Archive for August, 2012

Good nutrition for fascia and tendons

I got a client recently who has been suffering from fascia pain for over 20 years, to the point that he can’t wear dress shoes because it hurts too much.  Although he’s a little older (closing in on 50), there’s no reason that it should take decades to heal a fascia.  So I asked him some questions, and started to zero in on his diet.  Here’s the exchange:

Me:  How’s your diet?

Client:  I am definitely a slow healer, but my nutrition is good, to my knowledge. I stay trim and try to eat a balanced diet.

Me:  Okay, so for example.  What’s a typical day look like?

Client:  Breakfast: Quaker oatmeal squares or Wheat Chex.  Lunch: Variable, but balanced cafeteria lunch, with main course and two vegetables.  Dinner: Usually light, such as salad with chicken, or peanut butter sandwich, or fruit and nuts and yogurt.

Be honest now: how many of you out there think that the above is a good diet?  Admittedly, it’s basically not too bad, and certainly a lot better than eating at McDonald’s three times a day.  But there are two big problems here:

Problem number 1:  A lack of protein.

Assuming that the client had 8oz. of skim milk with his Wheat Chex, and the chicken salad (the highest protein choice of the ones listed), this client gets maybe, at the most, 80g of protein on a typical day.  For a normal-sized “trim” adult male, let’s say 190 lbs, he’s getting about half of what he needs for optimal recovery and healing.

Fascia and tendons are made of collagen.  Now, if you read some other sites, they will tell you that taking extra collagen as a supplement is beneficial.  This isn’t any more true than the cosmetics industry telling women that extra collagen is going to make their skin better.  Collagen is formed from protein.  If you’re protein-deficient, your body simply will not have the materials necessary to create new collagen to replace the old worn-out stuff.  And thinking that orally ingested collagen is going to make it through the digestive processes of the stomach, intestines and so on and somehow be “put in place” in your fascia and tendons… well, that’s about as medieval a notion as the belief that eating bull testicles will improve a man’s virility.

Problem number 2: Virtually no good fats.

While science is just starting to recognize the role that essential fats play in healing tendonopathies (see for example this abstract, which talks about the lack of evidence so far), there is no doubt in my mind, after a few decades of dealing with these issues, that they are very beneficial.  And most people don’t eat enough of them by any means.

Dr. Udo Erasmus, probably the world’s leading expert on good fats and what a lack of them can do to your body, has a long list of pervasive problems that can occur when there’s a deficiency in your diet.  (Here’s a link with the list.)  While there hasn’t been much formal experimentation done yet, in my experience you can add tendon and fascia pain to the list as well.  Any dietary deficiency that leads to joint pain, skin problems (skin is supported by collagen), organs falling apart and general inflammation is probably going to have an effect on your connective tissue as well.

In the sample diet above, the only foods listed that have a decent amount of good (ie, Omega-3 and Omega-6) fat were the peanut butter and nuts that my client sometimes has for dinner.  (Assuming they’re the right nuts; chestnuts aren’t much help.)

Omega-3 and Omega-6 profile for various nuts

Omega-3 and Omega-6 profile for various nuts

If he had whole milk with his cereal in the morning, he might also have gotten a little from that.  But overall, there is a clear lack here.

No wonder my client thinks he’s a slow healer.  He’s not getting enough in the way of building blocks to allow his body’s natural repair processes to do their job.  If you’ve had long-term fascia or tendon pain and can’t seem to get rid of it, one thing to look at is your diet.  If what you’re eating looks like the sample above, you may have found the culprit.

As you get older, it takes more to heal properly.  More time, more care, and more int he way of good nutrition.  It’s just a fact of life.

Author: Alex Nordach