Nutrition for Healing – Food for Thought?

Nutrition is not something I have thought in depth about when it comes to treating my clients.  Yes I cover the basics and understand the main things to consider but at a detailed level I simply haven’t gotten that far.  Just before Christmas a series of events changed this and made me realise more than ever just how important what you put in your body is to your overall health.

I attended a wonderful course at NLSSM in November last year with the fabulous and energetic Jenny Burrell on pregnancy and post natal massage.  One topic we discussed at length was how important nutrition was to new mums.  What I took away from this was that our bodies simply cannot heal or heal well without giving it the key nutrients it requires to produce all the bits and bobs necessary for healing.  Now write this down – Vitamins A, C, E and Zinc are the four most important things to remember.  I duly jotted these down with a note to look into it further in the New Year.

On that same weekend I picked up a copy of a super healthy cookbook to inspire me to create some nutritious and satisfying dishes….. that leads me to ‘the event’.  Exactly one week later I opened the cookbook and decided to cook some nutritious gluten free energy bars for me to snack on the go.  Dates, check, Coconut flour, check and off the blender went!  Seconds later it came to a stop.  In a hurry as always I looked on the underside of the blender and saw that one of the dates had a stone in it and it had got caught.  Well let’s just say I will never go near a blender blade again that is not plugged out!

I will spare you the gory details and skip to two days later with stitches in place, blender in the bin and my feet up on the couch.  I sat and thought long and hard about what to do.  My hands are my livelihood and it was imperative that my finger healed as quickly as possible when I remembered Jenny’s advice.  That was it – the perfect experiment.  Could I eat myself a healthy finger and fast? 

Nutrition In

So where to start? I am not a one for taking supplements as I believe that we should take vitamins the way the earth wanted us to – naturally.  So what followed was lots of google time to come up with the perfect healing menu:

Vitamin A

Carrots – the Vitamin A magic food.  Reading online just one medium carrot provides me with what I need for the day.  I went carrot mad – carrot juice, carrot soup, carrot salad.  I am pretty sure I had an orange tint to my skin for the last 6 weeks.  If you are not into carrots then lots of other foods provide Vitamin A – Dark Leafy Green Veg like Kale, Sweet Potatoes, Dried Apricots and Cantaloupe melon to name but a few.

Vitamin C

The easy one, I thought we all know how to get our vitamin C – citrus fruit.  Oranges quickly got added to my morning carrot juice.  More interesting were the not so obvious ways to add this key nutrient to my diet – chillies, bell peppers, again those dark green leafy vegetables with one stalk of broccoli providing your daily needs.  Broccoli my wonder veg!

Vitamin E

Now this was the difficult one, I had no idea what would provide me with my needs.  Scouring the internet the top hit was Tofu (no likey) but again keep looking and there will be something that works for you. Spinach (me likey), Avocado, Wheatgerm, Almonds & Sunflower seeds.  What I found hard was the volume you would need to eat to get your recommended daily allowance.  If I liked Tofu this might have been easier but I decided to get what I could where I could, adding spinach to juices, omelettes, curries, you name it – it had spinach in it.  Snacking on almonds and seeds, adding them to salads, just getting creative!


Another surprising one for me – beef and lamb appear top of the tables which also helps me to tick the protein box.  Spinach (again), Pumpkin Seeds, Cashew Nuts and my favourite – dark chocolate. I had this one covered.

Nutrition Out

Well equipped with my plan of action to get my nutrients in I wanted to consider what needed to go out and that was more obvious given all the news on this at the moment – it was sugar.  When you eat sugar it upsets the homeostasis of the body, that wonderful balance that enables us to fight infection and repair the body.  When you eat sugar especially the refined type (this includes plain old granulated sugar but also white bread, white rice etc.) it increases the levels of cytokines in the body, an inflammatory messenger sending my body into inflammation mode.  Furthermore there are studies that suggest sugar also lowers the immune system during this time and which when added to the inflammatory response, makes healing well very difficult for the body.  And lest we forget undoing all the good work we are doing with the foods we are putting into our body to help with the process.   Well, that was my dark chocolate out the window!

Six days since the traumatic event I went to get my wound re-dressed, flinching as the doctor peeled away the layers I heard an inhale of breathe from the Doctor.  ‘When did you do this again?’ he asked,   ‘Six days ago.’ I responded too squeamish to look.  ‘Well it has healed fantastically! I don’t think we even need to re-dress this!’ he exclaimed.  One week later the difference was phenomenal, I was almost embarrassed to show people the scratch like scar after only 2 weeks as testament to my claims of trauma when relaying the grisly tale.

Amazing! Miraculous some would say.  Jenny I owe you one!

So where this finally brings me is to what this means to us as therapists or to you as someone suffering an injury.  Why would this be any different?  Straining your hamstring is a trauma, maybe on a different level but it still needs to heal and if your nutrition is not aligned with this it is going to take longer and heal less effectively leaving you with lasting problems.  Now when a client calls me my first port of call is nutrition, let’s work together to start that healing process before I even see you.   Food for thought anyone?

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