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The best supplements for healing

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You may be able to speed recovery from sports injuries with the help of nutritional supplements

You may be able to speed recovery from sports injuries with the help of nutritional supplements.

* Vitamin C is necessary to make collagen, the 'glue' that strengthens connective tissue. Severe injury can increase vitamin C requirements (N Engl J Med, 1986; 314: 892-902), and a deficiency can delay healing (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc, 1994; 84: 456-62). Supplementing with 400-3000 mg/day of vitamin C can reduce pain, and speed recovery of muscle strength after intense exercise (Eur J Appl Physiol, 1993; 67: 426-30; Pain, 1992; 50: 317-21). It can also help heal fractures (Lancet, 1999; 354: 2025-8).

* Vitamin E supplementing at dosages of 400-1200 IU daily can reduce blood levels of free radicals and other indicators of muscle damage (Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1998; 30: 67-72; Int J Sport Nutr, 1994; 4: 253-64; Am J Physiol, 1993; 264: R992-8). However, this may not always translate into speedier recovery (Sports Med, 1995; 20: 12-23).

* Bioflavonoids have free radical-quenching, iron-chelating and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids such as quercetin can reduce the effects of brain and spinal cord injuries (J Spinal Cord Med, 1998; 21: 309-34). Aim for 500 mg/day of flavonoids.

* Magnesium decreases swelling. When levels of magnesium are low, the amounts of inflammatory cytokines and histamine tend to rise (Am J Physiol, 1992; 263: R734-7). It can also aid recovery from traumatic brain injuries (Scand J Clin Lab Invest, 1995; 55: 671-7). Take at least 250-350 mg/day.

* Zinc is a component of many enzymes, including some that are needed to repair wounds. Even a mild deficiency of zinc can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage as well as from more serious trauma (J Lab Clin Med, 1994; 124: 322-7). Take 15-50 mg/day.

* Glucosamine sulphate appears to speed the healing of damage to the cartilage around the kneecap. Other forms of this cartilage-repairing natural substance, such as glucosamine hydrochloride, are as effective for joint pain as the sulphate form (Rheumatology, 1999; 26: 2423-30; Br J Sports Med, 2003; 37: 45-9). Try taking 1000-2000 mg three times daily for 10 days, followed by 500 mg three times a day.

* Trace minerals, such as manganese, copper and silicon, are also known to be important in the biochemical process of tissue healing (Br J Dermatol, 1999; 140: 26-34; Biol Trace Elem Res, 1998; 65: 251-9).

* Probiotics can help to build lean muscle tissue, aid detoxification and boost immunity. Look for a product that blends several different strains of Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, and claims to contain at least one billion viable cells per daily dose.


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