Injury recovery, nutrition

Nutrition For Injury Recovery

By Bryan Carroll CFMP, NTP, FAFS

June 10, 2016

Injuries happen. It could be from anything, such as playing a sport, tripping, surgery, or aging. What we don't want is for the injury to keep us out of the game for a long time. One of the key pieces to injury recovery is the nutrition you supply to your body and the injured site during the healing process!

Stages After Injury

When your body goes through an injury, typically there are three healing stages: Inflammation, Proliferation, and Remodeling.

Inflammation Stage

This is the stage directly after the onset of injury. When an injury occurs, your body naturally inflames the area. This is to bring in the defense system of the body and to trap any damaging agents from releasing to the rest of the body. Inflammation is very important in the initial stages of injury because it sets up the body to repair later on, however too much inflammation is an issue to avoid. Always make sure that you create movement within the injured site to remove the stagnant fluids and to bring in a fresh supply of nutrients. This can be done by actively moving the injured area, or by using a hot/cold compress (try 90 seconds heat, 3 minutes ice for 3 rounds).

Proliferation Stage

The stage is all about preparing the body for the big rebuild. The damaged tissues are removed, and the site of injury will receive new blood supply. Temporary (scar) tissue starts to build to help with the injury recovery. It is important to keep the scar tissue pliable and not let it harden as this can restrict motion and blood flow through the area at a later stage.

Remodeling Stage

As the inflammation dies down and more nutrients enter into the area of trauma, the body starts to remodel the surrounding tissue until all damaged tissues are fully repaired. This can take weeks to years depending on the severity of the injury, if the person rests and lets the tissue heal or if they keep repeating the trauma to the site, and the correct nutrients that have been laid down on the site. The tissue repaired is the permanent fix and is typically represented by a scar (can be seen on the surface or under the surface of the skin).

Nutritional Needs for Each Stage of Injury Recovery

At each point in the recovery, essential nutrients are needed to heal the tissues and support the body in the repair process. Listed below are needed nutrients for each stage:

Nutrients Needed for Inflammation Stage

At this stage, the key is to utilize foods that are anti-inflammatory. There are specific foods that you can use that are anti-inflammatory by themselves, but also at this stage you want to remove any foods that cause any digestive disturbances. Foods that cause digestive disturbance in the body are creating a systemic inflammatory response which results in slower healing to injured sites.

Anti-Inflammatory Food

  • Omega 3 Foods (Fish oil, Flax seed, Walnuts)
  • Omega 6 Foods (Black Currant seed oil, Evening Primrose oil, Borage oil, Olive oil)
  • Avocados
  • Fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines)
  • Mixed Nuts and Seeds
  • Pineapple

Anti-inflammatory foods

Other Nutritional Considerations for the Inflammation Stage

  • Bone Broth or Collagen Peptides– This is a huge key aspect to strengthening the connective tissue around the injured site. This will set the stage for the repair process to have the necessary nutrients to lay down nice tissue that will be elastric and durable for the future.
  • Berries– Contain antioxidants which help to remove free-radicals that build up in the body when injured.
  •  Turmeric– This is a powerful herb that contains over 2 dozen anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Reducing processed carbs/sugars– These types of foods typically increase systemic (whole body) inflammation, therefore should be avoided at all costs.

Nutrients Needed for Proliferation and Remodeling Stages

These stages are very similar since they both are rebuilding the tissues. Therefore, the fueling process for recovery is very similar. Extra energy is needed for the body to rebuild, so food intake should be increased slightly.

  • Healthy Proteins and Fats (grassfed meat, pasture raised eggs, grassfed butter, coconut oil)
  • Collagen/Gelatin/Bone Broth– I use my Vital Proteins Collagen for strong connective tissue growth. It also has a fantastic amino acid profile!
  • Adequate Vitamin C– This is needed to build healthy collagen. Foods include citrus foods (especially the peels), Camu Camu, Amla, Leafy Greens.
  • Vitamin A, D, and K– These are all needed for proper bone restructuring, tissue formation, healthy cells, and to restore immune function. Best sources are animal liver, eggs, and fresh butter.
  • Zinc– This plays a huge role in your immune system, in tissue and wound recovery, and hormone balancing. These can be found in foods such as: red meat, oysters, pumpkin seeds, and shrimp.
  • Root Vegetables– These are extremely important for the liver to actually process and break down fats. Root Vegetables (especially beets) are extremely helpful in detoxifying the liver.
  • Hydration– Water is needed for every process in the body! Make sure you are getting plenty of fluids into your system.

remodeling stage

Utilizing Proper Nutrition For Injury Recovery

For some people, the thought of using fats to help the recovery process is unheard of. This is because we have been fearful of fats for about 30 years now. Fats are excellent for the body as long as they are coming from good sources (grassfed, pasture raised, cold pressed). Fat contains many nutrients the body needs to support itself, but also fat can store toxins (which is why it is important to make sure it is coming from a good source). Every cell membrane (the outer layer of a cell) is made up of fat, which means fat is needed to keep the cells healthy and fat allows nutrients to enter the cell.

Before starting to dose yourself with the good quality foods and fats mentioned in this article, please use root vegetables (especially beets) to help clear the liver so you can process the foods easier. If you do not have consistent bowels (meaning you struggle with constipation), increase water and fiber intake. You may need to drink a mixture of:1 cup water, 2 tbsp psyllium husk, tbsp flax seed, 2tbsp chia seeds. For extreme cases of constipation, please contact me before proceeding with any dietary changes.

Have you struggled with recovering from an injury before? What kind of nutrients did you use to help speed your injury recovery? Answer below in the comments!

About the author

Bryan Carroll CFMP, NTP, FAFS

Bryan Carroll is a certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and Movement Therapist who helps the outdoors community to reduce injuries and improve their health so they can get back to exploring nature. His big health crisis from mold exposure taught him the importance of finding the root causes to illnesses so you can take back control of your life. He is also the host of the Summit For Wellness Podcast.

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