Archive for the ‘nutrition’ Category

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

Keeping it real – alkalinity and tendon/fascia pain

I’ve been involved in the health and fitness industry for something over 30 years now, and no one can say that I don’t appreciate the good that the industry has done over the last few decades. People are getting out and moving more, and that goes a long way toward combatting the ill effects of today’s sedentary lifestyle.  And a lot of folks have become much more aware of what they’re putting into their mouths.  But if there’s one thing that makes me roll my eyes, it’s the exaggerated, unfounded claims that come with trying to sell something that’s exercise- or nutrition-related.

I’m not just talking about bodybuilder protein shakes (“Put 7,423 calories of PURE ENERGY into your body! Supermaxidynamize it! Gain slabs of muscle in only five short minutes!!!”), although the supplement industry’s claims are as outlandish as any. And I’m not just talking about the claims that various exercise disciplines make either – although some of them would put Joe Weider to shame. (I read one book on Pilates that actually seemed to suggest the exercises helped to immunize people against the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic.) No, the problem is everywhere. And remedies for tendon pain are no exception.

The specific point I want to talk about today has to do with one’s diet, and how alkaline it is. Recently I’ve seen some discussion–and even some articles–about how people have supposedly cured themselves of long-term tendon pain by changing up their diet to make it less acidic and more alkaline. The most generally recommended way to do this by eating more in the way of vegetables and less in the way of meat, especially red meat.

I fully agree that too much acidity in the body can make it easy for inflammation to occur, and as we all know, tendonitis/fasciitis are conditions of inflammation. But thinking that your diet alone is going to determine whether or not you get (or can cure) some sort of ~itis is sort of like thinking that replacing your tires is all you need to get you into the next town. Certainly, if your tires are old and worn it would be a good idea to get some new ones. But most people are going to need some other stuff as well…like some gas in the tank…and a battery under the hood.

Another point is that long-term tendon or fascia pain usually isn’t an ~itis at all, but an ~osis. Tendonosis/fasciosis means degeneration of the tissue itself, not inflammation, and you can eat all the vegetables you like but it won’t have any effect on the collagen fibers that make up both of these structures.

Nutrition experts tend to see everything in terms of diet, and exercise folks look at everything through the lens of movement. But this overloading of one or another facet of health obscures the truth. And the truth is this: a combined approach is the best, surest, and most complete way to eliminate persistent tendon or fascia pain.

Author: Alex Nordach

Say goodbye to the Food Pyramid

In a long overdue move, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has gotten rid of the famous Food Pyramid that for close to two decades was supposed to tell you how to eat. The new symbol is a plate-and-cup that will hopefully be easier to understand.

Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin got together to announce the new paradigm, but the message seemed to be a little contradictory. According to Ms. Obama, parents “don’t have time” to measure out portions of food…yet, according to Dr. Robert Post, Deputy Director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy, “We know that with proper planning, you can get enough protein” from a vegan diet.

Hmmm. I can tell you from personal experience that, once you have the scale, it takes about ten seconds to measure out a portion of anything. On the other hand, I know very few vegans who actually (a) combine plant proteins properly on a regular basis and (b) get enough overall protein into their bodies (which is probably why so many of them start looking gaunt and eventually go back to eating animal sources). I have nothing against any particular diet plan, so long as it’s healthy, but let’s be clear about the realities of eating. Weighing food takes almost no time at all, and there is no better way of coming to grips with the reality of what you’re putting into your mouth–it’s just that it’s a bit of a hassle.

Anyway, time will tell if this new plate-and-cup idea takes hold. Meanwhile, if you have long-term tendon or fascia problems in your feet, here are some food-based issues to consider:

If you are overweight, an obvious first thing to look at is losing the excess poundage.
If you are underweight, are you eating enough good fats?
For any American male, do you consume a large amount of red meat versus little in the way of fish and/or nuts?

Any or all of these can be (and probably are) contributing factors to your pain. Fixing them is one step toward having healthy tendons and fascia and preventing recurrences of tendonitis/fasciitis. For more information about nutrition and supplementation as they relate to having healthy tendons/fascia, check out my book Target Plantar Fasciitis and Posterior Tibial Tendonitis.

Nutrition for tendon and fascia pain

I recently received a question from someone who purchased Target Tendonitis. He asked about the advisability of fasting if you have tendonosis.

Although fasting can have some beneficial effects, I do not advise anyone who is suffering from tendon or fascia problems to do it. The reason is simple: your body needs nutrients to heal itself, and if you’re fasting you’re not providing it with the basic “stuff” that’s necessary to do the job. I recommend some nutritional supplements in the book, but these recommendations are based on the assumption that your basic nutritional needs are already being met. If they aren’t, the supplements aren’t going to do you much good by themselves. A diet that is lacking in vitamins, minerals or protein (to say nothing of all three at once!) is going to pose serious, serious problems when it comes to healing your tendons.

Assuming that your basic diet is okay, one thing you can do to help heal yourself if you have tendonosis or fasciosis is get a good kelp supplement and take it regularly. Kelp contains iodine, which is helpful for the formation of collagen, the basic building block of tendons and fasciae. My favorite out of the products listed on Amazon is Icelandic kelp, which is harvested during the cold months and washed in high-mineral fresh water, which adds further minerals to the already good mix that kelp naturally contains.

Author: Alex Nordach