Feet don’t fail me now

This time of year, you probably spend some time outside barefoot. This provides healthy exposure to air and sunlight. However, summer is also prime time for flare-ups of plantar fasciitis.

This common foot problem arises when the thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot becomes inflamed. And while plantar fasciitis can strike anyone, it commonly strikes long-distance runners.

In a previous article, I questioned the benefits of long-distance running. That’s because, as an anthropologist, I understand that your feet and legs are not designed to pound hard surfaces like pavement, concrete, and other artificial surfaces. Nor is the human body adapted to running long distances every day.

Your doctor may say running isn’t a problem and may even encourage excessive amounts of it. He or she may tell you that all you need for the pain is a quick cortisone shot.

But long-term, steroids won’t do anything to help the wear-and-tear. And may even contribute to it. Even as a short-term “fix,” steroids injections have potentially fatal risks when they become contaminated. And there’s simply no need to subject yourself to those risks when a common sense approach can provide the same–if not better–relief.

First off, if you have plantar fasciitis and are an avid runner, consider changing your regimen. Cut back on the number of miles  you run. And if you currently run on hard surfaces, consider trail running instead. It’s a better, healthier and safer workout anyway.

You can also find ways to address the inflammation in your foot nutritionally.

I don’t pay much attention to many of the new claims that specific foods “cause” or “fight” inflammation. Often, these claims don’t have much science to back them up.

But following some general dietary guidelines can help.

Avoid refined grains, refined sugars, and trans fats. These ingredients only help fuel inflammation in the body. Also, avoid the omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils, such as corn, soybean and sunflower oil.

Use olive oil instead. Or even butter. For even better flavor, try melting a pat or two of butter into your heated olive oil for cooking.

Replacing the omega-6 fatty acids with omega-3 fatty acids will help reduce inflammation throughout your body. And the new omega-3s in your diet will help improve your circulation, which will help deliver oxygen and nutrients to your injured tissues and allow repair to take place.

You find omega-3 fatty acids in fish, nuts, flax seed, and some beans. You also find plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in grass-fed beef and free-range chicken.

So this summer, be easy on your feet and eat plenty of omega-3s.