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Wednesday, April 5, 2023 | By: Dr. Sofia Adams

How naturopathic medicine can help athletes improve their health and fitness

Female doctor at the gym with a patientBefore launching Vale of Health, a virtual naturopathic consulting practice, Sofia Adams, ‘22, ND, had an accomplished background in sports. From 2009-2010 she was a member of the US Olympic National Pool Team and a member of the Iowa Olympic Development Team from 9-17 years old.  

Dr. Adams also coached soccer at multiple levels for both boys and girls programs including the University of Iowa Women's club team, a high school boys soccer program and a youth soccer club in southeast Iowa.  

“Since starting my training in naturopathic medicine, the desire to coach and elevate individuals to advance their potential in the beautiful game of soccer has never left me,” she said. 

As a coach, Dr. Adams’ naturopathic medicine expertise offers a unique advantage. According to Dr. Adams, naturopathic medicine encompasses many helpful tools for athletes. Today, more and more individuals are seeking holistic options to optimize their health. 

In this blog, Dr. Adams shares some of the ways naturopathic medicine could prove useful to all athletes:  

Naturopathic medicine can help prevent injury with pre- and post-workout recommendations 

Three of our determinants of health are structural integrity, posture, and flexibility. Each one is critical to address for longevity and injury prevention. Proper warm-ups and cool downs, stretching sequences pre- and post workouts, and dynamic technical activities with the soccer ball, basketball, etc. greatly improve optimal form, length, and strength in the sport.   

Post-workout I recommend ice baths, either up to the waist or from the knees down.  This hydrotherapy technique decreases soreness (especially during two practices a day). In the evening, I suggest taking a hot bath with Epsom salts to release unnecessary tension in the body and improve mobility. Adding essential oils, like lavender and eucalyptus, to the water also promotes a more restful night's sleep. 

Diet and hydration are two of the most important basic determinants of our heath, as they are the fuel for performance, muscle recovery, and longevity. 

Naturopathic medicine can help athletes recover faster from injury 

For any stiffness, soreness, and bruising from a contact sport like soccer, homeopathic arnica gel is essential to have on hand.  I suggest applying it topically before and after practices and games. Applying the gel after workouts will help with post workout recovery. In my own personal experience, I noticed that I would not be as sore as my teammates after using it topically or taking the oral Arnica montana 30C homeopathic pellets.  A 2020 study found homeopathic Arnica montana helps promote positive effects on cell adhesion and migration during tissue development and healing. 

In addition, diet modifications can be extremely beneficial and safe alongside conventional treatments. Certain foods influence the inflammatory responses and possess key nutrients essential for reestablishing proper functional and structural integrity of our cells and tissues.   

Naturopathic medicine can improve an athlete’s mental health  

Athletes are more than just their sport, they are human beings. They have emotions, passions, religious values, and families. The naturopathic philosophy takes all these things into consideration. Care plans incorporate not just physical symptoms but the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of one's health, as well. 

For the mental aspect of our sport, visualization is imperative. Prior to matches, visualizing your technical skills with the ball, shooting, defending, etc. can decrease pre-game anxiety and switch on your "game day brain" to help focus before or during the match.    

Flower essences or remedies, taken orally, can be used to help injured athletes struggling with sitting out of practice, having increased anxiety and those who have lost hope in their recovery. Offered by Bach Flower Remedies, the flower essences are individually selected to match a client's emotional/mental state.  Star of Bethlehem can help if the athlete was traumatized after their injury. Sweet Chestnut can uplift their hopes if they feel like there is no end to their physical/mental suffering. 

Naturopathic medicine offers many solutions to allergy symptoms 

With the majority of sports taking place outside, allergies are among the most common complaints athletes have. In conjunction with conventional medicine, homeopathic remedies can be an effective and safe treatment. Most remedies are gentle and have been approved for over-the-counter use.  

Taking a probiotic and ensuring you’re getting the right nutrients is another way to help improve symptoms. New research links the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut with reduced incidence of allergies. A recent study also found that omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, can help prevent and improve both asthma and allergy symptoms due to their anti-inflammatory properties.  

Naturopathic medicine can help athletes manage chronic pain 

Naturopathic medicine can provide all-natural pain management interventions without the side effects of pharmaceutical medicine. For example, physical adjustments to the spine and extremities help to balance the nervous system and improve both pain regulation and circulation.   

Homeopathic remedies provided pre- and post-surgery can be used to decrease pain, bleeding, and soreness post operation. In situations of trauma, shock, muscle/ligament tears, swelling/bruising, and wound healing, homeopathic or cell salt implementation can also be beneficial. 

ND tools for the whole team 

For the athletes I coach, I create packets for each one with the best pre and post workout snacks and foods. These are meant to strengthen and nourish the body to optimize their athletic and academic performance.   

Each player also gets their own first aid kit, which incorporates some typical first aid contents, as well as homeopathic, botanical, and topical items to use for sprains, strains, bites, cuts, anxiety/stress, etc. 

In addition to providing these health related tips and tools, my education at NUHS ensured that I am equipped and confident in emergency situations if there were to be an accident or injury on the field. I am also able to rule out serious health concerns or injuries by being able to ask the right questions and assess the athlete.   

The naturopathic philosophy is rooted in helping individuals become less reliant on external interventions, and instead stimulating the natural potential to heal ourselves.  However, to do so, most athletes need guidance and health promoting education to create this awakening of our vital force. I specialize in homeopathic, botanical, and lifestyle adjustments to do just that. Both on and off the field, the results of implementing these gentle, natural, and holistic practices create positive change in all aspects of an athlete’s health. 

For more health tips, Dr. Adams hosts free online courses. In April, "Homeopathy for Allergies" will breakdown top homeopathic remedies for the upcoming allergy season. 

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