In order to best understand how Nutrition can help to speed recovery and healing, it's imperative to understand how your body actually responds to injury and the processes that take place thereafter.
In any injury, there is generally a three-stage recovery process made up of inflammation, proliferation and remodelling. Let's look closer at each stage, identify exactly what's happening, and explore how you could harness the power of your diet to optimise your recovery.
During this stage, pain, redness, swelling and heat feature. There is an influx of chemicals which arrive at the injured site and start the healing cascade. Whilst inflammation is a critical process which triggers the repair process, too much inflammation can cause further damage. Nutritional tips for this phase include consumption of foods which have anti-inflammatory properties and avoiding pro-inflammatory foods.
- Consume essential Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Found in Avocados, Fish oil, Flax seeds, Salmon and mackerel, mixed nuts and seeds. These all have natural anti-inflammatory properties.
- Consume leafy green vegetables: Many greens contain vitamin C, E and zinc, all potent anti-oxidants which help limit inflammation. Think broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, and green herbs like mint and parsley.
- Reduce pro-inflammatory foods: processed foods high in sugar, saturated fats and trans fats (red meat, biscuits, cakes, cookies, fizzy drinks etc).
Proliferation and Re-Modelling
During the proliferation phase, damaged tissues are removed, new blood supply is formed and temporary tissue is built. In remodelling, stronger and more permanent tissue replaces the temporary tissue and this process can take time (months, and in the case of bone healing, years). This is a very dynamic part of recovery with lots of rebuilding. Nutritional tips for this phase include:
- Consuming adequate protein - protein is the building block of muscle and we are dependent on this for repairing and replacing damaged or worn-out cells. Good sources include eggs, fish, poultry, oats, brown rice, beans, lentils and quinoa.
- Eat the rainbow! Consuming a diverse range of naturally coloured fruit and vegetables ensures you are receiving a good supply of vitamins and minerals, which is really important during this phase of recovery. Think red, yellow and orange coloured fruits and veg, dark skinned berries and citrus fruits.
- Consuming enough carbohydrate, which is minimally processed, like whole oats, whole grain rice and pasta.
Don't forget that a huge proportion of your immune system is located in your gut - home to trillions of bacteria essential to your health. Keeping these bacteria healthy and balanced is essential to supporting your immunity. You can do this by consuming a range of fermented foods (yoghurt, kefir, kombucha) and prebiotics (onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes).