If you’ve ever experienced a fractured bone, you’ll know how frustrating and painful it can be. While it can take weeks or even months to heal, depending on the severity of the break, you can promote bone healing by optimising your diet. Registered nutritionist Christine Bailey shares some of her top tips for supporting healing and recovery.
Bone fractures can occur at any age and there are a number of factors that can influence the recovery and healing process. Depending on the severity of the fracture, it can take at least 6-8 weeks for the healing process to complete. The older you are, the longer this can take. Bone healing and overall bone health require optimal levels of the right nutrients. Here are my top tips to support bone healing.
Ensure sufficient Collagen & Protein
When it comes to bone healing, protein is the star nutrient. Did you know that protein makes up roughly 50% of the volume of bone and about one-third of its mass? The key protein in bones is collagen. In fact, collagen represents more than 90% of the organic matrix. In osteoporosis, collagen quality is affected which is why it is such an important nutrient when thinking about bone health.
You cannot build new bone or support bone healing without protein and you will actually slow down your healing if you fail to consume enough. Additionally, protein helps your body absorb and use calcium, another critical nutrient for bone health. Many people fail to get enough protein and when you have a fracture your requirements are higher. Recent research suggests we need at least 1-1.5g protein per kg of body weight especially as we get older. This means that you need to have at least a fist size portion of protein (e.g meat, fish, tofu, eggs, beans, and pulses) at each meal. To further support healing, take 5g of bonebalance™ collagen daily (it’s easily added to smoothies, mixed with juice or dissolved in hot drinks and water). bonebalance™ has been optimized to be highly absorbed into bone tissue where it can help to stimulate the body’s bone building cells. Its bioactive collagen peptides have demonstrated in independent studies to start to work within six days, helping to start build bones.
Optimise Bone Friendly Nutrients
Studies have shown that getting sufficient bone building nutrients is vital for healthy bones and healing. Remember bone is living tissue. It has a network of blood vessels which help them grow and repair. Your bones need a wide range of nutrients including vitamins and minerals to heal and maintain optimal bone density. These include minerals like calcium, magnesium, boron, copper, manganese, silica, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. Vitamins are also important particularly vitamin C, D and K2. This means your diet needs to be focused on nutrient dense, unprocessed wholefoods at each meal. If your appetite is low consider nutrient packed smoothies, soups, and stews. Take a bone multi-nutrient formula and check your vitamin D levels particularly over the winter months.
Eat More Fruit & Vegetables
Inflammation is the body’s way of healing but too much can hinder repair and contribute to more damage by increasing oxidative stress. Studies have also found that inflammation is a key driver for lower bone density by increasing the activity of specialised cells known as osteoclasts. When you are trying to repair and heal you want to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. This is why increasing your intake of antioxidant rich foods is so important – they help to neutralize oxidative stress and its consequences. One of the key players is vitamin C (found in fruits and vegetables) which has been widely studied for its antioxidant activity on bone healing. It is also vital for building collagen which is so essential for healthy bones. Various studies have shown that increasing your intake of certain antioxidants can improve facture healing. Try and include a colourful selection of fruits and vegetables daily with as much variety as possible. Use herbs and spices in cooking, especially turmeric. Curcumin (the active component in turmeric) has been shown to rebalance the immune system and support bone health. Add in avocado, nuts and seeds which are rich in vitamin E – another important antioxidant.
Drink Green Tea
Another great way to support bone healing is to drink green tea. Various studies have indicated that the polyphenols present in green tea suppress the rate of bone breakdown and promote new bone formation due to their ability to fight oxidative stress. The most bioactive component of green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) has also been shown to reduce inflammatory chemicals that contribute to bone loss. Add some matcha lattes or smoothies to your daily routine or drink green tea through the day.
Eat More Oily Fish
One of the best ways to help lower inflammation and support healing is to eat more oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel etc) that rich in the essential omega 3 fatty acids. Research shows that omega 3 fatty acids play a key role in healthy bone remodelling and bone metabolism. Aim to include oily fish in your diet 2-3 times a week or consider taking an omega 3 supplement.
(Note: Consult your doctor before taking an omega 3 supplement if you use blood thinners, as fish oils may have a blood thinning effect)
To support the bone healing process, you need to keep moving. Exercise supports blood flow and circulation to the fracture site delivering valuable nutrients for healing. Work with a physiotherapist for advice on when to start exercising and the type of exercises that are best for you. Exercising too soon could adversely affect your healing so listen to your consultant. Physiopedia is a great online resource for rehabilitation exercises.
What to Avoid
In addition to ensuring your diet supports bone healing be mindful of other factors that can slow down the healing process. Smoking has been widely studied to have a negative effect on bone healing. Alcohol consumption can also have an adverse effect on bone metabolism, increasing oxidative stress and impact the quality of the healing process. Instead keep hydrated with water through the day. Did you know that healthy bones contain approximately 31% water? In fact, drinking natural mineral water may even aid the healing process.
Making these simple changes can help promote bone healing at an increased pace to get you back on your feet sooner!