The Healing Power of Nutrition

This article discusses the benefits of a plant heavy whole food diet in healing from injury and overall health.
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When healing from injury, you may consider physical rehabilitation and rest as the key components needed for a full recovery. While these are definitely important, what you choose to eat each day may make or break your healing powers.

Eating a whole food diet is essential for providing your body with the resources it needs to reduce inflammation, heal faster, and feel better.  Whole food is simply real food – unprocessed.

It’s tempting to “treat yourself” when you’re laid up during recovery, but read the labels before indulging.  Processed food often lacks nutrients and contains additives such as high fructose corn syrup, sodium or preservatives which may contribute to oxidative stress – not ideal during the recovery process.

The Role of Inflammation in Injury Recovery

When the body is injured, inflammation plays a major role in aiding the healing process by alerting your immune system. But too much for too long can be detrimental to your overall health and put you at risk for chronic illness and pain, not to mention slowing down the recovery process.    To help manage inflammation you need to give your body what it needs to recover and thrive.  

If you struggled with symptoms of chronic inflammation (pain, depression, frequent infections…) before your injury, it may benefit to do a little detox when you’re up to it (possible medically guided) in addition to purging your refrigerator and cabinets of tempting treats. Set yourself up for success as you begin your healing journey.

Ironically, the pain meds you were prescribed may interfere with digestive motility contributing to a vicious inflammatory cycle. It’s worth exploring how to manage inflammation and even reduce pain, naturally, even if you still need to take meds.

Foods that Nourish Your Body

Eating a whole food diet rich in vitamins and minerals will provide your body with the nutritional building blocks (including antioxidants and fiber) it needs to heal quickly and efficiently while also reducing inflammation.

Foods like fruits, vegetables, (legumes), nuts, seeds, (fish) and plant based-proteins are all excellent sources of vital nutrients that help nourish your body during injury recovery.

I put legumes and fish in parentheses because I am aware of the different schools of thought on what triggers inflammation.

Beans have been criticized for causing inflammation because, if not prepared properly, they may be more difficult to digest.

Fish has been part of the Mediterranean diet for centuries, but not all fish is alike. Some fish have higher levels of mercury, and some feel farm raised fish are more subject to contamination. These things could make what is generally considered healthy, unhealthy.

Take care to read the labels on your meats as well. Store-bought chicken may be injected with sodium or other additives. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to reduce inflammation, but try to use discretion in what you eat and the source (at least most of the time).

The most foolproof way to limit inflammation and oxidative stress, according to research, is to stick to a variety of plants and non-processed foods. 

The Benefits of Good Nutrition for Injury Recovery

Good nutrition isn’t just about maintaining a healthy weight; it’s also about giving your body what it needs to heal from injury more quickly and effectively than if you weren’t eating well-rounded meals or snacks packed with vitamins and minerals.

A nutrient-dense diet is essential in order to rebuild damaged tissues — nutrients like Magnesium, vitamin C, Zinc and Omega 3 fatty acids are especially needed during recovery. You can get these nutrients naturally from foods like nuts and seeds, leafy greens, and good ole sunlight! (If you want a pdf of natural sources of these nutrients, just message me.)

When you eat well, you feel well. The most straight forward way to eat well is to consume food that doesn’t have to list ingredients. What you see is what you get. 

Summary

When recovering from injury, good nutrition is just as important as physical therapy or restful sleep. In fact, consider all areas of health including mental health, emotional health and spiritual health. Being gimpy is no fun and it will mess with your mood and outlook if you let it.

Take advantage of your down time and consider what you need in order to feel well. This may include tending to self-care needs, reading a good book, nurturing friendships, or planning something you can look forward to when you recover. Eating a nurturing whole food diet should be part of the “I will take care of myself in order to heal” mindset.

If you want motivation or guidance, reach out. I’m happy to share recipes, support, or ideas to get you started. The effort you take to nurture yourself now will undoubtedly pay off later when your body starts to thank you. 

Try it!

References

      1. Nutrients | Health Benefits of Plant-Based Nutrition: Focus on Beans in Cardiometabolic Diseases by Amy P. Mullins and Bahram H. Arjmandi
      2. Nutrients | Rehabilitation Nutrition for Injury Recovery of Athletes: The Role of Macronutrient Intake by Sousana K. Papadopoulou
      3. NAL | Nutrient Lists from Standard Reference Legacy (2018)
      4. Biomedicines | Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Diet: Role in Healthy Aging by Kristine Stromsnes, Angela G. Correas, […], and Gloria Olaso-Gonzalez
      5. UMKC School of Medicine | A Look at Plant-Based Diets by Julia Clem and Brandon Barthel
      6. BMJ | Food Based Dietary Patterns and Chronic Disease Prevention by Matthias B Schulze, Miguel A Martínez-González, Teresa T Fung, Alice H Lichtenstein, Nita G Forouhi
      7. Toxics | Levels of Mercury, Methylmercury and Selenium in Fish: Insights into Children Food Safety by Grazia Barone, Arianna Storelli, […], and Maria Maddalena Storelli

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