TERRY’S BOTTOM LINE:
Fighting pain and preserving your joints naturally are vital
to keeping an active life, but what about your ligaments and tendons—the very
structures that connect muscles and bones? What do you do to ensure they get
the nutrients they need?
If your job requires repetitive motion or your workout has
been leaving you feeling like you’re stretched a bit thin, there are must-have
natural ingredients that make a huge difference.
• Strengthen ligaments and tendons
• Help prevent tendonitis, ACL damage, and carpal tunnel syndrome
• Repair damaged tissue
• Speed recovery time
• Stop damaging inflammation and oxidative stress
If you’ve ever suffered tendonitis or torn ligaments, you
know how long it can seem to take to heal. While just about everyone probably
has (or should have) a supplement regimen to relieve pain or strengthen joints,
we take tendons and ligaments for granted – until something goes wrong.
What are tendons and ligaments?
Tendons are tough bands of tissue. Tendons are
important—you couldn’t move without them. These are the connectors between your
muscles and bones. They help you walk, dance, jump, lift objects—even raise a
cup to your lips. Tendons are not elastic—they are anchors, and when your
muscle contracts, the tendon pulls the bone into place. Ligaments, on the other
hand, connect bone to bone, and are elastic.
Types of Drugs that Damage Tendons
There are many common classes of drugs that can either cause
tendon damage or slow their ability to heal:
Aromatase inhibitors (to reduce estrogen levels)
Glucocorticoids (steroid hormones)
The two categories of common problems with tendons and
ligaments are inflammation and injury, which can occur separately or
simultaneously. Some of the problems you may have heard of are tendonitis,
tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
injuries, ruptured Achilles’ tendon, plantar fasciitis, rotator cuff
tendonitis, and (indirectly) dislocated joints. What you need is a natural
ingredient regimen that helps you keep the vital connections of ligaments and
Targeted Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs
Boswellia is a traditional botanical that does an excellent
job relieving pain and inflammation. However, not all boswellia extracts are
the same. The best is low in β-boswellic acid (which interferes with beneficial
activity) and has higher levels of acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid, or “AKBA”,
to really boost the effectiveness of the extract. Pain is definitely a factor
in how well your tendons and ligaments will carry you. But a good high-AKBA
boswellia extract has been shown to inhibit the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) enzyme,
and reduce the degradation of synovial fluid in the joints.
Bromelain, an enzyme from pineapple, is well known for
reducing pain and inflammation, but also has wound-healing applications. We
tend to think of “wounds” as something on the outside, like a cut, scrape or
bruise, but muscle tissue tears are extremely common, and the stress on our
ligaments and tendons need daily repair as well. You’ll feel those muscle tears
as pain at first. Bromelain can help relieve that pain, and shorten the
duration of the “inflammatory phase” of tissue healing. For people with
blunt injuries and bruising, bromelain reduces swelling and pain whether they
are at rest or on the move.
Active B Vitamins for Your Active Life
Active B vitamins are in the same form that our bodies
create. By supplementing with the same form, you give your body much less work
to do. Vitamin B6 as pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P-5-P) and vitamin B12 as
methylcobalamin are two essentials for tendons, ligaments, and flexibility.
In foods or most supplements, vitamin B6 is found in one of
three forms: pyridoxine hydrochloride, pyridoxal, or pyridoxamine. Inside the
body, these forms of B6 have to be converted by the liver to the active form
the body needs – P-5-P. So why not just start there instead? By consuming
vitamin B6 in the active P-5-P form, conversion is no longer necessary, and the
full benefits are available immediately after absorption. This is the best form
of B6 for anyone suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, using P-5-P
can prevent nearly ALL carpal tunnel surgeries, if used consistently when
symptoms first begin to appear. It’s an excellent partner to magnesium,
which I also recommend for tendon and ligament support.
Vitamin B12 is essential for nerve function,
metabolism, energy and blood pressure health. The best form is methylcobalamin,
the active form readily used by the body. Beyond its already impressive list of
abilities, it has been shown to rebuild and regenerate damaged sciatic nerves.
High dose methylcobalamin shows real promise in treating diabetic neuropathy
and, with more research, may actually slow the progress of muscle wasting in
Lou Gehrig’s Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or “ALS”) as well. I
include it in my list because healthy nerve function is important for muscles
and muscle health is closely associated with tendon and ligament health. In
fact, B12 deficiency interferes with your tendons’ ability to respond to
signals, and dampens their reflex.
Niacinamide is a form of niacin that prevents
the degeneration of collagen – building block of joint tissue and cartilage —
by reducing the expression of inflammatory cytokines. It may be a substrate for
PARP, an enzyme that helps the body’s DNA repair tissues properly.
Vitamin C is crucial for collagen formation
after bruises or wounds. As people get older, they can be deficient in vitamin
C, stacking the deck against connective tissue repair because any deficiency
weakens fibrous material in the body like tendons and ligaments right off the
bat. After stressful exercise, or commonly recurring conditions like carpal
tunnel, a vitamin C deficiency dramatically slows down the healing process,
because vitamin C is essential to reconnecting the intracellular matrix.
The ascorbic acid form of vitamin C, (commonly found, and the type I’d
recommend) has been the most widely tested. The fact that vitamin C is a powerful
antioxidant and fights reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can interfere with
healthy muscle, ligament and tendon use is an additional plus to getting this
ingredient on board.
Manganese, Magnesium, and Zinc. The best forms
of these minerals are amino acid chelated forms bound to glycine. They’re much
better absorbed by the body and, in the case of magnesium, aren’t going to give
you the same potential intestinal issues (loose stools) that other forms of
magnesium can. I consider them to be the gold standard for supplementation.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for tendon and
ligament health. First, it helps relax muscles so you don’t get that
“tightness” from activity or more recurring concerns like carpal tunnel
syndrome. Deficiencies of magnesium, common enough in the diet because of
refined foods and “dumbed down” vegetables and fruits grown in mineral depleted
soils, can cause muscle cramps and numbness. As an extra bonus, magnesium has
synergistic effects with bioactive B6 (P-5-P) and helps to facilitate its
Zinc is a required trace mineral for protein
synthesis, cell division, and proper DNA synthesis. It helps ensure that any
tendon and ligament repair proceeds along the right track to help you get
active again, sooner, or to help you stay active in the first place. In models
of wounds or tissue stress, zinc concentrations at the site peak after a few
days, usually at the time you notice the strain most acutely.
Last, but certainly not least, is the amazing mineral manganese.
This may be the most important mineral you will ever take for your tendons and
ligaments. In fact, one of the signs of manganese deficiency in the body is
weakened tendons and ligaments. Manganese is an essential trace mineral in all
forms of life. It activates a wide range of enzymes, and is necessary for
building collagen, the major component in tendons and ligaments. Collagen is
great at holding on to water, which allows connective tissues with high
collagen content to remain hydrated and resilient. Without manganese, the
body cannot make any collagen or repair any connective tissue. Because of this,
manganese may be the most important nutrient on my list of
ingredients for tendon and ligament preservation and repair.
Supplements and Beyond
The nutrients I have outlined can do a fantastic job of
helping your tendons and ligaments stay strong and whole, and help repair them
when they’re damaged. That is the first part of the equation. The second part
has to do with nutrition and lifestyle. Make sure you’re eating foods that
don’t cause inflammation and pain. Avoid refined grains and sugar and focus on
whole, nutritious proteins, vegetables, and fruits instead. See my article,
“Terry’s Traditional Diet” on TerryTalksNutrition.com. And, if your job
requires repetitive movement like using hand tools, typing, or sewing, make
sure to stop and stretch often enough during the day to let your muscles
realign. By making a few simple changes in your routine, and adding
ingredients that reduce inflammation while strengthening tendons and ligaments,
you will feel a tremendous difference!
To keep tendons and ligaments strong, take 250 mg of
boswellia, along with vitamin C, activated B vitamins (B6, B12, and niacin),
magnesium, zinc, manganese, and bromelain.