How Long to Heal?’ Part III: ‘You’ Harnessing Your Intrinsic Ability to Heal

And so we come to the final installment, although in writing this I feel this should have been Part 1 given how critical it is to healing and that is how what you put in your body dictates not only the length of time needed to heal but the quality of the job itself.

What you put in to healing is what you get out! The Food Factor

As discussed over the last two blogs, your body has its work cut out in terms of removing damaged cells, laying down new healthy cells, fibres, collagen and to do this is needs the right base materials.  We all know the quality of the building is only as good as the quality of the materials used – your body is no different!  In order for your body to generate the right parts at a cellular level, it needs the right mix of vitamins, protein and hydration to do this.

Nutrition In

Vitamin A –  Carrots, Dark Leafy Green Veg like Kale, Sweet Potatoes, Dried Apricots and Cantaloupe melon to name but a few.

Vitamin C – Citrus Fruits, chillies, bell peppers, again those dark green leafy vegetables with one stalk of broccoli providing your daily needs.

Vitamin E – Tofu (usually hate this but the vegetarian coffee shop on Broadway market do the best sugar free, dairy free gluten free tofu cheesecake….. any excuse ) Spinach, Avocado, Wheatgerm, Almonds & Sunflower seeds.

Zinc – 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.

Lean Protein – Turkey, Fish, Eggs, Chicken, Tofu, Beans, Nuts, Seeds, Lean Pork, Lamb and Beef.

Hydration – a pretty obvious one, but make sure you get those 2 litres a day in (more if you are exercising) as it is true that your body is mostly made up of water so to create new tissue it is a main ingredient!

Unfortunately it is not only about what we add to our diets but it also needs to be about what to avoid.  Certain foods are inflammatory and if you are injured and trying to reduce inflammation and promote healing it makes sense that you need to avoid these foods to help the process along.

Nutrition Out

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, alcohol, 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.

Breathing, Hormones and Sleep : The Body Factor

We have discussed food but it doesn’t stop there…. hormones play a big part.  Cortisol can be a problem and is getting a lot of bad press at the moment.  Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and is important for a number of processes in the body.  We need it to help with inflammation (remember we talked about how we do need some of this at the right times to help heal!), breaking down glycogens, for managing blood pressure levels, insulin levels and the immune system.

Cortisol becomes a problem when there is too much of it in our bodies, or it is at an increased level for significant periods of time.  If this is the case it can lead to increased inflammation, muscle wastage, decreased immune system and increased blood sugar levels – the impact of which we have already discussed on the bodies healing ability.  So how do you end up in this heightened state of Cortisol production?  Stress and anxiety are a problem.  Designed to help us in a ‘Flight’ or ‘Fight’ situation we seem to be facing this reaction more and more often.  Can you remember the last time you felt stressed about something?  Heart rate increased? Sweaty palms? It is probably not that long ago, and maybe it’s already been several times today! All of these are signs that your body is increasing its Cortisol levels and this will be impacting your healing rate.  I see this in athletes all the time, where they are stressed/anxious to know when they can get back to training and when they can return to competition but this can increase the time needed to heal.  Swimming, yoga, meditation can all help to keep you relaxed letting your body regulate your hormones and keep your healing on track.

Next up is breathing.  Oxygen is a key chemical required in the body for the reactions/regeneration of cells to heal. It sounds pretty basic as we need to breath to live but are you getting enough oxygen?  Again a symptom of modern living is seeing some of us become shallow shoulder breathers, bring little oxygen into the lungs to saturate our bodies and fuel the creation of new tissue.  Focusing on breath retraining is a key part of rehabilitation when working with our clients.  Using the Diaphragm and abdominals is key, as well as taking slow, saturated breaths of air.  Six breaths per minute: that is the aim and the health benefits are far wider than healing.

And finally we come to sleep.  Something we all love, but struggle to get enough of.  When you are asleep your body is hard at work, the cell regeneration, immune system and even your hormones act differently when you are asleep repairing and correcting their levels as part of your daily recovery period.   At night your parasympathetic system goes into overdrive, relaxing, restoring and regenerating your body.  Toxin elimination, removal of waste and damaged cells, all excels when you are asleep and are key to the process of healing.   Without sleep the destruction continues and you don’t get a chance to heal.

Pulling all of this together you see how your lifestyle and what you choose to do with it has a vast impact on your body and how you heal.  Eat fresh clean food, relax, breathe and sleep and you will be well on your way to healing!

Related Articles:

Part 1 – The Stages of Healing:

Part 2 – The Type of Injury:
Nurtrition for Healing:


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