The old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may be evolving. In a world where most of us display a general distrust towards the drug industry, many are seeking more alternative, healthier options than chomping down a bottle of pills.
There’s no denying the power of food. We’ve all scarfed down a meal we shouldn’t have, only to find ourselves under a sluggish cloud of unpleasantness. Swap your processed meal for its healthier counterpart and you’ll feel swift and nimble for sure.
Herbs and spices have been the remedies of time. After all, the caveman didn’t have a bottle Motrin to crack open after a long day of chasing dinner. Now the point of this article isn’t to wander down a path swearing off medicine, but to possible offer a safer, healthier option to pain and inflammation.
The cataclysmic shift to conservative, non-pharmacological management of disease and pain is trending in a great direction. With it, we see the sprouting (pun intended) of countless plant-based and “healthy alternative” companies. Enter Tart Cherry Juice.
Tart cherry juice has been used for years, but recently is beginning a larger push into athletics. Gout sufferers have sworn by slugging back shots of tart cherry juice. One research study found that when tart cherry juice was combined with allopurinol (drug) use, the risk of gout attacks was 75% lower than during periods without either exposure.1 The underlying physiology lies in the potent anti-inflammatory effects of tart cherries.
With noted physiologic benefits of hindering inflammation, other studies began to investigate its effect on strength and pain. One blinded study found that after repeated bouts of running, the Tart Cherry group rated their delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) over two points lower on a 0-10 pain scale when compared to that of the placebo.2 Another study found significantly less strength loss when performing repeated bouts of eccentric strength training. The tart cherry group displayed only 4% strength loss compared to that of 22% for the placebo group after four days of retesting.3 Note: the increased strength loss in the placebo growth was attributed to more inflammation and muscle damage.
The apparent benefits of decreased inflammation and pain are a great alternative to popping typical anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which carry baggage filled with stomach, heart, and liver issues. I’ve become a huge advocate for tart cherries as of late (that’s without even using it); however, I do find a few scenarios for best use.
The running population is far from what’s portrayed on advertisements and cover pages. Sore knees, ankles, hips, and spines are common ground among a growing population of master runners. Tart cherry juice may be a perfect, low risk – high reward proposition for those with chronically sore joints. According to the research, the magic number of tart cherries seems to be hovering between 50-60 cherries per day. Conveniently, most commercial tart cherry juices, like Cherribundi, provide 50 cherries per serving.
A second scenario exists for those competing in multiple events or races. For example, the study by Kuehl et al compared post-race soreness of those running Hood to Coast. After preloading for seven days prior to the event and consuming two drinks (90-100 cherries worth) during the race, those who consumed the tart cherries juice displayed significantly less soreness post-race.4 This could be a huge plus for those performing repeated bouts of running (track, multiple day events, two races in a single day, etc).
The question to ask is, “do I want to limit my inflammation?” For chronic inflammation due to wear and tear, or as my patients put it “age,” the answer is usually yes. I’m actually encouraging my patients who experience pain due to degenerative changes to give it a shot; however, I do question anyone looking to dampen their inflammatory response for the sake of avoiding sore legs.
Your legs still experience any given run. Hard workouts and races will ultimately cause muscular breakdown. Hindering yourself from the repair process with any anti-inflammatory (natural or drug) may interfere with healing. Let your legs be sore! They need it.
Needless to say, I’m intrigued. My interest lies as a healthier option for my patients and clients who are looking to thwart sore and painful joints. If you have any input on using tart cherry juice to fight pain and inflammation drop me a line below. Maybe you know someone this could help? Tap that like and tweet button!
1. Zhang Y, Neogi T, Chen C, Chaisson C, Hunter D, Choi HK. Cherry Consumption and the Risk of Recurrent Gout Attacks. Arthritis and rheumatism. 2012;64(12):4004-4011. doi:10.1002/art.34677.
2. Kuehl KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, Chesnutt JC. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010;7:17-17.
3. Connolly DAJ, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI, Carlson L, Sayers SP. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. Br J Sports Med. 2006;40:679-683.