Exploring the Role of Diet and Nutrition in Injury Recovery

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There’s never a convenient time to be injured. The idea of being immobilized, limited, or in pain isn’t something anyone gets particularly excited about – but it happens! And when you do find yourself in a situation where you’re hurt, the focus should instantly shift to healing faster. There are plenty of ways to do this, but don’t underestimate the role of diet and nutrition.

Common Types of Injuries That Proper Nutrition Can Heal

 Injuries happen in every phase of life. Here are three common categories of injuries that can be treated, in part, by proper diet and nutrition:

  • Motor vehicle accidents. Vehicular accidents – particularly motorcycle accidents – can result in moderate to serious injuries. These range from lacerations and broken bones to spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Even in serious cases, proper diet and nutrition can reduce inflammation enough to create an environment that’s more conducive to healing.
  • Sports-related injuries. Common sports-related injuries include pulled muscles and tendons, joint inflammation, and broken bones. Because so many sports injuries involve soft tissue, proper diet and nutrition are paramount.
  • Repetitive stress injuries. Not all injuries occur in a definitive moment. Many are incurred as a result of repetitive processes and behaviors – like sitting at a desk hundreds of hours per year or putting continued stress on your shoulder by lifting heavy objects. Because these injuries often involve a high degree of inflammation, diet and nutrition are excellent tools for recovery.

 Diet alone may not help you heal from these injuries, but it’ll certainly accelerate the process. When combined with other forms of recovery – including medicine or physical therapy – superior results are expected.

 Four Diet and Nutrition Tips for a Speedy Recovery

 With all of the different food allergies, sensitivities, diets, and tastes that people have, it’s difficult to recommend a hard and fast diet for speedy recovery. Instead, feel free to apply the following principles to build a diet that works for you.

1.  Eat Anti-Inflammatory Fats

 Some inflammation in the body is good. In fact, it’s actually necessary in order to trigger the repair process. However, most people have way too much inflammation. This can cause excess damage, pain, and discomfort. It also slows down the healing process and can turn minor health issues into chronic health problems.

One of the keys to reducing inflammation is to eat as much anti-inflammatory foods as you can. In particular, try focusing on anti-inflammatory fats like avocados, mixed nuts, fish oil, and olive oil.

2. Reduce Intake of Pro-Inflammatory Foods

 At the same time, aim to reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory foods you consume on a daily basis. This includes highly processed foods (which are high in saturated fats), foods with trans fats (like burgers, cookies, chips, candy, etc.) and vegetable oils. For most people, this is the hardest part of the process. Since it’s easy to be tempted by the foods you have on hand, it may be best to purge your pantry and refrigerator and then go shopping for healthy alternatives. 

 3. Be Wary of Cutting Calories

 Because an injury sidelines you and forces you to stop working out or exercising, it’s tempting to assume that you should cut calories. However, this isn’t always the best strategy. Your body needs macro and micronutrients to heal – so you have to keep your caloric intake up. Furthermore, the process of healing actually boosts your metabolic rate, which means you need more calories to sustain.

 “Significant injuries [think: ACL tear, broken bone, things that’ll take you out for a few months] can absolutely require as many calories and nutrients as a hard workout,” nutritionist Dr. Anna Turner explains. “If you cut back drastically, narrowly focused only on avoiding weight gain, the healing process will indeed be hampered and the end goal – getting back on your feet – will be hindered.”

4. Eat Fresh

 The best rule of thumb is to eat a balanced diet that contains as much fresh produce as possible. A combination of different colored fruits and vegetables will serve you will. Lean meats and healthy fish are also fine (in moderation). Simply cutting back on processed foods and eating fresh will make you feel different right away.

 Proper Nutrition: A Lifelong Focus

 Don’t stop following these rules once you reach a full recovery. Even in a state of optimal health, it’s beneficial to reduce inflammation, consume less processed food, and eat more fresh produce. Let these habits carry over into your daily life and they’ll actually make you less injury prone in the future!

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