At some point in your life, you are going to deal with an injury. If you are lucky, it will be minor and not limit you much at all.
The other side of that coin is you suffer a more severe injury or you get injured regularly and just seem to find ways to hurt yourself as if it was your part-time job. It’s like you have one of those rain clouds following you around everywhere.
So, should you eat differently when you are recovering from an injury? Possibly. I guess differently depends on where you are starting from. But, in most cases, the answer is probably going to be ‘yes’.
Who knows? Maybe changing how you eat while you are recovering can be the thing that jump starts you changing your eating behaviors and habits for good.
Even if you cannot add all of these - and in reality, you probably don’t need to do all of them - some of these may help move things along in your favor.
Don’t forget about the other source of inflammation.
One of the first steps in dealing with an injury is to reduce or eliminate the irritating factors that are causing the pain. Failure to make these necessary changes will limit the effectiveness of any nutritional interventions you may try.
Making changes to your nutrition while injured is a great idea but it won’t matter unless you are also following a good rehab plan. If you are beating the bag out of yourself then it will not matter how much omega-3’s you consume. Capiche?
Get to know the three phases of healing.
From the smallest scratch to the most invasive surgery, your body will go through three phases of healing:
Good news, I am going to spare you all the boring details of each phase and all the info on the different substances that are working during the phases. Do you really care about cytokines and histamines? I am guessing you do not.
The duration of each phase is directly linked to the severity of the injury. If the injury is severe enough, the remodeling phase can last up to a year.
Before we dive into the nutrition part, I wanted to share something about scar tissue as it pertains to rehab.
When scar tissue is initially laid down, it is done so in a more random pattern. Over time, it will align with the forces placed upon it. This is why proper rehab and range of motion is critical while the body is healing.
You need to move to stress the tissues enough but not too much. Too little causes the tissues to tighten and you lose function. Too much motion and you can re-injure the area.
The key is to maintain and then improve mobility without increasing inflammation.
What can you do?
During this process of injury recovery, good nutrition has three purposes:
1. Manage inflammation
2. Support immune function
3. Support repair into rebuilding
Disclaimer: Follow the advice of your doctor or whoever is overseeing your rehab or recovery. This information is not meant to take the place of instructions you are currently following.
This information can be considered but should be discussed with any clinicians involved in your care.
Here are some other approaches for you to consider:
Limit pain relievers to 3 to 5 days after injury, and consider avoiding anti-inflammatory medications for the first 24 to 48 hours. Tylenol, Advil, and NSAIDs can reduce pain and swelling. But taking them too long can slow healing.
Eat enough total food. Now is not the time to restrict your intake. Adequate nutrients are critical during injury recovery. Indeed, metabolic rate can increase during this time. Follow appetite cues as much as possible, but be aware that some people may need to eat on a regular schedule if injury has compromised their appetite.
Eat more anti-inflammatory fats. Fat can influence recovery and help moderate inflammation. Look for naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids in particular – oily fish, flax, chia, hemp seeds (as well as mono unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, etc.)
Minimize processed carbohydrates. This is good advice on any day of the week but especially important when rehabbing or recovering from injury. Too many refined carbohydrates and added sugars may increase inflammation. Aim for no more than one serving per day.
Drink 2 to 3 cups of green tea daily.
Eat at least 1 to 2 fist size servings of vegetables at each meal, and 1 to 2 handfuls of fruit at most meals, emphasizing some of the following:
Foods rich in vitamin C and flavonoids: guava, red bell pepper, broccoli, green bell peppers, grapefruit, kohlrabi, papaya, brussel sprouts, kiwi, mango, oranges, pineapple, berries.
Foods rich in vitamin A and flavonoids: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, collards, kale, watercress, beets, winter squash, tomatoes, dried apricots, mango.
Foods rich in zinc and flavonoids: mushrooms, spinach, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, green peas, baked beans, cashews, whole grains, wheat germ, cocoa.
Foods rich in copper and flavonoids: mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, barley, soybeans, tempeh, sunflower seeds, navy beans, garbanzo beans, cashews, molasses, dark chocolate, cocoa powder.
Consider a protein shake/smoothie. Extra protein will help with healing, and it’s easy to consume form of good nutrition. It’s also an easy way to get in those veggies, fruits and healthy fats from above. As an added bonus, it minimizes meal prep for that meal. Meal prep kinda sucks but it is way worse when you are injured.
Fill in the gaps.
Supplementation for 4 to 8 weeks after injury. Real food is the best, but sometimes supplements can help fill in the gaps. Make sure to check with your doctor to make sure these don’t conflict with any medications:
5 to 10 g of fish oil – or 1 g of algae oil – daily
A multivitamin and mineral supplement – make sure it includes vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A, copper, zinc
5 g of Creatine monohydrate daily.
Tumeric has long been used as an anti-inflammatory agent in and wound healing. Current research shows that the active ingredient, curcumin, is responsible for some of the benefits of tumeric. While adding tumeric to food every day is a good strategy, using 400 to 600 mg of supplemental tumeric extract three times per day – or as described on the product label – it’s probably more manageable for most people. Make sure to get a curcumin supplement that also includes piperine- Or is made up of curcumin phytosome – which makes it more bioavailable.
Garlic has been shown to inhibit the activity of the inflammatory enzymes cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase and affect macrophage function. Raw garlic is fine, but clients may need garlic extracts for more measurable anti-inflammatory effects. Typically recommended dosing is 2 to 4 g of whole garlic clove each day Dash each clove is 1 g – or 600 to 1200 mg of supplemental aged garlic extract.
Bromelain is another anti-inflammatory plant extract from pineapple. While best known for its digestive properties, bromelain is an excellent anti-inflammatory and analgesic compound although it’s mechanisms of action is poorly understood. Typically bromelain is given in doses of 500 to 1000 mg per day for the management of inflammation.
Make sure you have a plan.
Having a solid approach to your nutrition is critical. Making sure you are eating to support your recovery from injury is, in many way, more important.
If your eating habits are a work-in-progress, let rehabbing your body be the jumping off point to get you back on track.
If you are dealing with some injuries and DO NOT know where to start with nutrition or rehabbing the injury then we need to talk.
Click the link below so we can get in touch and I can help you get back to living your life to the fullest.
Until next time,
The 7 Day Strength and Mobility Reboot can get you started on your journey to getting out of pain. If you have not downloaded your copy yet, what are you waiting for? It is a kick ass FREE guide.
Berardi J, Andrews, R, St. Pierre B, Scott-Dixon K, Kollias H, DePutter C. Essentials of Sports and Exercise Nutrition. 3rd ed.