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Choose an Anti-inflammatory Diet to Enhance Your Recovery

Despite taking measures to protect yourself from injuries, from time to time these may occur when you are training hard. Most soft tissue injuries benefit from rest, ice, compression and elevation to reduce pain and swelling, though for persistent inflammation you may wish to take anti-inflammatory drugs. However, if your injuries are severe enough for you to visit your doctor, they may issue you with prescription painkillers to manage the pain. Although sometimes you can’t do without these stronger painkillers, as Fox News highlights, they can sometimes do more harm than good. This is why looking to other methods to combat pain and inflammation is essential, as this will help to reduce reliance on medications. Cold and heat therapies are useful, though an anti-inflammatory diet also plays an important role.

Dangers of painkillers

Opioids, such as codeine, tramadol and oxycontin, not only reduce pain, but they also activate reward pathways within your brain. This triggers the release of dopamine, which induces intense feelings of well-being and repeated exposure can lead to addiction. As points out, when you become dependent on these prescription drugs and try to withdraw, you will experience withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult to quit their use without specialist support. Their addictive nature isn’t the only danger of opioid painkillers though, as opioids act on your nervous system to produce other effects. For instance, they interfere with digestion and can suppress breathing. There is also a risk that as larger doses of these drugs are needed to induce positive feelings over time, you may experience an overdose. In fact, according to the CDC, overdoses of prescription painkillers account for more deaths than overdoses of any other drug. If you can’t avoid using these medications, the message is to use them only for as long as necessary.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet

If you already avoid processed foods and refined grains, while choosing plenty of vegetables, fruit and lean protein, you are already well on your way to reducing inflammation within your body. This will not only aid recovery, but an anti-inflammatory diet will help to keep your cardiovascular system in good shape to boost your performance. A range of anti-inflammatory plans are available, but this version explained by Dr Weil, highlights the important points.

Choosing whole grains in preference to refined grains and sugary foods is a good start. As an article in CNN discusses, this is because eating refined carbohydrates quickly raises your blood sugars, which not only prompts fat storage, but also triggers your immune system to release inflammatory molecules. Meanwhile, whole grains, such as grainy bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and oats, help to reduce inflammation. This is scientifically proven, as Health magazine explains that research shows that whole grains lower levels of CRP, which is a marker for inflammation.

While opting for more plant-based protein sources, such as beans, lentils and nuts, can help to reduce inflammation thanks to their fiber content, you should also start to include more fish in your diet. White fish like cod, catfish and tilapia are low in fat, but you ideally want to increase your intake of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids too. Salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring are among those fish that provide useful amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which the University of Maryland Medical Center discusses have anti-inflammatory properties. Our ancestors had a much higher intake of omega-3 due to their greater reliance on seafood, which meant they consumed around equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This ratio promotes an anti-inflammatory environment within the body, as omega-6 is pro-inflammatory. However, in most modern diets we consume around 10 times as much omega-6 as omega-3, which encourages inflammation. Resetting the balance of fatty acids is therefore vital.

A diet rich in vegetables and fruit is high in antioxidants. As Beverley Nadler points out, this is beneficial for fighting inflammation. This is because antioxidants combat free radicals, which are reactive molecules you come into contact with every day as a result of natural reactions within your body and exposure to chemicals in the environments. Free radicals are bad news, as they trigger oxidative stress, which can damage your body cells and promote inflammation. However, by neutralizing them by upping your intake of antioxidants by eating a range of brightly colored fruit and vegetables, this helps to tip the balance in favor of anti-inflammatory conditions within your body.

Contributed by reader, Jenni Myers