You may have heard that we are what we eat, and this statement aptly describes the nutritional needs of the body during the rehab process of healing pain, injury or weakness. No matter the type of injury you are treating, nutrition plays a crucial role in the healing and rehabilitation process, although we seldom give it the attention it deserves. Your body deserves the chance to unlock it’s natural healing power and nutrition is a great place to start.
When a person sustains a sports-related injury or has a condition such as osteoarthritis, the body enters a state of catabolism, which means that it breaks down tissues faster than they are being formed. With proper nutrition, the body can be eased back into a state of anabolism in which tissue repair and formation is significantly improved. The body’s energy and nutritional needs increase sharply after sustaining an injury to support the healing process and you can enhance the process by eating the right foods in the right proportion. The body’s basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy it requires while in a state of rest also increases by as much as 15-20 percent following a sports injury or minor surgery, thus nutrition is highly important as a fuel and an aid to the recovery process.
Which nutrients are most important for healing?
After water, protein is most abundant substance in our body and responsible for cell formation and repair, which is why it is crucial to the healing process. According to dietary guidelines, an average adult should consume an average of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight a day. But during the treatment of an injury or post-surgical recovery, the protein requirement increases to 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. There are specific amino acids which can help to promote the process of healing including arginine and glutamine which are available in the form of supplements.
Fat is also an important nutrient for the healing process. Even though the diet industry has made fat a scapegoat for many health woes, fat plays a critical role in the recovery process when the right type is consumed. Unsaturated fats such as omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and can have the same effects as ibuprofen on the body. Foods rich in omega-3 include fish, fish oil, seeds, olive oil, nuts, etc. Omega-6 fats promote inflammation and should be avoided during the healing process or reduced. Omega-6 can be found in mayonnaise, canola, soy, sunflower, and grapeseed. To increase your rate of healing, experts recommend eating more of omega-3 while omega-6 should be reduced in the diet.
Try incorporating these foods into your anti-inflammatory diet:
- Dark leafy greens (kale and spinach)
- Blueberries, blackberries, and cherries
- Dark red grapes
- Nutrition-dense vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower)
- Beans and lentils
- Green tea
- Avocado and coconut
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, and almonds
- Cold water fish, (salmon and sardines)
- Turmeric and cinnamon
- Dark chocolate
- Spices and herbs
While there are no particular recommendations on the consumption of carbs during the healing process, it is crucial to avoid eating refined and processed carbohydrates such as white flour, candy, cookies, and cakes. This is because processed carbohydrates promote total inflammation of the body, which is detrimental to the healing process. Processed carbs also deprive your body of minerals and vitamins which are used up to break it down, but your body needs these nutrients at this critical period of the healing process.
- Processed meats
- Sugary drinks
- Fried foods
- White bread
- White pasta
- Soybean oil and vegetable oil
- Processed snack foods (chips and crackers)
- Desserts, (cookies, candy, and ice cream)
- Excess alcohol
Food is an essential part of the recovery stage, and your diet choices could reduce or increase your healing time. When you eat foods that promote healing, you are helping your body regain its full function within the shortest time possible.
At Lilly Physical Therapy, we treat the whole person, not just the symptoms. Therefore, we will help you get on a proper nutrition regimen based on your specific treatment plan. If you want to get better fast, call us at (425) 224-2476 to get a $79 discovery exam special for a limited time only!