Supplements to Reverse Muscle Atrophy

Man sitting and holding dumbbell
Taking supplements helps prevent muscle wasting and revert atrophy. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Muscle wasting and atrophy occur in many diseases and conditions. Sometimes something as simple as prolonged immobilization can lead to a significant localized atrophy in muscles. At other times, the underlying cause maybe serious and potentially fatal, like cancer cachexia or the wasting associated with HIV/AIDS. Whatever the cause, complementary and alternative medicine offer a few helpful solutions, which can aid to reverse muscle atrophy and help build back muscle mass.

Creatine

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, creatine is one of the supplements potentially useful in reversing muscle atrophy. Creatine is one of the naturally occurring building blocks of proteins. It is available in dietary products such as meat and fish, as well as produced by the human body. Creatine is very popular as a supplement for those with muscle weakness and atrophy because clinical studies have proven that creatine supplements reverse muscle weakness and increase muscle mass in patients with diseases causing muscle atrophy. The athletic community has tried to benefit from these muscle enhancing properties but studies have not yet proven whether creatine is truly useful for athletes or not. Creatine use may be associated with side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight gain and liver dysfunction.

Stinging Nettle

The University of Maryland Medical Center lists stinging nettle among the supplements which may be used in cases of muscle atrophy. Stinging nettle or Urtica dioica, is a plant which originates from the cold Northern regions of Europe. It has been used for centuries for relief of sore muscles and joints. Stinging Nettle can either be applied topically or ingested orally in the form of infusion teas. It is also available in capsule forms and as a pharmaceutical preparation. The reason Urtica dioica is considered beneficial for muscle atrophy is because of its effect on the body’s natural muscle building hormone testosterone. Stinging nettle, as mentioned in a study published in the December 1997 of “Planta Medica,” binds with and reduces the concentration of a molecule called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin. SHBG binds with testosterone, thus reducing its concentration.

Protein Powder

The University of Maryland Medical Center also notes that adequate protein intake is essential for rebuilding of atrophied muscle. Also essential is maintaining sufficient caloric intake, or slight surplus, to put the body in state known as positive nitrogen balance where muscle building will be favored. Add supplemental protein powders to increase total caloric and protein intake as needed.

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