange, yellow, red, dark green foods – pumpkin, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula and endiveCruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage
Deep blue or purple foods – blueberries, blackberries, plums and Concord grapes
Citrus fruits – oranges, grapefruit and pomelos
Whole grains – wheat, oats, rye, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and brown rice
Plant-based proteins – dried beans, lentils, lentil pasta and soy
Nuts and seeds – walnuts and almonds, and seeds like chia, flax and hemp
Spices and herbs – ginger, garlic, turmeric, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon and rosemary
Beverages – water, herbal and green teas, and coffee
For nerve injuries (eg. sciatica, carpal tunnel), it is important to make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of B vitamins, especially B1, B6, B12. These B vitamins help protect nerves and help rebuild them after they’ve been injured. Below are some of our favorite natural sources of B vitamins:
Salmon and trout
Leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, romaine lettuce)
Liver and organ meats (from beef, pork, lamb, or chicken)
Beef, chicken, turkey, pork
Milk and yogurt
Oysters, clams, mussels
Nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast
Many of us have heard over and over again that sleep has many impacts on the body and is important to our overall well-being. Sleep is also extremely important for recovery from injuries or even a training session. Lack of sleep can prolong inflammation in the body which makes it harder for our body to heal. Diet can impact our ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and even affect our sleep quality. Often, it is recommended that caffeine not be consumed after 2:00 PM (generally 8-10 hours before bedtime) so that it does not interfere with falling asleep. While some may not have difficulty falling asleep even after a late afternoon coffee, it still can affect our sleep by not allowing the body and brain to fall into deep, restful sleep. Choosing meals that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat and sugar has actually been shown to lead to deeper, more restorative sleep. Try incorporating these foods to your final meal!
Whole grain bread, pasta, crackers, brown rice
Lean proteins (also high in tryptophan)
Low-fat cheese, chicken, turkey, fish, egg whites, soybeans, pumpkin seeds
Peanut butter (without added ingredients), walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios
Leafy greens (like spinach), nuts, seeds, avocados, black beans
Warm milk or herbal tea (chamomile or peppermint)
Specifically sage and basil can decrease tension and encourage sleep!
Last, but not least, let’s look at staying hydrated, which impacts our body AND brain function. Nerve cells take messages from our brain to our muscles, telling them to fire so that we can get movement. These cells need water and electrolytes in order to make that happen. Generally, we should drink half of our body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water. For example, a 200-lb person would drink a total of 100 ounces of water. When we are exercising, we need to take in even more water to make up for what is lost during our cells processing and sweating.
Here’s a general formula for hydration while exercising:
Bodyweight (in pounds) / 30 = ounces of fluid per 15 minutes of exercise
Electrolytes, sodium and potassium, are the other key parts of hydration, allowing us to absorb and use the water effectively. Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) are designed to provide sources of electrolytes, but we can also get electrolytes with a homemade mixture of salt and lemon (or citrus fruits).
Homemade Electrolyte Mix
16 oz water
3 tbsp lemon juice
⅛ tsp pink himalayan sea salt (mineral-rich salt)
While there are no magic fixes, we hope you have enjoyed learning about some of the science and research behind how different foods can affect the body. Diets can depend so much on each individual and their response to different foods, so remember to find what works for you!
NOTE: This is not medical advice. Please consult your doctor, especially if you have any known medical conditions that are related with hydration or food sensitivities or nutritional needs.