Eating for Recovery
What does eating for recovery even mean? Let me set the scene for you. You have just been in a vehicle accident or maybe you fell on some ice causing bodily harm or maybe you have a recurring pain in your knee. Your muscles are screaming at you in pain, your arm has been fractured, or you have a headache and are on the way to see a medical professional. You have been to the doctor to confirm the extent of your injuries and have been referred on to other specialists to help in your rehabilitation such as a physiotherapist…but what else can you do? Make sure you’re eating the right nutrients for recovery, of course!
Proper nutrition is a key puzzle piece for effective rehabilitation and can help you move on to an efficient recovery path. This may sound simple enough, but often, nutrition takes a back burner to a life full of hectic rehabilitation schedules, physical discomfort, fatigue, stress, and daily tasks. This interference with proper nutrition behaviour can reduce physical strength and the body’s ability to repair itself, which in turn can hinder other rehabilitation efforts. It acts like a domino effect that can even go on to facilitate further medical complications making life even more difficult. Let’s not let that happen and get you on the right track to better health!
Depending on your situation and individual uniqueness, your body can have varying nutritional needs; however, there are some general aspects of your daily diet that you can start to become aware of, and then consider changing, to improve your nutritional intake for enhanced recovery.
- Adequate energy intake: If you are not eating enough food in your day, you may have a lower level of energy to complete daily tasks, possible nutrient deficiencies, delayed wound healing, impaired immune response, and overall depletion of resources in your body which can lead to further complications. Keeping your body properly fuelled with a variety of foods and adequate caloric intake will give you the best shot at a quick recovery process. (Milne et al., 2009)(Rolfes and Whitney, 2011)
- Protein: Whenever the body is growing, repairing or replacing tissue, proteins are involved. In this situation, they are a main contributor to building bone, repairing or building muscles and tendons, as well as supporting the repair of other body tissues such as skin. Undereating protein containing foods, can hinder any of these important roles and further delay your rehab. Protein rich foods such as lean meat, fish, nuts, eggs, and legumes can help your injury heal quicker and increase muscle strength. (Gropper and Smith, 2013)
- Calcium: Your bones and your teeth contain 99% of your body’s calcium, making it an integral part of bone structure. Calcium is also involved in muscle contraction making movement possible. Lack of calcium from your diet can affect your ability to repair bones and muscles back to full working mode. Low calcium intake over a longer period of time can also increase your risk for Osteoporosis. Eating calcium rich foods such as dairy, leafy vegetables, and nuts can help prevent bone fractures as well as aid in the recovery process. (Gropper and Smith, 2013) (Oseoporosis Canada, 2016)
- Vitamin D: This nutrient works with calcium to create and maintain bone structures in your body. When you are low in Vitamin D, calcium is not absorbed into your system as well as it could be, and bone health can be compromised. Obtaining adequate amounts through sun exposure and Vitamin D rich diet options (milk, eggs, fatty fish, and fortified products) can facilitate bone strengthening as well as be a vital nutrient in Osteoporosis prevention. Vitamin D also contributes to improved immune function which fights off further health concerns during your recovery. (Tang et al., 2007)(Osteoporosis Canada, 2016)(Rolfes and Whitney, 2011)
Overall, a well-balanced, wholesome eating pattern can be an important part of your rehabilitation process. Eating right can even speed along your recovery! Making small changes now can greatly impact what you can do in the future. Invest in your health and get the nutrients your body needs to be at its best!
If you have more questions or want an in depth nutrition assessment of your eating habits to better your health, contact your STRIDE Dietitian today to make an appointment.
Gropper, S.S. and Smith J.L. (2013). Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. 6 ed. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Belmont, USA.
Milne, A.C., Potter, J., Vivanti, A., and Avenell, A. (2009). Protein and energy supplementation in elderly people at risk for malnutrition. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2(CD003288). doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003288.pub3
Osteoporosis Canada. (2016). Osteoporosis and nutrition. Retrieved 5 November 2016, from http://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/nutrition/
Rolfes, S.R. and Whitney, E. (2011). Understanding nutrition. 12 ed. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Belmont, USA.
Tang, B.M.P., Eslick, G.D., Nowson, C., Smith, C., and Bensoussan, A. (2007). Use of calcium or calcium combination with vitamin D supplementation to prevent fractures and bone loss in people aged 50 years and older: a meta-analysis. The Lancet. 370(9588): 657-666. doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61342-7