Would you change your diet to make a muscle strain or sprain heal faster? You would if it meant an increase in total, overall health and injury prevention. There’s a nutrient you should add to your diet, if it’s not already there, to increase recovery, promote healing and hopefully prevent injury. This cure-all? It’s fish oil, specifically DHA and EPA found in omega-3 fatty acids. Surprised?! Me too! But thrilled, because it seems there’s nothing this little powerhouse nutrient can’t do.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, herring and tuna and while supplements are available you should try eating the real thing. 2-3 servings of fish a week (6 ounces is a serving) is the perfect amount for receiving all the omega-3 fatty acids you need. Supplementing isn’t a bad idea too, it can be an easy way to get the nutrients needed.
There are two specific omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, found only in fish and they play a crucial role in the body. Keeping the nervous system healthy, lowering cholesterol, working with your vision and heart health by lowering the risk of heart attacks are all made possible by omega-3 fatty acids. Now we can say these healthy fats also reduce inflammation, thereby improving muscle strength and decreasing recovery time.
Muscle Strains/Sprains and Inflammation
When muscles are used or exercised, tiny tears are formed and as these tears heal the muscles become bigger and stronger. Sometimes though these tears become too much and strains and sprains occur; from doing too much too soon or randomly overexerting muscles. Whatever the reason, when muscles tear they also swell – known as inflammation.
The inflammation from exercise is not exactly the same as muscle inflammation from disease or aging. But muscle inflammation from exercise is seen and is painful. Other forms of muscle inflammation are in autoimmune diseases, where the body is mistakenly attacking itself or viruses. Inflammation from disease can be treated with drugs while muscle inflammation from exercise cannot, unless you’re taking an NSAID to relieve the pain. Muscle inflammation from exercise can benefit from treatment and prevention with EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
How Omega-3 Fatty Acids STOP Inflammation
A small amount of inflammation is ok, good even. Without wounds like cuts, bumps and scrapes and strains and infections would never heal. When you have inflammation constantly attacking the body from disease, injury or aging, the body has a slower response time to shutting down the inflammatory reactions it provides. Inflammation continues until heart disease is apparent from blocked inflamed arteries or blood flow is restricted to the lower limbs for example.
What omega-3 fatty acids provide are “pro-resolution” molecules, molecules that help clean up after the inflammation period is finished. These “pro-resolution” molecules come in different forms; first there are the “lipoxins” than more specifically come the “resolvins and protectins (think “resolve and protect”)” and “each of these molecules provides different but overlapping functions in actively resolving acute inflammation.”
These functions that resolve inflammation are specific per molecule; for example lipoxins which are derived from “arachidonic Acid (AA), especially in presence of omega-3 EPA and DHA from fish oil” and they trigger the end of acute inflammation. Resolvin molecules are formed from Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and these “trigger the resolution phase of acute inflammation” and protectins, derived from omega-3 fatty acids DHA “especially active in protecting brain tissue by promptly ending acute inflammation; synthesis of protectins begins immediately after acute injury”.
This inflammation information is an amazing amount of positive research from the article “Groundbreaking Study Reveals New Mechanism Behind Fish Oil’s Health Benefits”. The cumulative research is from the University of California-San Diego and it’s sure change the way inflammation is treated and thought of.
Having these inflammation pro-resolution molecules (healer molecules) in the body before the effects of inflammation take place can reduce your healing time, getting you up and running faster than ever.
What to Eat to Heal Inflammation
If you’re interested in the positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids than consider adding fish (6 oz 2-3 times per week) to your weekly diet and supplementing with EPA and DHA (some supplements provide 540mg of EPA and DHA for every 2 capsules). The research done on omega-3 fatty acids on inflammation is nothing short of amazing:
“Omega-3 supplementation (1.24 grams/day), along with a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that contained additional EPA/DHA resulting in total EPA/DHA intake of 1,400 mg/day, can reduce the prevalence of metabolic syndrome by more than 20%.
At-risk obese patients improved their insulin sensitivity and decreased their fasting insulin levels with just 540 mg EPA and 360 mg DHA from fish oil.
Omega-3 supplementation can slow or prevent the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a common finding in metabolic syndrome.”
Use all the body-healthy nutrients you can, from fish oils to vitamins and minerals, to keep living your most active life possible!
Bronwell, Logan Groundbreaking Study Reveals New Mechanism Behind Fish Oil’s Health Benefits, September 2012 Life Extension Magazine