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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recovery and Less Pain with Cherries!

Take ten cherries and call me in the morning?!
 “Slow down there Dr. Fred, I thought it was an apple?”…take a seat, read this and trust I come with tidings of joy.  Joy to your body, muscles and joints!
As of late I’ve grown so tired of seeing those commercials with senior citizens living an active life, physically active and jumping around in elated joy! They have become the chorus line of the evening news, the examples of twilight years…you see a senior citizens in perpetual motion- jumping and hopping down the beach, heedless of arthritic knees, hips and shoulders, dancing, jogging and bicycling their way through a world populated exclusively by gleeful grandparents and loving grandchildren.
This is not a reality!

Take a look at you immediate family. I know we all know someone with arthritis especially in the dance community. I myself was prescribed Celebrex (a standard cox-2 inhibitor) about 4 years ago for an injury, a quick fix pill that my doctor….who was clearly being courted by an all too friendly pharmaceutical rep, and probably getting a free dinner for filling a quota of scripts.
To add insult to injury…..Recently a study came out in The Journal of the American Medical Association speculating on another downside to Celebrex, and viox-both cox-2 inhibitors…. sighting a small increase in the risk of “cardiovascular events,” including heart attacks and ischemic (clot-related) strokes. Doctors suspect this is because the drugs promote the formation of blood clots. This data came from several studies including some by the manufacturers themselves!
It has always been know that these cause internal bleeding if taken on an empty stomach and can create ulcers if taken long term, but my major problem is that for many of the recipients…they don’t work that well!!!!! In short, all arthritis is, is your body’s response to inflammation.  Your body senses pain…sends the signal to your mind and thus you feel soreness. When this continues over time your body realizes you are not getting the message…so your joints, to buffer the pain….. actually starts to built a sort of crystallized bone to protect the joint, causing a smaller space for motion or rotation and after enough time you have grown bone on bone action. Painful!!!!!
         Freddie…get to it already! Ok ok ok….So while at my physical therapists office last week, I hear someone mention , tart dark cherry juice”….and being the budding nutritionist I am…my ears immediately perk up …then I hear him say….. “It’s the secret behind recovery times at the New York Giants.” For me…this is enough to start doing my own research! And look what I found..

 To start all types of cherries have some benefits, the ones that are receiving the most attention are the dark tart cherries. Attention focused on this fruit after a study carried out at the University of Michigan Health System showed some amazing health benefits of cherries. 

1. Overall general good health
When tart cherries in the form of a powder were given to mice, the animals showed a variety of important changes including lowering of blood sugar and insulin levels as well as a decrease in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The animals were also shown to have higher levels of antioxidant activity in their blood. These animals also showed lower fat deposition in the liver than those that didn't receive the cherry powder. Overall, this translated into a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, a condition that's a forerunner to diabetes and heart disease.
2. The health benefits of cherries for pain relief..
Tart cherries have also been shown to reduce inflammation in animals and humans.  They also may be helpful in relieving the pain associated with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and gout. Tart cherries have even been shown to reduce muscle discomfort after intense exercise…I’ve taken it for about a week after heavy lifting and have noticed a huge difference with recovery times. Scientifically, these cherries are working because they contain high concentrations of compounds called anthocyanins 1 and 2….. - These are antioxidants that block cyclooxygenase 1 and 2 (COX-1 and COX-2) enzymes3….working much like a natural Celebrex. 
“The bottom line is that people who used tart cherry juice had less inflammation and faster muscle strength recovery,” said Kerry Kuehl, M.D. – see a doctor said it…it must be true…..
3. Cherries as a source for better ZZZzzzzz….ZZZZzzzz’s
Tart cherries are a good source of antioxidants including quercetin and melatonin, the hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle. In addition to promoting healthy sleep patterns; Melatonin is also used in supplement form to treat jet lag. Tart cherries are a natural way to add more melatonin to your diet.
4. Fighting Pre-Cancerous cells.
The anthocyanins found in tart cherries have affects similar to prescription anti-inflammatories. Like tart cherries, these drugs inhibit an enzyme known as Cox-2 which plays a role in the growth of some types of cancer. A study carried out in 2003 showed that tart cherries reduced the incidence of colon cancer in mice. It's believed the reduction in risk occurred as a result of the cherries inhibiting the Cox-2 enzyme. Although it's premature to extrapolate this to humans, it looks promising.

How should you consume the cherries?
You can purchase tart cherry juice or cherry juice concentrate at most grocery stores. According to the Cherry Marketing Institute, one 8-ounce glass equals about 100 cherries. 2 x a day. Or 3 if you feel like you need it. Also following a really intense workout.

Personal Experience
From a financial standpoint, I feel like it’s much more affordable to buy the concentrate.  You can get a bottle to last a month or more…if you are taking it 2x a day. I like it first thing in the morning are right before bed. It really seems to help me wind down and relax.  I have also noted a much sounder sleep, with less waking and turning throughout the night.  I like the fact that cherry juice had all but replaced my need for Advil, (which I would never take anyways) but has really eased pain after an intense day at the gym or 2 dance classes. I have given this to my mother and grandmother, so you’d better believe I think it works!

Supporting articles

University of Oregon Kerry Kuehl, M.D

La Times!