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Reducing inflammation and improving health through nutritional interventions: NSAIDs vs Food Choices

Reducing inflammation and improving health through nutritional interventions:  NSAIDs vs Food Choices

Author: Colleen Gulick, Ph.D (ExPhys), MS, BS (BioE), EIT (ME), CSCS

In order to keep inflammatory markers in check many individuals, athletes and non-athletes alike, choose to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  While these pharmaceuticals can reduce pain and inflammation, they have also been shown to undermine gut microbiota and hinder the physiological adaptation processes that athletes require. 

Luckily, there are effective nutritional interventions that can help to decrease inflammation.

Why do athletes care about inflammation?

Inflammation is a dichotomous process. 

On one hand, inflammation is a useful method of promoting adaptations. 

After a difficult training session, the body produces a series of coordinated events that start with inflammation and results in the regeneration of muscle fibers and restoration of the skeletal muscle tissue ultrastructure. Which is intentional and positive.

However, when the inflammation becomes too much for the body to handle, it can impair sport performance and compromise immunity, allowing an opportunity for infections to strike. 

Nutritional choices can help to keep inflammatory processes in check, and stop them from rising to levels that can be detrimental...without compromising your gut and other physical processes.

How can I reduce inflammation through diet?

  1. Increase consumption of anti-inflammatory foods such as: turmeric, ashwagandha, tart cherry juice, ginger, cocoa and green tea.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.  It has been widely studied and even boasts impressive immune system benefits. 

Ashwagandha (pronounced aash-wuh-gaan-duh) is a powerful herb that flies under the radar.  It is classified as an adaptogen, meaning that it aids in the body’s adaptation to stress, helps to develop resistance to future stress, and supports metabolic processes.  Ashwagandha has specifically been studied for the following properties: anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, neuroprotective, antioxidant, cognitive function and memory enhancer, anti-fatigue, pain reliever, and many more. 

For these reasons, ashwagandha can be beneficial for athletic performance, mental clarity, and health. 

Tart cherry juice, ginger, cocoa, green tea and biliberries have been shown as potent anti-inflammatories.  They are antioxidants, with plenty of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that helps to fight infection and keep the lining of your arteries (endothelial cells) healthy. 

As a fun fact, the flavonoids in bilberries (called anthocyanins) contribute to their dark blue color.  Go Condition’s Prime Immunity supplement contains green tea, biliberries and quercetin (another flavonoid) that can help to reduce inflammation.      

  1. Increase consumption of healthy fats.

Healthy fats, omega-3s and monounsaturated fats in particular, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.  Foods that are packed with omega-3s are: fish (mackerel, cod, salmon, herring, etc.), flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and soybeans. 

Fatty fish are a particularly good source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).  After consumption, these fatty acids are converted to inflammatory-fighting compounds called resolvins and protectins. 

Go Condition’s Prime Caps contain fish oil powder along with three potent flavonoids (bilberry, green tea extract and quercetin).  The World Health Organization and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend healthy adults consume a minimum of 250-500 mg of omega-3s per day.

  1. Avoid or limit alcohol.

Chronic alcohol use can hinder your training efforts.  Alcohol impairs gut and liver functions.  Since the gut, liver, and brain all communicate, hindering two of the three organs limits the body’s ability to effectively coordinate to reduce inflammation.

Tying it all together

While inflammation can be beneficial for training adaptations, when the inflammation becomes too much for the body to handle it can become counterproductive. 

As athletes and active individuals that care about health, routinely turning to NSAIDs as a source of pharmaceutical pain relief can be a sign that it’s time for an inflammatory intervention. 

Making nutritional choices that can naturally reduce inflammation can help to improve health while also preserving the gut microbiota.

Antioxidants, supplements rich in flavonoids and/or fish oil (like Go Condition’s Prime Immunity and Prime Caps), fatty fish, and limiting alcohol can all help to reduce inflammation and improve health.