Injuries are hard to avoid. We work hard and play hard. We travel in fast moving vehicles and rely on others to pay attention and be careful. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top four leading causes of non-fatal and unintentional injuries in the United States between 2001 and 2012 were: falls, being struck by or striking against something, overexertion, and being an occupant in a motor vehicle.
Injuries are never welcome and many people find it hard to sit still long enough to properly recover. Unfortunately, an injury – even a seemingly minor one – that doesn’t heal properly can lead to another injury or long-term damage that can affect us for the rest of our lives. Here are six simple things you can do to accelerate the healing of unexpected bumps and bruises:
1) Avoid foods that aggravate pain and inflammation: Most injuries are accompanied with pain and/or inflammation. The food additives, rancid oils, and high amounts of sugar in most processed, packaged, fried and fast foods will increase pain and inflammation while slowing down recovery time due to the lack of nutrients they provide. Dairy products, sugar, white flour and other wheat products also have this effect.
2) Cut out chemicals and colors. These food additives should be avoided even when your health is great. Following an injury, there is no place for preservatives, dyes, artificial sweeteners and flavors or MSG in your recovery diet.
3) Eat fruits, vegetables and nuts. Injured areas need high quantities of nutrients to heal quickly and completely. You won’t find them in a meat lover’s pizza. Look to salads, walnuts and almonds, berries and apples for potent vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that assist with healing. Choose raw fruit and vegetables as much as possible. If you crave meat, try smaller portions of wild salmon or organic chicken and keep your protein intake up with plant-based options like quinoa, brown rice, coconut milk, chickpeas and other beans. Protein helps rebuild your body but meat sources of protein will create more inflammation, which in turn increases pain.
4) Spice up your diet. Many spices contain pain- and inflammation-fighting compounds…and make food taste great. Add turmeric, onions, garlic, cloves, ginger and chili peppers to chickpeas and serve over a bed of brown rice. Your injured body will thank you for this delicious healing meal.
5) Water your wounds. A surprising number of people are chronically dehydrated despite having an abundant supply of reasonably clean drinking water. Your body needs sufficient water to do everything, including healing from injuries. During the recovery phase, skip the soda, sport drinks and coffee and replace your liquid intake with water or drinks with high water content like fresh juices or nut milks (almond or coconut for example). If you need more flavor, add mint, ginger or licorice for additional healing benefits. When your injury is healed, stay away from the soda and store-bought sports drinks (remember number 1 and 2 above?). Simply adding more water to your diet after an injury can be helpful to reduce pain and keep the lymphatic system around the injury site moving freely.
6) Consider drug-free alternatives to support recovery. Some injuries require conventional medical attention and we are fortunate these tools are available for emergencies and acute traumas. Instead of turning to a prescription drug or the medicine cabinet for every ache and pain along the road to recovery, consider chemical-free therapies for reducing symptoms and promoting healing. Studies have shown that acupuncture/acupressure, massage and other body work techniques, homeopathy, far-infrared saunas and cold lasers can help manage pain and decrease healing time. Talk to professionals specializing in these therapies or informed people who have tried these techniques. Do your homework and determine if one or more may be right for you. Of course, don’t discontinue any prescription medications without consulting your physician.