Naturopathic Medicine and Athletes

Surrey Delta BC at Legacies Health Centre

Naturopathic Medicine and Athletes

Naturopathic medicine is the perfect choice for athletes. Simple lifestyle choices can optimize performance and endurance, as well as minimize illness and the risk of injury. Should an injury occur, naturopathic therapies speed up healing time and reduce the chance of re-injury.

Nutrition and Athletes

Food is the fuel for athletes to perform. Food also contains the nutrients the body needs to recover from training and rebuild its structure. But it is not only what an athlete eats that is important, it is also what his body absorbs. If digestion is insufficient even highly nutritious diet can’t be absorbed and utilized by the body. For athletes to perform at their best I believe that digestion and absorption must be optimal. Otherwise the inflammation in the intestines will prevent necessary nutrition from reaching the muscles.

Anti-inflammatory Diet and Athletes

The anti-inflammatory diet focuses on consuming whole, natural foods that allow the body to maintain balanced hormone levels and to use fat and carbohydrates as the primary energy sources. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods that are rich in trace nutrients, vitamins and minerals optimize energy levels and reduce tissue inflammation that can prevent proper recovery. In addition, this diet helps the body to maintain its neutral pH, which is important for anabolism and muscle development.

The timing of food consumption pre-work out and post-work out is one of the most important factors for athletes. Athletes must consume adequate levels of high quality protein to maintain, repair, and strengthen their physical structure. Athletes must maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. If the blood sugar drops too low the body will begin breaking down muscle and connective tissue in order to increase blood sugar. Athletes need to eat 4-6 small to medium sized meals everyday in order to prevent nutrient deficiencies and promote recovery.

Immune Support

Over-training and stress can cause immune system weakness. Botanical medicine and nutritional supplements have shown to work well for managing stress and immune system. Intravenous nutrient infusion of the most essential vitamins and minerals can also be used to provide potent boost to the immune system.

Overtraining Syndrome

Over-training syndrome is a common condition among athletes, particularly endurance athletes. If the intensity of training is increased beyond the body’s ability to adapt, and if a full recovery is not made, training actually becomes a long-term cause of stress on the body. The primary cause of overtraining is usually a lack of rest and recovery in the training program. Excessive musculoskeletal stress leads to local acute inflammation, which can evolve into systemic chronic inflammation.

Overtraining can compromise normal immune function by reducing lymphocytes and antibodies. This not only renders the athlete susceptible to a flare up of the chronic infection, it also makes him or her much more vulnerable to acute infections such as colds and flus. The endocrine system is also affected. Athletes who have over-trained may show increases in cortisol and decreases in testosterone. Too much cortisol levels will lead to the development of number of adverse health conditions. Elevated cortisol has been associated with increase appetite, weight gain, diabetes, anxiety and depression. Elevated cortisol levels can have adverse effects on the immune system, memory, and sugar metabolism.

Sign and symptoms of overtraining are:

  • General fatigue
  • Loss of motivation
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Loss of strength

Sport Acupuncture

There are three main areas of sports medicine in which acupuncture and related therapies can offer great benefits: treatment of sport injuries; prevention of sport injuries; and athletic performance enhancement.

Acupuncture for prevention and treatment of sport injuries: 
Acupuncture is used to help decrease swelling, spasm and inflammation. Additionally, it is used to control pain, increase range of motion and accelerate healing time. Because of its broad range of applications, acupuncture can benefit sport injuries at any stage: to prevent, to treat acute pain, and to address conditions that make athletes vulnerable to re-injury. Studies have shown that acupuncture increases blood circulation to specific areas of the body that will accelerate healing after sport injuries.

Performance enhancement: 
Acupuncture helps athletes’ performance by increasing their strength, endurance, and mental clarity.

Acupuncture treatments improve strength by increasing muscle contraction capability, therefore increasing the ability to do heavy workout, or perform strenuous activities. According to recent research studies, the subjects who received acupuncture were not only stronger, but they showed quicker recovery time after strenuous exercise. By increasing blood flow to the muscle, acupuncture also helps with endurance. Studies indicate subjects who received acupuncture were able to perform strenuous activity for a longer period of time. Acupuncture helps with mental clarity by reducing stress and anxiety and improving sleep.

Dr Asal Shalviri, ND, Naturopathic Medicine at Legacies Health Centre