Working on my elbow tendonitis years ago, a chiropractor-climber, Eric Vining, put me on two teaspoons a day of fish oil. Lemon-flavored though it was, I found it awful. When I whined, he switched me to three fish-oil capsules a day. Better. But still not great.
Many climbers and mountain athletes regularly ingest fish-oil pills for health and to help manage sports injuries: The omega-3 fish oil found in fatty fish is widely believed to fight inflammation. While injured, I was to take 3000 milligrams a day; 1000 mg is considered maintenance.
Months later and slightly testily, I asked Katie Kemble, climber and Doctor of Nursing Practice, whether she recommended regular use of fish oil.
Oh, Alison, she said kindly, you can just eat salmon for dinner every week. She suggests two weekly servings of seafood, as current literature supports.
Many real foods have excellent anti-inflammatory properties, and are healthy for you anyway.
Two fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are found in salmon, sardines, trout, light tuna, anchovies and mackerel. The healthiest salmon is wild-caught and from northerly waters. See www.americanheart.org for a list of both omega-3 and mercury contents in various kinds of fish; salmon is listed as highest, and lowest. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is available at supermarkets; note that pink or red canned salmon is usually wild-caught, and a bargain. Tinned sardines or tuna make great big-wall foods.
ALA is the omega-3 fat found in plant foods, such as flaxseed and canola oils and walnuts. The body converts ALA into EPA and DHA, but humans are relatively inefficient at those conversions, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (www.aicr.org). So while expert advice is to increase all sources of omega-3s in our diet, seafood still rules.
If you want the straight stuff, fish-oil capsules are popular and natural products. Just be aware that they have antithrombotic (blood-clotting) as well as anti-inflammatory activity. The Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database says that doses greater than 3,000 milligrams of fish oil can inhibit platelet congregation, increase risk of bleeding, and can potentially increase the risk for stroke. If on any type of blood thinners, talk to your physician about what dosage might be appropriate.
Two years ago a now widely cited article by the nutritionist Jean Carper in USA Weekend celebrated the many health benefits, including potent anti-inflammatory, of turmeric and its constituent curcumin, used in curry.
A current NIH report on the online newsletter MedLine backs it: Laboratory and animal research has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties of turmeric. While reports caution that we await further human research, Medline also nodded to turmeric's long use in traditional Asian medicine to treat arthritis. Generally speaking, anything that helps arthritis is a good sign for climbers.
I was hoping I was still a few decades shy of needing prunes until reading this from the syndicated You Docs (the physicians Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz): Prunes, once only known for their laxative power, also are high in phenolic compounds not only anti-aging but anti-inflammatory as well as full of vitamins and minerals that increase antioxidant production. Who knew prunes were a superfood?
Other foods cited by Carper as anti-inflammatory are grapes, berries, oranges, kiwis, olive oil, celery, ginger, garlic and eggplant. Theconsciouslife.com adds kelp, shiitake mushrooms, papaya, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Nutrition.about.com praises fresh pineapple, and apple and red-onion skins.