Ligaments and tendons are important connective tissues in the body. Ligaments link bones to one another, while tendons connect muscles and bones — and they're both essential for body function.
They're especially important for people who perform regular strenuous physical activities and people who have jobs that require repetitive motions, like lifting or typing.
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Eating a balanced diet makes sure you're getting the right vitamins and minerals to keep your ligaments and tendons healthy. You can also take supplements if you're concerned about your ligament and tendon health.
Vitamins and Minerals for Ligaments and Tendons
Several vitamins and minerals are related to ligament and tendon health, and they also affect healing.
1. Vitamin A
According to a March-April 2016 study in the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal, vitamin A can help enhance collagen development. Collagen is important for the formation and function of tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone. Vitamin A-rich foods include carrots, mangoes, squash and sweet potatoes.
2. Vitamin C
According to a November 2016 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vitamin C may help collagen structure and ligament function. Vitamin C is most commonly found in citrus fruits. Many foods have both vitamin A and vitamin C, such as leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach (which also have other beneficial vitamins and minerals).
3. Vitamin D
It's important to get enough vitamin D, especially if you're physically active or suspect an injury. Vitamin D helps increase bone mineral density and strengthens the skeletal muscles, improving the tendon-to-bone healing process, per a June 2016 Journal of Inflammation Research study.
4 + 5. Copper and Zinc
The trace minerals copper and zinc play a role in collagen production, per the Cleveland Clinic. Lack of these trace minerals results in poorer collagen synthesis and can negatively affect ligament and tendon health.
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Supplements for Ligaments and Tendons
If you're concerned about the health of your ligaments and tendons and think you're not getting the recommended daily amount of vitamins and minerals, you can always take supplements.
You may want to take supplements to promote healing if you've recently had surgery or an injury. They can also be a good idea for ongoing health problems, which is why some people may opt to take supplements for tendonitis or rotator cuff injuries. Supplements typically have cross-benefits — supplements for joint and tendon health can also be used for ligaments and vice-versa.
Some examples of these supplements include:
An enzyme from the stem of the pineapple, bromelain may help reduce swelling and pain surrounding ligaments and tendons, although results from limited studies have been mixed, per a January-March 2016 report in the Muscles Ligaments Tendons Journal.
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Curcumin is an antioxidant that may help improve pain and healing with tendonitis, per the January-March 2016 report in the Muscles Ligaments Tendons Journal, but more research is needed to fully understand how and how much.
3. Gelatin or Collagen
A November 2016 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplements could be used to increase collagen production.
4. Whey Protein
Whey protein is good for tendon growth. Daily supplements of whey protein have been linked to increased tendon mass, per a May 2013 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.
- Muscle, Ligaments, and Tendons Journal: Nutraceutical Supplement in the Management of Tendinopathies: A Systematic Review
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Vitamin C–Enriched Gelatin Supplementation Before Intermittent Activity Augments Collagen Synthesis
- American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal: Whole Foods Nutrition for Enhanced Injury Prevention and Healing
- Acta Orthopaedica et Traumatologica Turcica: Role of a Combination Dietary Supplement Containing Mucopolysaccharides, Vitamin C and Collagen on Tendon Healing in Rats