Integrative Therapies for Healthy Summer Sports
With summer sports comes increased sun exposure and the need for sun protection. Sunburn may occur when the amount of sun or ultraviolet (UV) light exposure exceeds the ability of the body's pigment called melanin to protect the skin. Many integrative therapies have been studied for their potential to protect the skin against such exposure.
Lycopene in combination with other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, selenium and proanthocyanidins, may help in reducing sunburn. Carotenoids are highly pigmented (red, orange, yellow), fat-soluble compounds naturally present in many fruits, grains, oils and vegetables (green plants, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, etc). Selected protective effects from UV rays have been observed in small, short-term studies. There is also evidence that taking pomegranate extract by mouth may reduce damage to the skin caused by exposure to UV rays. Additional studies in this area are warranted.
Along with increased sun exposure, sports injuries, such as strains and sprains, are common during the summer season. The musculoskeletal system includes bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and bursae (fluid-filled sacs). Any of these components can be injured by trauma or affected by a number of diseases causing joint, tendon and muscle problems.
Athletes may be more susceptible to injuries as they continuously apply pressure on body parts and use forceful movements. Nutritional changes along with the addition of supplements (vitamins, minerals and herbs) may be effective in reducing joint, tendon and muscle pain. Foods high in calcium, such as spinach, kale, figs and dairy products, are recommended by healthcare professionals.
Early study suggests that cherry juice may prevent damage to muscles caused by exercise. Additionally, Pycnogenol®, the registered trade name for a patented water extract of the bark of the French maritime pine, may effectively prevent cramps, muscular pain at rest and pain after/during exercise in athletes prone to cramps. Further research is needed before any firm conclusions can be made.
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