When a group of cells are damaged with surgery, injury or repetitive stress, proper nutrition has a profound effect on the speed of their recovery. Every cell in the human body requires proper nutrition to grow, divide and function properly. Our bodies are constantly replacing our cells as we live our lives. It is estimated that muscle cells are completely replaced with new muscle cells about every six months. This also occurs with bone, blood and other soft tissues. Without proper nutrition, this cycle does not function properly.
Damaged cells affected by an injury become hypoxic or lacking oxygen secondary to swelling in the surrounding tissues of that cell. Without oxygen the cell will die and need to be replaced. The new cells health will depend on your specific nutritional status at that time. Poor nutrition has also been linked to extended inflammatory processes in the body.
Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and mineral as well as water must be balanced correctly for optimum healing to take place. Each meal should contain 30% from Proteins, 30% from healthy fats, and 40% from complex carbohydrates. The daily caloric needs vary from person to person.
During the waking hours the body needs food about every four hours to maintain adequate glucose levels. It is recommended to eat 5 to 6 small meals a day. This is to prevent insulin surges, as they will disrupt the steady intake of nutrients to the healing tissues. Eating frequently and watching your protein to carb ratios can achieve this. (3 parts protein to 4 parts carbs are recommended)
Staying hydrated is another important component of providing a healthy environment for healing tissues. Muscle function is decreased by 30% with dehydration. If exercising over one hour, sports drinks such as Gatorade may be beneficial to replace lost electrolytes.
Healing Foods: “The Good”
- Whole Grains: wheat, corn, buckwheat, rye, millet, barley, whole grain breads, cereals, pancakes, muffins, brown rice, wheat germ or bran
- Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds: soybeans or soy products (tofu), black-eyed peas, lima beans, pinto beans, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, almonds, chestnuts, walnuts
- Vegetables: spinach, collard greens, arugula lettuce, kale, watercress, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, yams, carrots, onions, garlic, cabbage, winter squash
- Vegetable oils: extra virgin olive oil
- Fruits: all fresh fruits, dried figs, raisons, dates, prunes and apricots.
- Dairy: skim or low-fat milk
- Animal Proteins: fish (cold water preferred), salmon, mackerel, sardines, non-processed chicken, turkey and eggs
- Sweetener: Honey
Foods to Avoid: “The Bad”
- Red and Processed Meats: These release bad prostaglandins which can elevate the inflammatory process
- Cheese, Butter, Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, Hydrogenated vegetable oils, White flour products
- High Fructose Corn Syrups: Avoid all processed or refined sugars as they can cause abrupt insulin surges. Use honey instead.
- Caffeine: Simulates muscle tension and is a diuretic which can cause us to urinate important nutrients before the body can use them
- Alcohol: Dehydrates our system, limit to two drinks per day, Red wine is better
Vitamins and Minerals In Rehabilitation
Healing cells also require various minerals and vitamins to develop quickly and perform at an optimum level. It is best to get these nutrients through a healthy diet, but when the body is healing from a surgery or injury, supplemental vitamins can expedite the process. Like food, the body can only absorb nutrients at a specific rate. If not absorbed, the remaining minerals will be filtered and passed through the urinary system. Do not drink caffeine within thirty minutes of taking a supplement or they will not be absorbed and passed through the urinary system. To maximize uptake from the body, it is recommended to take no more than 500-600mg of one vitamin or supplement at one time. It is better to spread them out through the day. Thus, a one-time daily multivitamin may not fulfill your body’s daily needs.
Vitamin C: (Muscle and Tendon strains) Best to get through fruits and vegetables, essential for soft tissue healing Recommended dose of 1-3 grams (1000 through 3000mg per day)
B-Complex Vitamins: B6 Prevents muscle cramps, improves nerve function, and regulates fluid levels. No limit on dosage.
Calcium: (Fractures, Rotator Cuff Repairs, ACL reconstruction, Total joint replacements, muscle and tendon injuries) Important for mm, nerve, and bone function. Recommended dosages: 1500 mg/per day for females, 1200 mg/per day for males or females on hormone replacement therapy.
Vitamin D: Aids in calcium uptake in the body. Recommended dosage: 1200 mg/day
Other Beneficial Supplements for Rehabilitation
Dietary supplements have become a multi-million dollar business in the USA. Many of them have little to no scientific support to back them. The following list has had the most research regarding their potential use for therapeutic benefit.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin: (Osteoarthritis and Osteochondral Injuries) In theory, glucosamine helps to prevent the breakdown of cartilage as they produce cartilage-building proteins. Chondroitin is thought to aid in fighting inflammation and in inhibiting the production of cartilage destroying enzymes. Consumer Reports recommends Kirkland Signature (Costco), Spring Valley (Wal-Mart) and Target Triple Strength brands. Expensive brands bought at nutrition stores often add other supplements to their products that have little to no medical backing. These should not be taken with shellfish allergies or if you have a clotting disorder.
Avocado/Soybean Oils: These may reduce the needs for painkillers to treat osteoarthritis in the hips but not the knees. The oils have protected joint cartilage in animal research.
Ginger: May have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
MSM: A compound containing sulfur. May decrease pain and swelling as well as improve joint function.
Repetitive Strain Injuries: The Complete Guide to Alternative Treatment and Prevention Jameson,Timothy J, 1998
Consumer Reports, June 2006
*****These are nutritional guidelines. Physio Pro, P.C. are not registered dieticians. Please consult your physician before changing or beginning a new diet. *****