Eating a healthy diet can be one of the most controllable ways to help heal broken bones. Consuming enough calories and the right foods will support healing in several ways. These include increasing blood supply to the bones, promoting production of collagen (a protein that connects and supports bodily tissues) and supporting wound healing.
- Skill level:
Eat enough calories, as they provide the energy the body needs to heal. Calorie requirements will vary, depending on the severity and type of fracture as well your current health and body mass. Consult your doctor about the best caloric range for you.
Get adequate amounts of protein. When a bone breaks, the body gathers protein building blocks (amino acids) together to synthesise a new structural bone protein matrix to start healing. The amino acids for this process come from dietary proteins, such as lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables.
Include calcium-rich foods. Calcium helps form hard, crystal-like substances that create the framework for strong bones. Good dietary sources for calcium include milk, yoghurt, cheese and cruciferous vegetables--like Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Several foods are now available that are fortified with calcium, such as some grains and cereals, fruit juices and drinks, and tofu products.
Boost your supply of vitamin C. Vitamin C is important in wound healing, and helps produce collagen--a protein that's crucial to healthy bone formation. Eat foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits, cantaloupe, papaya, red bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli and brussels sprouts.
Get more vitamin D, as it is required for both bone growth and bone remodelling, which is the process that controls the reshaping or replacement of bone during growth and following injuries. This vitamin also helps support immune function and reduces inflammation. Dietary sources fortified with vitamin D include milk, several cereals and some brands of yoghurt and orange juice.
Increase your intake of vitamin K-rich foods, as well. Besides regulating blood clotting, Vitamin K is an essential part of the biochemical processes that bind calcium to bone. It's also needed for formation of osteocalcin, a bone protein. Additionally, vitamin K helps conserve the body's calcium stores by reducing calcium loss in the urine. Vitamin K has also been found to have a beneficial effect on all collagen tissues, especially bone tissue. Get vitamin K into the diet by eating green, leafy vegetables and vegetable oils (canola, olive and soybean).
Take a multivitamin/mineral supplement to cover any nutrient shortages in the diet. Minerals like zinc and silica help repair tissue. Silica also helps the body absorb calcium. The mineral boron helps bone healing by reducing urinary excretion of both calcium and magnesium.
Tips and warnings
- Check with your doctor about any changes or additions you make to your diet. The most beneficial amounts and types of nutrients can differ with individuals' specific health histories.
- To maximise healing, stay away from bone "robbers"--those substances that can interfere with or delay the healing process. These include sugar, salt, alcohol, caffeine and excessive consumption of red meats.
- Use anti-inflammatory nutrients to help reduce pain during the healing process. These include quercitin and other flavonoids (plant-based compounds), omega-3 fatty acids, and enzymes like bromelain and trypsin.
- If taking the prescription anticoagulants (substances that slow blood clotting) Warfarin or Coumadin, it's crucial to check with your physician before making any dietary changes. These include adding both foods and supplements. Vitamin K, for example, reverses the anticoagulant effects of Warfarin and can interfere with the effectiveness and safety of the drug therapy.
- Do not exceed more than 2,000 mg daily for your calcium intake. At higher levels, calcium can cause constipation and kidney stones, as well as inhibit zinc and iron absorption.
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