When we have been poorly, had an injury or even surgery it is more important than ever to provide our bodies with the nutrients it needs to aid a speedy recovery.
It is important to help our bodies to reduce inflammation, support our immune system and promote healing of bones, joints and tissues by providing adequate fuel and nutrient dense foods.
Supporting our Immune System
Our immune system is a complex network of organs, specialised cells, proteins and tissues including our skin, our digestive system, tonsils, spleen, appendix, lymph nodes etc…. They all play a role in preventing invasion of the body by hundreds of thousands of pathogens and other antigens every single day. If we do become infected or sustain an injury the immune system works hard to fight the infection and make us well again. This immune system response causes acute inflammation to help protect and heal us.
It is really important that we are supporting our immune system all the time and not just when we get sick or injured.
The immune system’s response causing acute inflammation to a cut finger, a common cold or something more serious is the bodies way of focusing our defence system to this area to protect and heal us.
Chronic inflammation however, low grade persistent inflammation, is the root of many diseases and conditions including heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes obesity etc.
Everything ending in “–itis” involves inflammation e.g. bronchitis, appendicitis, arthritis, colitis, laryngitis. We are all susceptible and some more than others including the elderly, young and those with a weakened immune system.
Eating to support our Immune System and reduce Inflammation
Eating a balanced plate of food to manage our blood sugars including low GI complex carbs (wholegrains not refined white carbs), nutrient dense foods, reducing processed foods and supporting our gut health with high fibre, fermented foods really is the starting point for a strong immune system. Targeting foods with anti-inflammatory properties, high in anti-oxidants and polyphenols will further help to reduce inflammation.
Some foods to include with beneficial nutrients:
- Rainbow of fruit and vegetables for anti-oxidants and polyphenols.
- Nuts and Seeds for Zinc and Vit E
- Mushrooms for polysaccharides
- Leafy Greens for Zinc, Vit B6 and Magnesium
- Eggs for Vit D, Selenium and Vit B6
- Berries and Bell peppers for Vit C
- Blueberries, Red onions, Red grapes for Quercetin and Resveratrol
- Butternut Squash, Carrots and Sweet potato for Beta Carotene the plant form of vitamin A
- Avocado for Vit E
- Turmeric, Ginger, Spirulina for anti-oxidants with anti-inflammatory properties
To support our immune system and reduce inflammation on a day-to-day basis we also need to:
- Focus on gut health
- 60-70% of our immune system is in the gut, including a surveillance system which communicates when pathogens are present.
- Beneficial bacteria that fight off bad bacteria so only take antibiotics when essential as this can upset the beneficial bacteria in our gut.
- Eating a high fibre diet to help the beneficial bacteria thrive.
- Increase omega 3 intake and reduce omega 6 which, when metabolised are pro inflammatory whereas omega 3 is anti-inflammatory
- Manage our stress as raised cortisol (the stress hormone) impairs our immune function and increases inflammation.
- Move our bodies with moderate exercise. Over exercising stresses the body raising cortisol levels and a lack of exercise reduces circulation and oxygen to the body which may increase inflammation.
- Get sufficient sleep for adequate rest, repair and detoxification.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet to provide the nutrients the body needs!
- Stay hydrated!
More Specific Nutrients for Supporting Bones, Joints & Tissues
After an injury or surgery affecting bones and joints, once we have addressed inflammation and fighting infection, specific nutrients play a role in rebuilding bones and healing.
- Quality Protein – amino acids aid recovery and healing, build and repair bones and muscles. For example:
- glutamine is utilised in cellular protection
- arginine assists in collagen production for wound healing.
- Calcium – a key mineral for building strong bones.
- Vitamin D – activates osteoblasts that build the bones and important for the absorption of calcium.
- Zinc – important for stimulating bone building and the bone remodelling cycle.
- Magnesium – important in the structural function of building strong bones.
- Manganese – a cofactor for enzymes involved in the formation of bones and cartilage.
- Vit C – involved in collagen production important for healthy joints and tissue.
- Copper – mineral important for the formation of collagen and connective tissue.
- Potassium – reduces loss of calcium.
- Iron – assists in production of collagen and transporting oxygen to bones and tissue to support healing.
- Vitamin K – works in synergy with vitamin D and shown to create a better response to maintaining bone density and also deposits vital minerals in the skeletal structure.
- Boron – important for efficient metabolism and utilisation of other bone-building nutrients including calcium, magnesium and vitamin D.