How lucky the human body knows how to repair its bones…
How lucky the human body knows how to repair its bones. Imagine having to lug a plaster cast around for the rest of your life. Healing from a fracture generally takes at least 6 weeks, depending on age, health and type of fracture. This involves three different and overlapping phases: inflammation, repair and remodelling.
Nutrition is hugely important for each stage of healing, so if you have the misfortune of breaking a precious bone or two, as my husband Chris recently did – see his amazing recovery story here – you will need my favourite top ten tips for healing bone fractures fast:
- Don’t skimp on mealtimes just because you aren’t moving! Your body needs extra calories for the healing process. Quality is important, so choose nutrient dense foods and stay clear of convenient, highly refined and processed “treats”. Home cooking is not an option now, it’s a necessity. You’ll find plenty of yummy ideas in my book “49 Ways to Eat Yourself Well”. If you are keen to reduce your weekly shopping bill and need a menu, recipes, and a shopping list, then check out my “Healthy Eating On A Budget” report (see link on the right of this page).
- Amino Acids: Do you know that almost 50% of bone is made from protein and that people low in protein heal more slowly and with more complications? Amino acids from proteins such as lysine, arginine, cysteine and glutamine are needed to build new bone and regenerate tissue. They also improve calcium absorption into bones and promote growth factors and growth hormone to boost new bone formation. Eat fish, lean red meat, poultry, eggs and dairy (if tolerant). Also include more plant-based protein sources such as quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
- Vitamin C plays a critical role in the formation of collagen, the fibrous protein in bones and other connective tissue. Collagen is fundamental to the strength of the bone matrix. Vitamin C speeds up fracture healing and serves as one of our most important antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. One way to get your vitamin C fix is to drink half a glass of water with freshly squeezed lemon juice before main meals. This tactic also helps you to absorb minerals from your food. Drinking your vegetables rather than just eating them is another great way to top up on vitamin C and other bone-building nutrients. Just add these ingredients to your fresh juices and smoothies: kiwi, citrus fruits, berries, apples and leafy greens. Try this one:
Vitamin C Booster Smoothie Recipe
Juice of ½ lemon
1 frozen banana in chunks
1 cup fresh or frozen berries
1 small avocado
1 tbsp flax or chia seeds
1 cup washed kale
1 cup water or milk (or milk substitute)
Add all the ingredients to a high-speed blender and whizz until smooth and creamy. Enjoy! Serves 1.
- Slow-simmering, meat-based broths or soups contain ready-made, easy-to-absorb collagen. Vital to improve wound healing and strengthen your connective tissue and bones. See my chicken soup recipe here. Add unlimited amounts of healing herbs and spices to your soups and other meals, such as turmeric, garlic, ginger and cinnamon.
- Antioxidants in fruit and vegetables suppress inflammation around the injury site and accelerate the healing process. Try to eat a rainbow of colours every day to obtain a wide range of phytonutrients such as flavonoids and carotenoids. Phytonutrients are significantly more effective if eaten together rather than on their own. Fruit and vegetables also contain potassium, which increases the rate of bone formation. Studies consistently show that higher fruit and vegetable consumption is linked to stronger bones.
- Calcium, the major mineral in bones, is found in green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale, sardines with bones, salmon, yoghurt, kefir, nuts, seeds and calcium-enriched soya milk. It should be noted that calcium cannot build bone all on its own. Other essential bone-building minerals are phosphorus, magnesium, boron, zinc, copper, manganese and silicon. Supplementation of bone building nutrients speeds fracture healing and reduces reduces complications and additional treatments. For a list of my favourite bone building supplements, contact me at email@example.com.
- Vitamin D promotes calcium and phosphorus absorption in the gut for the mineralization of our skeleton. It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodelling. We can manufacture vitamin D ourselves by exposing our skin to the sun, but season, time of day, length of day, cloud cover, smog, skin melanin content and sunscreen affect how much vitamin D can be synthesized. The best food sources are eggs, oily fish and dairy. As extra is needed at this time and many people don’t get enough sun exposure, find out how to supplement with this vitamin as any inadequacy affects speed and quality of bone healing.
- Vitamin K2 has an important role in bone metabolism. It speeds fracture healing by activating osteocalcin, a non-collagenous bone protein. Vitamin K2 is found in meat, fish, butter, egg yolk and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, cheese and natto.
- Almonds are a great superfood for bones as they have high levels of calcium and are a rich source of magnesium, zinc, manganese, vitamin E, plant sterols, fibre, protein and monounsaturated fatty acids. A handful a day is sufficient, preferably soaked overnight (easier to chew and digest).
- Final Do’s and Don’ts: smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee (tea is fine!) will slow down fracture healing, so best avoided. And consider that even the perfect diet and best supplements won’t be effective if you can’t digest, absorb and utilise the nutrients required to repair your skeleton. Ensure you eat slowly, chew well and consult with a Registered Nutritional Therapist if you are not healing as well and speedy as you should be!