whether you're a weekend war-
rior or a dedicated athlete, being sidelined with an injury sucks. Holistic types say herbs, nutritional supplements and homeopathic remedies, along with physical therapy, can help protect you from hurting yourself or get back your mobility faster if something does happen.
Start with the basics. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish will support optimum performance. Water is critical -- hydrated muscles are relaxed and responsive. Besides your regular 8 glasses a day, you need one glass for every 20 minutes of activity.
Taking arnica montana, a homeopathic remedy, before and after the game or run will help ease post-exercise soreness.
If you do get hurt, there's plenty you can do besides the quintessential RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs if possible.
They can have dangerous side effects if used too long. Instead, discourage your body's production of inflammatory compounds by reducing red meat and saturated fat intake. Encourage natural anti-inflammatory activity by getting plenty of essential fatty acids, found in leafy greens, raw nuts and seeds, flaxseed and hemp oils and wild coldwater fish like salmon and halibut. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric (400 to 600 mg three times daily) and bioflavonoids (500 mg twice daily) also counter inflammation.
To aid healing, rub the affected area with arnica or horse chestnut cream (if skin isn't broken). Particularly effective is a brand-name cream, Traumeel, that includes arnica and other herbs.
Clinical studies have proven that protein-digesting (proteolytic) enzymes like trypsin, chymotrypsin, bromelain and papain can speed the healing of sports-related ankle injuries. They work well for bruises, too. For best results use enteric-coated products -- if these aren't available, take them on an empty stomach.
Muscle spasms can interfere with healing; again make sure you're getting enough water, and add calcium and magnesium supplements -- 600 mg of each daily. You also want to supply your body with the stuff it needs to rebuild. Vitamin C is required for collagen formation, as is protein.
The big breakthrough in maintaining joint health and relief of chronic pain, though it takes 6 to 8 weeks to work, is glucosamine, made from shellfish, and chondroitin, made from cows. But consumer beware: many brands of chondroitin contain less of the compound then they claim. Some U.S. brands have been independently tested -- to be certain shop south of the border for these products. A list of tested brands is available at www.drtheo.com.
"For inflammation, I use a supplement called Inflavonoid, containing turmeric, ginger, vitamin C and some bioflavonoids. People report results within 10 to 15 minutes. Antioxidants in general -- vitamins C, E, A, selenium and beta-carotene -- reduce inflammation. For healing you also want zinc."
Naturopath, Toronto Sports and Exercise Medicine Institute
"Only glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin sulphate have preventive benefits; they are well studied. I take them myself and recommend them to everyone."
Medical director, MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic, U of T
"I tell my clients, "Whenever you have a free moment, drink water.' And learn how to eat clean -- no junk foods. For breakfast, I suggest a protein source. Essential fatty acid supplements are good, too. They aid in keeping the body healthy and organs functioning properly, and lubricating the skin."
Certified personal trainer
"Glucosamine and chondroitin are the only substances that can help prevent destruction of joint cartilage. They can help people eliminate prescription anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or aspirin -- those drugs cause cartilage to degenerate."
Jason Theodosakis MD, Arizona sports medicine specialist