What you eat can affect how well you heal from an orthopedic injury or surgery. When your body has to repair injuries, create new bonds, and strengthen tissues, its performance will depend on whether it gets the building blocks it needs. Imagine your food being digested into molecules, and those molecules being absorbed into your blood stream to be delivered to the site of healing.
Protein intake should be spread out evenly throughout the day in meals and snacks. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are metabolized in muscles to provide energy and promote protein synthesis. BCAA found organic poultry, grass-fed beef, fish, soybeans, lima beans, eggs and nuts boost healing after musculoskeletal injury.
Vitamin C is required to make collagen to repair tendons or ligaments and heal surgical wounds. Good sources include citrus, broccoli, strawberry, kiwi, and bell pepper.
Zinc enhances wound healing. It is found in free-range beef, oysters, pumpkin seeds, and cashews.
Beta-carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A and promotes stronger bones, healthy scar tissue, and elasticity of skin. Good sources are sweet potato, kale, squash, carrot, prune, apricot, and mango.
Antioxidants (Vit C, flavonoids, Vit A, Zinc, Selenium, B vitamins, folate) neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals and repair cellular damage from injury or surgery. Found in leafy greens like kale, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, lean meat/poultry, fatty fish, nuts and seeds.
Flavonoids reduce swelling and protect cells. Flavonoids are found in cocoa, tea, red wine, fruits, vegetables, legumes, garlic, turmeric, green tea, blueberries, apples, citrus, and pineapple.
EPA and DHA Omega 3 fatty acids reduce joint stiffness, improve bone health, and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. You can find it in oily fish such as wild salmon, sardines, and anchovies.
Iron is required for oxygen delivery to the site of injury or surgery, and for wound healing. In addition to animal products, iron is found in dark leafy greens, legumes, beets, raisins, and black beans.
Calcium and Vitamin D optimize tendon-to-bone healing after injury or surgery. Calcium is found in dark leafy greens, salmon, rainbow trout, white beans, and fortified foods like almond milk and oatmeal. Vitamin D is found in mushrooms, salmon, tuna, soy milk, and egg yolks.
Healthy fats from avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds will improve immune response and help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Avoid partially hydrogenated oil (in processed foods) due to their pro-inflammatory effect.
Fiber is necessary to avoid post-operative constipation. The pain medications required for orthopedic surgery, as well as the anesthesia used during surgery, can cause slowing of intestinal transit and constipation. Up your fiber intake from vegetables, apples, berries, prunes, whole grains, flax and chia seeds.