Mad for exercise? Managing post-exercise inflammation

There are many great benefits of exercise. However, as the old saying goes, every coin has two sides. Ever feeling sore after a vigorous work our session? You are not alone. It is known that exercise increases systemic inflammation. Common causes for the inflammation includes:

  • Soft tissue inflammation – from prolonged stress on tendons, muscles, ligaments and fascia.
  • Scrapes, scratches and bruises – from climbing, crawling and falling.
  • Increased joint stress – arches, ankles, knees, hips, low back, necks, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers are all stressed with ever yard on ever-changing surfaces.
  • Lactic acid  – your body’s “exhaust” or waste product produced during intense muscle activity. Lactic acid accumulates and causes cellular level “acidosis” and hence inflammation.

In a nutshell, exercises causes minor injuries at both body structure as wells as cellular level. Inflammation is simply the body’s natural response to the injuries.

There are steps you can take to reduce or care for the post-exercise soreness. Stretch and warm up properly before exercise could reduce the incidence of injuries. Ice the sore site helps reducing the inflammatory.

Incorporating “anti-inflammatory” herbs and food in your post-exercise nutritional regimen is a great strategy for managing post-exercise inflammation. Here are inflammatory herbs and foods that you should try. Incorporate them in your sport nutrition regime will greatly help managing the post-exercise soreness.

Boswellia serrata:

Also known as the Indian frankincense, boswellia has been used for thousands of years for its ability to manage inflammatory disorders. The herb has also been used to treat arthritis, diarrhea, and pulmonary disease. Boswellia works through entirely different mechanisms than anti-inflammatory drugs. Whereas most drugs function as Cox enzyme inhibitors, boswellia works by inhibiting lipoxygenase enzymes (LOX), which are powerful contributors to inflammation and disease. By inhibiting LOX enzymes, boswellia effectively blocks leukotriene synthesis. Leukotrienes play a major role in promoting a whole host of age-associated, inflammation-related diseases including joint problems, intestinal disorders, cancer, and lung related disease. In addition, boswellia has been shown to inhibit the breakdown of connective tissues caused by tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a potent inflammatory agent in the body.


Although a common food, ginger is also a common herb for its anti-inflammatory effect. Researchers attribute ginger’s health benefits to gingerols, compounds that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial. Studies have shown gingerols block several genes and enzymes in the body that promote inflammation. When University of Arizona researchers gave rats with experimental rheumatoid arthritis a crude ginger extract, it was able to inhibit joint swelling and inflammation. Fresh ginger is richest in gingerol, so grate up the root, throw it in a mesh bag, steep, and sip on ginger tea.


Studies have shown that eating berries daily could significantly reduce inflammation. Berries contain anthocyanins, which contribute their anti-inflammatory effects by effectively turning off inflammatory and immune genes. And when it comes to anthocyanins, blueberries are king.

Green tea:

Green tea has well recognized health benefits. These benefits stem from catechins, the group of antioxidants concentrated in the leaves of tea plants. And the most powerful of all catechins, a compound called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is found almost exclusively in green tea. Scientific studies suggest that the high EGCG and polyphenol content in green tea make it a stronger anti-inflammatory elixir than other teas like black tea.


Curcumin, a compound responsible for turmeric’s bright, yellowy-orange color, has been found to contain potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that curcumin directly inhibits the activation of inflammatory pathways through shutting off production of two pro-inflammatory enzymes, COX-2, and 5-LOX. For this reason, curcumin has been used traditionally for easing joint inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.


This flavorful herb is a powerful anti-inflammatory thanks to its high concentration of antioxidant compounds. Scientists believe the anti-inflammatory activity comes from the presence of carnosic acid and carnosol, two polyphenolic compounds in rosemary, which have been shown to effectively inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.


Broccoli’s anti-inflammatory benefit is linked to the sprouts’ glucosinolate content. These compounds help prevent unwanted inflammation when they’re converted to I3C—a compound that research has found to decrease the production of pro-inflammatory mediators on a genetic level. It’s also high in vitamin K, a vitamin found in many cruciferous and leafy green veggies, which can help regulate inflammatory responses in the body.


Pineapple contains bromelain, the enzyme that acts as a meat tenderizer as well as a powerful anti-inflammatory. What researchers have noted is that many anti-inflammatory foods act not necessarily by reducing inflammation directly, but by alleviating symptoms that can eventually cause inflammation. Bromelain has been found to be beneficial in reducing asthmatic symptoms through decreasing the spread of proinflammatory metabolites and relieving post-exercise inflammation by helping to repair and resolve muscle soreness through its significant levels of potassium.


In terms of an inflammatory response, a review of Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry explained that aged garlic extract has been found to favorably stimulate anti-inflammatory proteins while suppressing inflammatory markers in chronic inflammation environments. Taking an aged-garlic supplement provides the highest concentration of bioavailable compounds, but studies have also shown that fresh garlic can provide subtle benefits. Just be sure to crush the garlic first to kickstart production of the bioactive allicin compound.

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Thanks for reading.

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