Celebrity Health - Thomas Hal Robson-Kanu

Premiership footballer Thomas Hal Robson-Kanu explains how the powerful health benefits of turmeric helped him to overcome injury

© Photography by Rachel Lipsitz

International footballer Thomas Hal Robson-Kanu has played for Premier League team West Bromwich Albion since 2016. The 29-year-old played for Reading from the age of 15 and was one of Wales’ goal-scoring heroes during the Euro 2016 quarter-final victory over Belgium in Lille. Now, Thomas has developed a new turmeric drink after discovering the powerful health benefits of the spice. Here he tells us about his own healing journey.

I’m physically active most days of the week, whether that’s training every day, playing in competitive games or spending time in the gym. Being a professional athlete is relentless but it’s something that I love and it allows me to continually push myself. On average we cover 30km on the pitch a week, training and games combined, and spend up to four hours in the gym!

When you push your body to the extreme every single day you quickly realise how important it is to maintain a naturally healthy lifestyle. Nutrition is obviously pivotal, so I will always ensure my body is fuelled at the right times. Eating a balanced diet is essential, so consuming good fats and proteins at the right time is paramount. That, combined with sleep, which is another undervalued health marker, supports my busy lifestyle.

Early on in my sporting career, I was unlucky enough to sustain two heavy cruciate ligament injuries that threatened to bring my football days to a premature end in my late teens. The standard routine of prescription medication to accommodate the pain and inflammation I was suffering on a day-to-day basis had run its course, and I suffered a variety of side effects from extreme nausea and intolerable stomach cramps to blood while passing urine. All of these side effects, I was told by my doctor, were ‘common’ when using medication such as Diclofenac for the period I had been. However, since then, this drug has been removed from the prescription list for athletes. The desperation to find a solution that allowed me to continue to play led me to more holistic and natural products.

After extensive research, my family and I eventually came across the natural benefits of turmeric. This root, most commonly known as a powder used for flavouring and colouring in cooking, had apparently been used in parts of east Asia for centuries as a multiple-use remedy to health, and was best used as an anti-inflammatory – something I desperately needed for my injury.

I began using it and within weeks felt the positive effects of turmeric, not only for my injury but for my overall health. Its main active ingredient, curcumin, is recognised globally for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects and strong antioxidant properties, though alone it is poorly absorbed naturally by your bloodstream. We learned that when consumed with piperine, a natural substance found in black pepper, it enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2,000 per cent. Put scientifically, curcumin blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of your cells and turns on genes related to inflammation, which is believed to play a major role in many chronic diseases. This essentially means that curcumin is a bioactive substance that fights inflammation at a molecular level, as well as being linked to improved brain function and a lowered risk of brain diseases. It’s also known to dramatically increase the antioxidant capacity of the body and has been credited with helping everything from fighting colds and relieving arthritis symptoms to lowering your risk of heart disease.

What began as a family-run solution created to help alleviate my symptoms has upscaled to a product range which is now consumed twice daily by the England Rugby Team and multiple GB Olympic camps. It was launched into the likes of Whole Foods and Planet Organic this summer. Common turmeric shots currently on the market tend to use powders and/or sugary apple juices, whereas our bespoke production process extracts the turmeric from its root and mixes this with freshly pressed watermelon, pomegranate, pineapple and citrus-lemon, which are also uniquely extracted directly from the fruits. We create all of our products in our own bespoke vegan production facility, which has a five-star food hygiene standard rating, SALSA certification and no risk of any contamination.

I personally try to consume as many nutrients and vitamins from food and natural sources as possible. The additional supplements I take outside of natural sources are omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and vitamin D, all of which most people are deficient in.

I never eat things which are starch-rich and will always choose nutrients over calories. One of my favourite books which really helped me understand this better was the Sirtfood Diet, which explains that nutrient-rich food such as greens, legumes and lean sources of protein not only fuel your body but also help it to recover. For breakfast I’ll have a bowl of nuts and fruit alongside an omelette, and for lunch I’ll try and have a portion of organic fish with plenty of spinach and kale. Dinner is usually a lean protein source as well as beans and legumes, combined with one or two turmeric shots throughout the day, of course!

I practise yoga regularly as well as Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation stretching to help maintain my performance. Recovery is another important factor, whether it’s from intense training or from a stressful day at work, and extends beyond nutrition. Cryotherapy has a massive impact on speed of recovery and also allows you to sleep better and is something which in-season I practise regularly. I was always very much reliant on traditional medicine to manage any illness and injury symptoms. It has been like a real awakening, understanding that natural remedies can support your body in so many ways. More importantly, it’s not just about presenting short-term fixes, but a sustained improvement in overall health.

The range of healthy turmeric shot drinks from The Turmeric Co is now available to buy from £3.50 per shot from Planet Organic, Whole Foods, BXR and KXU. To find out more, visit theturmeric.co

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