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Food for Thought…and Injury

Injuries happen. It is one of those things in life that is inevitable.

You could be a football player who tears his ACL during a practice, OR you could be corporate employee who blows his ankle out going up the stairs while headed in the office.

It happens.

Now, the obvious thing to do is get the injury medically treated as fast as possible.

You have probably heard of the term R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)?

This strategy is put in place to help the affected area heal more quickly.

Your doctor might give you some meds to take to reduce inflammation depending on how severe the injury, but in the end its about taking measures to ensure that you heal as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But have you ever thought if you should be eating different when overcoming an injury?

One overlooked component to speeding up the healing process of an injury is your diet.

Nutrients play a critical role at the cellular level, and at a point and time where new cells are being formed to help repair damaged tissues, muscles, or ligaments, the production quality of those cells can make a difference in the healing process.

The vitamins, minerals, and proteins from food will help deliver and enhance healing.

With that said, there are 6 things to remember when recovering from an injury, but before delving in, here are 3 stages that happen within the body when an injury occurs:

Step 1: Inflammation.

This is stimulated by the increase of movement of inflammatory and immune chemicals into the injured areas. It is the first step in the process for removing damaged cells. This is the part of the injury process where swelling, pain, redness, and even heat to the affected area occur.

Step 2: Proliferation

In this stage, most of the damaged tissues and cells will have been removed from the injury site, and new blood vessels have developed.

This allows oxygen and nutrients to start getting through again, while proteins like fibroblasts and collagen are laid down to develop new tissues (scar tissue).

The scar tissue will contract and shorten as time goes, ultimately reducing the size of the injury.

Step 3: Remodeling

In this stage, old collagen is slowly removed, new collagen begins to get laid down in its place becoming a permanent part of the new structure.

It’s important to highlight what happens during an injury so you can get a better understanding of what happens at a cellular level and understand that WHAT and HOW you eat can affect it.

Proper eating supports:

-Inflammation control

-Immune function

-Repair and rebuilding

Here are 6 nutritional steps you can take if you are going through a significant injury that will help you heal more efficiently, potentially faster, and come back stronger than before.

1.) Delay taking pain relievers (unless otherwise directed) for 3-5 days after an injury and avoid anti-inflammatories for the first 1-2 days. Medicines like Advil, Ibuprofen, Tylenol and other anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce pain and swelling, but also slow down healing.

2.) Eat more anti-inflammatory fats. The fat can influence recovery and help manage inflammation. Naturally occurring fats like Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flax, chia, hemp are the most ideal place

3.) Reduce processed carbohydrates. Refined carbs and sugars can increase inflammation and slow down the healing process.

4.) Increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Eat 1-2 servings of each at every meal. Aim for fruits and veggies that are rich in Vitamins A (carrots, sweet potato spinach), Vitamin C (broccoli, oranges, berries, bell pepper), Zinc (mushrooms, spinach, baked beans). Fruits and veggies contain the nutrients that will ultimately get delivered to the new tissues.

5.)Increase protein. Make a super shake to help you get more if you can’t or don’t have the necessary time to prepare the foods that contain it. Make sure if you use a protein powder, that it is high quality and well researched. Here is what I recommend.

6.) Take a multivitamin and mineral support that contains Vitamins A, D, C, copper, and zinc. The Vitamin A supports early inflammation during injury, helps reverse post-injury immune suppression, and aids in collagen formation. Studies have shown that collagen cross linkage is stronger with Vitamin A supplementation and repair is quicker.

As you can see, treating an injury is more than about rest and icing the area (even though it certainly helps if needed). What you eat plays an important role in the healing process, even to the point that if not done well, can slow the process down.

Solid nutrition practice will help not only if you are injury free and need want to be healthy, but also when you are overcoming injury. So parallel to the medical treatment that you undergo for your injury, whether just a small band aid, or a cast post-surgery, make sure to take the nutritional measures necessary to help you come back even stronger.

And if you feel like you aren’t getting the nutrients necessary, or struggle with eating your fruits and vegetables like you should, let’s hop on a short call and see how we can help.