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Making broken bones better and stronger

Breaking a bone is a painful and disruptive experience but having had a fracture diagnosed and, in some cases, protective casts applied, is it a case of ‘time heals’ or is there any more you can do to hasten and improve the healing process?

The good news is that addressing diet and lifestyle choices can promote quicker and better healing of broken bones. Furthermore, keeping up with good nutrition in particular could help prevent further fractures.

Irrespective of age, understanding how to support the body’s natural healing mechanisms can help speed recovery and promote better bone health long term.

Firstly, let’s explain the different types of common fractures.

Closed Fracture: Where the bone breaks but does not penetrate the skin.

Open Fracture: Also known as a compound fracture, it occurs when the broken bone protrudes through the skin.  As well as usually being a more severe fracture, it increases the risk of infection and needs special attention.

Greenstick Fracture: Usually associated with children, this type of fracture involves a partial break in the bone, similar to breaking a green stick.

Stress Fracture: These result from repetitive stress on the bone and more commonly  occur in athletes of all ages and people who repeatedly engage in high-impact activities.

Compression Fracture: Commonly seen in the spine, compression fractures occur when the vertebrae collapse or fracture due to weakened bones.  Whilst not confined to osteoporosis, these type of fractures are associated with this disease.

How age / health affect the healing process

The healing process for broken bones can vary depending on age and overall health.

Children and Teenagers: Younger individuals tend to heal faster due to their more resilient bones and higher metabolic rate. Fractures in children often heal within a few weeks because of their robust bone growth and development.

Adults:  Adults will, typically, take longer to heal, particularly if they have underlying health conditions or poor nutrition.

Elderly:  Bone density decreases as we age making older adults not only more susceptible to fractures but usually slower to heal. People with osteopenia or osteoporosis are also more likely to have subsequent fractures unless preventative treatment and nutrition are put in place.

Speeding the healing

Nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and amino acids from protein, provide essential nourishment for our cells’ growth and maintenance.

When it comes to healing fractures, certain nutrients are indispensable for promoting repair and regeneration of bone tissue. The following should be a key part of the daily diet:

Calcium: This is the foremost mineral in bones and essential for maintaining bone density and strength. Good dietary sources include dairy products, tofu, leafy greens such as spinach & kale and nuts, especially almonds.

Collagen: Collagen is a specific protein that provides support to the structure of bones, tendons and ligaments. Eating foods rich in collagen, such as bone broth, chicken skin, fish and egg whites, can help in bone repair.

IMPORTANT NOTE: different types of collagen are absorbed into different types of body tissue. Increasingly, people are turning to collagen peptides powders which can be good – but check the ingredient list to ensure it’s optimised for bone health. The best ingredient – and most researched – is FORTIBONE® available in the UK as bonebalance™.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a crucial role as a catalyst, helping in calcium absorption and bone mineralisation. Exposure to sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, but it can also be obtained from foods such as: fatty fish, fortified dairy products and egg yolks. Supplementation is recommended for most people to ensure sufficient levels of this vital vitamin are reached in the daily diet.

Other Vitamins and Minerals: Magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins K and C are also important for bone health and healing broken bones. Incorporating whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables into your diet will ensure you’re getting a variety of essential nutrients.

Achieving optimum levels of key nutrients

When it comes to calcium consumption, you can have too much of a good thing. Too much calcium can calcify within your body, dangerously so if it builds up in your blood vessels.  If you have a good diet, you may not even need to take a calcium supplement: check with your GP if in doubt. Furthermore, ensure you have good levels of Vitamin D which helps to break down calcium in the body.

Another point to note is that here in the UK, we don’t receive enough sunlight each day to generate vitamin D, from October to April.  Furthermore, as people wear sunscreen to offset the very real risk of skin cancer, this also prevents vitamin D being absorbed by the body. Safer all round is to seek out vitamin-D fortified foods and top up with a daily supplement.

Healing broken bones requires more than just time and rest—it demands a holistic approach that encompasses proper nutrition, lifestyle modifications and medical intervention. If you introduce more bone-friendly nutrients into your diet, understand your risk of suffering a fracture and are proactive to protect and promote healthy bone tissue, you can build your body’s defences against fractures. And boost the healing process in the event of sustaining a broken bone.