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Nutrition’s impact on tendinopathies

Pete’s World

Published: April 1, 2024

I’ve found it quite interesting that medical science has ever so gradually been linking a host of today’s common ailments to nutritional issues.
And the same can be said for sports science’s linking nutrition to sports-related maladies.
Ironically, during my earlier days in the health and fitness industry I, as well as my peers, would have said that nutrition played a minor role in the causation/prevention of sport-related injuries.
Well, today that antiquated supposition is just that - antiquated.
Which brings me to today’s column––nutrition’s link to tendon health.
Now tendon maladies can collectively be termed tendinopathies. And the Cleveland Clinic’s informational web pages defines a tendinopathy as, “a broad term for any tendon condition that causes pain and swelling.”
Thus, tendinopathies encompass several types of pain and swelling-related maladies: tendonitis, tendonosis and paratendinitis.
The first is typically acute and is characterized by inflammation of tendinous tissues, the second is typically chronic and is characterized by a degeneration of tendinous tissues and the third involves a tearing of the tendinous sheath.
Now despite the differences between these three tendon maladies, there does seem to be one factor that can impact them collectively with respect to their causation and/or their prevention. And, as you probably guessed, that factor is nutrition.
Yup, today we know that tendon health involves more than just the strengthening, stretching and oxygenation via cardio work that health care professionals and physiologists once believed were the keys to keeping tendons functioning properly and injury free.
Research over the last several decades has determined that a balanced diet containing the proper mix of vitamins and minerals is another very crucial component in keeping ligaments and tendons healthy.
Now to understand exactly where this nutritional component fits into the picture here it’s important to first get a smidge of background info on what tendons do and what they’re made of.
So a tendon’s job is to bind muscle to bone, which means tendons need to be pretty strong and durable tissues. And to be strong and durable they’re composed of gazillions of microscopic cord-like collagen fibers that are bound together into ropes.
The collagen itself is a protein which can be found throughout the body and this is exactly where the nutritional link comes into play.
Research has determined that a proper nutritional protocol can amplify collagen synthesis and accelerate the healing of tendons and ligaments.
In layman’s terms a diet that supports collagen production is necessary to maintain tendon strength and elasticity.
And if you dig a little deeper into the structure of tendons, you’ll find that tendinous tissues, unlike muscle tissues, have very poor blood supply.
Thus, tendons are far more dependent on getting the vast majority of their oxygen and nutrients via synovial fluid diffusion (pulling O2 and nutrients from a joint’s surrounding synovial fluids).
Therefore it’s imperative that these synovial fluids contain the proper mix of nutrients to keep those tendons healthy.
All this brings us to the $64,000 question: What kind of diet must we eat in order to keep our tendons strong, flexible and healthy?
And well, the answer really shouldn’t surprise you. Because tendon health, just like general health, hinges on today’s currently accepted dietary recommendations.
Take for instance protein, which the body uses to repair numerous bodily tissues.
Protein intake is crucial for tendon health because it’s utilized for collagen production and maintaining collagen elasticity.
Good sources of dietary protein include poultry, eggs, fish, beans, lentils and dairy products such as Greek yogurt.
Vitamin C is another important dietary component that can have an impact on tendon health.
This vitamin is obtained from fruits, berries and veggies (like strawberries, red peppers, oranges, broccoli and tomatoes).
And finally, tendon health is also influenced by vitamin A, an important vitamin that can be found in leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli and in orange and yellow vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash.
As you can see, the recommendations for a “tendon healthy” diet pretty much mirror the recommendations for a healthy diet in general.
So be it trying to stay ailment-free in everyday life, or trying to stay injury-free in your sport of choice, know that nutrition has been proven to play a crucial role in both.