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The Right Nutrients Can Make a Difference in Pain Relief

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

The right nutrients can make a significant difference for athletes when it comes to dealing with pain from sports injuries. Luckily, food and supplements possess antioxidant properties and combat inflammation.

Although the process causing inflammation is a healing mechanism, all too often the process continues past its utility and inflicts further damage to the injury, as well as the surrounding area. Ordinarily, after an injury heals, inflammation reduces. When it doesn't, pain and other symptoms such as tenderness and heat sensations may persist.

Antioxidant molecules help stave off free radicals, molecules that behave erratically with the potential to cause cellular damage. Exercise, food metabolism, and exposure to hazardous chemicals generate free radicals. For athletes, and anyone breaking a sweat while playing sports or exercising, free radicals will be a constant challenge.

There are two substances loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and both are associated with the country of India. One is turmeric, which is currently found in many kitchens across the globe. The other is Boswellia, an essential herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It is also known as Indian frankincense.

Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, can be consumed in a few different ways. One way is to grate about an inch of fresh turmeric root and boil it with water to make a tea out of it. Another option is to substitute milk for hot water. This will give you what is known as 'golden milk.'

Using the powdered form, try mixing one part of the spice with three parts honey for a sweet, tasty way to consume it. Tumeric is a versatile spice that can be used in many recipes. Adding big pinches to your cooked food is another easy way to gain the rich benefits of curcumin.

Boswellia is most readily available in supplement form. Doses will vary according to the patient's weight, specific injury, and physical demands.

Consult a professional before starting supplements, especially if you are pregnant, suffer from disease, or are already taking medication.

For athletes who train hard by engaging in high-impact, repetitive movements, glucosamine can help provide support for bones, joints, and cartilage. It is an organic molecule naturally produced in the body, which resides in the fluid encapsulating the joints. This precious fluid is what protects the joints from damage due to physical exertion.

There is evidence that demonstrates glucosamine can also increase the rate of bone growth and repair after an injury. Due to its anti-inflammation abilities, it can also reduce the pain associated with bone, joint, and cartilage injuries.

This nutrient is derived from the shells of sea creatures such as lobster, however, there are virtually no natural food sources that contain it. Supplements are the only option available.

Complementing the effects of glucosamine, chondroitin offers similar benefits to help repair cartilage damage. It too is an inherent part of the fluid surrounding the joints. Taking chondroitin supplements can help in reducing pain and restoring mobility of the joints. When taken together, the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin increase.

When an athlete is forced to take a break from sports and exercise due to an injury or pain, weight gain may be an issue. Increasing fiber intake during stages of convalescence may help in keeping the extra pounds off.

With an increase in fiber, however, there should also be a moderate increase in fluids. This prevents obstruction in the large intestine and staves off constipation. Extra weight should be avoided as it can put undue stress on the joints and cause pain.

If your body experiences pain from sports-related injuries, the right supplements may help mitigate your symptoms.

Contact a practitioner to find out what's right for you.

Harvard Health Publishing. (2018). Can diet heal chronic pain? Retrieved from

WebMD. (2018). Is Glucosamine Good for Joint Pain? Retrieved from

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2013). Antioxidants: In Depth. Retrieved from


About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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