Supplements & Vitamins for Plantar Fasciitis – Science Fact or Fiction?

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Plantar fasciitis affects people of various ages and occupations, interfering with their daily functioning. A number of conservative treatments have been proposed for the management of this inflammatory condition, including orthotic inserts, night splints and toe separators. However, in the past few years, more and more specialists have started to discuss nutritional considerations for plantar fasciitis.

It seems that there are a number of supplements and vitamins that could be used to improve the experienced symptomatology, as well as to support the general health of the foot.

Nutritional approach to plantar fasciitis

The plantar fascia is one of the fibrous tissues in the human body, consisting primarily of collagen. Collagen is actually a structural matrix, composed of a network of fibers that present specific patterns. Collagen, as well as the non-fibrous ground substance, are produced by specialized cells known as fibroblasts. Interestingly enough, research[1] has demonstrated that fibroblastic activity could be modulated, among other factors, by nutrition.
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By using specific supplements and vitamins, physicians have successfully managed to influence fibroblastic activity at the level of the plantar fascia and improve the overall symptomatology experienced by patients with plantar fasciitis. First and foremost, the nutritional intervention has been demonstrated to improve the oxygen transportation to the suffering plantar fascia. Second, the modulated fibroblastic activity has directly contributed to an improvement of the plantar fascia stiffness (softening of the plantar fascia). Last, but not least, it seems that nutritional and vitamin supplements can actually support the structural composition of the plantar fascia.

In order to improve the delivery of oxygen to the plantar fascia, scientists have used a form of niacin, meaning inositol hexaniacinate. This is regularly used in treating patients suffering from vascular disease, such as intermittent claudication. Such supplements can increase the blood circulation in the area, facilitating the transport of oxygen to plantar arteries and the deep plantar arch. In this way, the nutrition of the plantar fascia is guaranteed and patients are able to recover faster from plantar fasciitis. The recommended dosage is of 2g, twice per day, for 3 months. The liver enzymes should be checked on a regular basis, as such supplements present a risk for hepatotoxicity. Other supplements that can be administered include potassium salts, copper and vitamin C.

Supplements & Vitamins

Calcium

If you are suffering from plantar fasciitis, you should definitely consider taking calcium supplements. Such supplements can prevent the formation of bone spurs at the level of the heel; these can have a negative impact on the soft tissues of the foot, worsening the pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Apart from taking calcium as a supplement, you can also include more calcium-rich foods in your diet, such as turnip, kale, sesame seeds, almonds and dairy products.

Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the essential minerals for general health, being an effective supplement for the management of plantar fasciitis as well. Keep in mind that the body requires a certain level of magnesium, in order to absorb calcium and use it in an efficient manner. As with calcium, you can take magnesium supplements or follow a diet that is rich in magnesium (white beans, pumpkin seeds, spinach etc.).

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for general health and we can only obtain it from exterior sources, as this vitamin cannot be produced by our own bodies. It is rich in antioxidants, being able to lower the levels of C-reactive proteins (inflammatory markers associated with plantar fasciitis). The daily intake of vitamin C can also help with the repair of the connective tissue, preventing further degenerative changes at the level of the plantar fascia.

People who suffer from plantar fasciitis present a reduced tensile strength of fibrous tissues, such as the plantar fascia. One of the causes that leads to the appearance of such problems is the low level of vitamin C in the body. In general, it is recommended to take between 1-3 grams of vitamin C per day, in order to benefit from its healthy properties. Apart from supplements, sources of vitamin C include broccoli, tomatoes, citrus fruits, melons and kiwis.

Antioxidants

Bioflavonoids represent healthy antioxidants, which can be highly beneficial for a person who suffers from plantar fasciitis. First and foremost, they have amazing anti-inflammatory properties. They can prevent the accumulation of free radicals at the level of the plantar fascia, reducing the risk of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. By taking such supplements on a regular basis, you can prevent the plantar fascia from suffering from degenerative changes. Diet sources of antioxidants include berries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, green peppers and broccoli.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a great spice, often used in both Chinese and Indian cuisine. However, it is also praised for its beneficial properties. In patients who suffer from plantar fasciitis, turmeric supplements can fight chronic inflammation and reduce the heel pain associated with this condition. The main active substance responsible for all of these positive effects is curcumin, the pigment of turmeric. Its anti-inflammatory properties are just as powerful as the ones of common pain killers, without any side-effects or risks. Apart from supplements, turmeric can be used as tea or as a topical lotion.

Bromelain

Bromelain is actually a proteolytic enzyme derived from pineapple, being well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This natural substance can be used to treat inflammation of various kinds, so it makes sense that bromelain supplements can be used for the management of plantar fasciitis. It can even accelerate the healing process of the plantar fascia, especially when taken on a regular basis. It was confirmed[2] that bromelain is just as effective in reducing pain and inflammation in patients with plantar fasciitis as common NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin etc.). The recommended dosage of bromelain supplements varies between 500 and 2000 mg (daily intake).

Fish oil

Fish oil is rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, being able to reduce the inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis. Taken on a daily basis, they can actually prevent inflammatory mediators from being produced, improving the overall symptomatology experienced by the patient. Fish oil supplements can reduce the morning pain and stiffness caused by plantar fasciitis. The recommended dosage varies between 1 and 10 g (daily intake, depending on how severe the heel pain and other symptoms actually are).

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is one of the most important amino acids that the body uses, especially when it comes to the repair process of connective tissue. Administered on a daily basis, this amino acid could eliminate the need for anti-inflammatory medication, stimulating the regeneration of the connective tissue at the same time (plantar fascia included).

It seems that the administration of glucosamine is more efficient when it comes to reducing the pain and inflammation in patients with plantar fasciitis, in comparison to ibuprofen (taken for similar periods of time). Moreover, glucosamine remains superior in comparison to NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, as it works not only on the symptoms but it can also repair damaged plantar fascia. The recommended dosage (daily intake) is of 500 mg. These supplements should be taken three times per day, the indicated form being of glucosamine sulfate.

MSM

Like glucosamine, MSM can contribute to the repair of the connective tissues, plantar fascia included. The powerful supplement can reduce the inflammation and improve the pain experienced, being perfect for the management of plantar fasciitis. At the same time, it can strengthen connective tissues, preventing the appearance of such problems in the future. The dietary sulphur should be taken exactly as instructed by a medical specialist.

Zinc

Zinc, like magnesium, is one of the essential minerals that our body needs, in order to function in a proper manner. In patients who suffer from plantar fasciitis, zinc supplements can contribute to the repair of damaged tissues and even stimulate their regeneration. Administered at the same time with vitamin C, such supplements can actually increase the tensile strength of the plantar fascia and improve the overall symptomatology in patients with plantar fasciitis. The recommended dosage varies between 15 and 30 mg (daily intake).

Probiotics

Probiotic supplements actually include beneficial bacteria for the gastrointestinal tract. These can contribute to the formation of short-chain fatty acids, which are further necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system. By taking probiotic supplements, you will not only improve the health of the gut but also increase the efficiency of your immune system. This will have an indirect, yet positive effect on your inflammation and pain caused by plantar fasciitis, helping you feel better overall.

Final word

Mineral and vitamin supplements can be successfully administered in patients who suffer from plantar fasciitis. They represent the nutritional approach to plantar fasciitis, being able to guarantee an improved symptomatology and a hastier recovery. However, these should be taken only under the direct supervision of a doctor, in order to ensure proper dosage and that no side-effects have occurred. It is recommended to follow the precise instructions of your physician when taking nutritional supplements and have a completed blood count, so as to be certain your body handles everything well.

References:
[1] http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/2001/pdf/2001-v16n01-p040.pdf
[2] http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/10/2/83.pdf


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About the Author John Campbell

As an athlete, John has suffered from plantar fasciitis and toenail fungus multiple times throughout his life. Having picked up some extensive knowledge on dealing with these and other foot health conditions, John has decided to bring more transparency and knowledge to the ofter considered un-popular niche of foot health.

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