When recovering from an injury, healing is a complete body process. So to only deal with the musculo-skeletal component of the injury neglects one of the key factors in determining how fast or slow the recovery process will be. Nutrition is key to ensuring that all the systems working together towards “health” are functioning as efficiently as possible. Say you have a car and you neglect to change the oil, fail to put in the required grade of gasoline, or disregard the engine light when it comes on, but you are really diligent about making sure the car is waxed each week, the tires remain in good shape, and the car is covered at night and in bad weather. Then what are you left with? A care that looks nice but is always at the mechanics having problems and doesn’t feel right when you are driving it. Our bodies rely on the fuel we give them to properly operate the systems we need to heal. If we give them junk, they will perform like junk and will constantly be breaking down. This is especially important when we are injured. When an injury occurs, the body’s response is to flush scar tissue and inflammation to the area. Scar tissue binds up the injured area and inflammation protects the area while initiating the healing response by breaking down damaged tissue. Too much of either one though and additional problems may occur. I will talk about too much scar tissue in the next part of this topic, but for now I will address the inflammation aspect. Inflammation is not necessarily bad, as it is our body’s first line of defense against invading bacteria. But, when too much inflammation occurs as a response to injury, healthy tissue can soon become a target. So controlling the inflammatory response, can help accelerate the healing process by preserving the healthy tissue that remains at the site of injury. Classic ways to do this are ice, elevation, and range of motion exercises (passive, active, and isometric contractions), which acts as a pump to rid the area of excess. Nutrition, however, can also play a strong role in controlling the inflammatory response. A number of foods help fight against inflammation, yet there are also foods that can promote its production. Foods that fight the inflammatory response include: fish (such as salmon, tuna, cod, halibut, bass, trout), nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, flax seed, sunflower seeds), fruits (such as berries, tomatoes, avocados, kiwi, guava, papaya, cherries), green leafy vegetables (like broccoli, spinach, green beans, broccoli sprouts, alfalfa, garlic, cauliflower), spices (like basil, rosemary, parsley, oregano), and some oils ( like avocado oil and olive oil, not heated). Foods that promote inflammation and are wise to avoid when acutely injured include pasteurized dairy products, caffeine, refined sugars (white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup), red meats, common table salt (best to opt for unprocessed sea salt anyways), alcohol, processed foods, MSG, and artificial sweeteners. Following some of these dietary modifications when injured will help put your body in the best position to heal.
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