Surgery and physiotherapy aren’t the only solutions for injury. Adapting your diet can help support a quicker recovery too.
How Our Body Reacts to Injury
Any injury can lead to inflammation. However, it is a crucial part of the natural healing; it provides a big challenge for our immune system, which is heavily dependent on lots of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to provide adequate protection.
When injured, the body triggers the immune system to start a complex chain of reactions to start the healing process. Specialist immune cells travel to the injury site, with some destroying infection and engulfing /bacteria and others isolating the affected place.
Healthy cells near the injury place also become more active, using extra energy and oxygen to rebuild the damaged tissue. So good nutrition is vital.
Your food choices can either actively inhibit or help a speedy recovery, so read on to find out how you can help yourself with these Nutrients for Wound Healing:
How Your Diet Can Help
1. Boost your friendly gut flora
Did you know around 70% of your immune system is located in the flora (beneficial bacteria) in your gut? You can actively help yourself heal more effectively by ensuring adequate levels are maintained, so they can continue to protect you by producing vitamin K and white blood cells for effective wound healing.
Ensure regular supply of foods that have:
a) Prebiotics (an excellent source of fuel for this flora)
Found in: onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes
b) Fermented foods containing live cultures
Found in: sauerkraut (great added to salads), chickpeas, plain bio yogurt
c) High-fiber foods
Such as flaxseed, oats, apples, and barley.
2. Keep up your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is a hormone that supports regulate various critical health processes in the body – regulating your friendly gut flora is one of its crucial roles. Our bodies can produce vitamin D but require regular sources of sunlight to do so. Having deficient sunlight for much of the year, many struggle to maintain sufficient vitamin D(1).
Ask your physician to check your vitamin D levels. There are few dietary sources, so if your levels are found to be low, your physician may recommend a high-quality supplement (liquid versions tend to be well absorbed). Or seek advice from a professional Nutritional Therapist to advise on the most effective evidence-based supplements.
Found in: oily fish and egg yolks
3. Top up on essential fatty acids
Omega 3s provide well-evidenced natural anti-inflammatory properties. Reducing red meat and dairy consumption can also help mediate inflammation as these foods are high in arachidonic acid – which at greater levels have been proven to spur inflammation.
Found in: avocados, oily fish, seeds and nuts, and green leafy vegetables
4. Cut down on sugar
Sugary drinks and foods promote inflammation – as blood sugar levels increase, so do inflammatory factors. Sugar also depletes levels of crucial immune vitamins such as zinc and vitamin C. So, if you want to reach for sugary snacks, opt protein-based snacks instead.
Sugar alternatives: ½ avocado with hummus or oatcakes with tuna (protein doesn’t spike blood sugar levels).
[Read: Foods that curb Sugar Cravings]
5. Eat your greens
Including your diet full of green leafy vegetables is another way to help yourself. Most greens contain vitamin E, vitamin C, and zinc – all potent antioxidants that help inhibit inflammation and reduce free radicals (toxic waste products produced where inflammation is present).
Good sources: broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and kale and green herbs such as mint and parsley
Rainbow of vegetables
6. Eat every color
The vibrant colors found in fruit and vegetables are due to their vitamin and mineral content, so including a wide range of naturally colorful fruit and vegetables in your diet ensures you’re receiving an adequate supply.
Red, yellow and orange colors found in peppers, tomatoes, apricots, and squash are good sources of beta-carotene (which we convert to vitamin A). Vitamin C and Flavonoids (potent antioxidants) are found in dark-skinned berries (especially elderberries and wild blueberries), kiwis, and citrus fruits. Selenium-dense foods such as brazil nuts help decrease stress factors and decrease inflammatory prostaglandins in the body.
7. Eat protein for recovery
We are dependent and physically built of protein to replace and repair worn-out and damaged cells, so ensure every meal includes easily digestible sources.
Good sources: eggs, fish, poultry (free-range if possible for lower levels of saturated fat and better quality protein ), brown rice, oats, lentils, beans, and quinoa.
8. Watch the wheat
It can be easy to consume excessive wheat on a typical day. As well as gluten being hard to digest protein, wheat also contains lectins, which can help stimulate inflammation. Go for gluten-free natural grains as an alternative.
Wheat alternatives: buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and amaranth
Some well-researched anti-inflammatories to get into your diet are:
Fresh coconut (raw chunks, coconut butter, and coconut water )
Turmeric, which can be added to stews, soups, smoothies and when cooking vegetables/grains)
Ginger (clean but don’t peel when using; otherwise, you’ll lose some of its advantages).
Give your loved one (or yourself ) the best possible chance for an uneventful and speedy recovery from surgery by stocking up on nature’s best medicines: food. The types of food you take will vary depending on the medications you are on and your surgery and so talk to your physician about your post-surgery diet.
But no matter your restrictions, this list of foods will benefit you in multiple ways: these foods will decrease infections, speed up the healing process and increase your strength and energy.