How to Recover Fast From Injuries or Surgery with Diet and Supplements

Nutrition plays a crucial role in helping your body recover from injury or surgery. You may wish to take medication to help manage the pain. Injury or surgery may also limit your movement, leading to muscle mass and strength loss. Making better food choices can help prevent secondary health issues related to your injury or surgery while also helping your body heal faster. Here are some ways to help your body heal and regain strength: 

Protein 

Cells involved in wound healing require proteins for their formation and activity; therefore, protein loss may negatively affect the whole immune process. If the immune response is impaired, it may delay the progression from the inflammatory to the proliferative healing phase. When the wound is recovering with new tissue formation made up of collagen in the proliferative and remodeling phases, a protein-energy deficiency may delay new blood vessels and collagen formation. [1]

Injuries increase the body’s metabolic needs, and large amounts of protein are lost from the wound area. [2]. Thus, the protein requirements of wounded patients may increase by up to 250%. [3]. 

Furthermore, when recovering from orthopedic injury or surgery, patients may have no choice but to avoid physical activity. Unfortunately, this lack of mobility can lead to muscle wasting or muscle atrophy. Insufficient protein can further exacerbate muscle atrophy. [4]. According to a recent study on pre and post-surgical nutrition following orthopedic surgery, protein helps regulate surgical stress and supports recovery. [5]

Losing 10% lean mass is associated with impaired immunity and an increased risk of infection. Studies show that people lose more than 10% lean body mass, then wound healing will compete with body demands to restore lean body mass. [6]

You want to maintain 0.8 – 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. Some of the healthiest proteins to accelerate healing and increase strength include spirulina, beans and lentils, nuts, and tofu. Other high-quality protein sources are quinoa, black beans, peas, and brown rice. I recommend supplementing your diet regularly with spirulina in tablet or frozen form.

Carbohydrates 

Carbohydrates are necessary to meet the high energy needs of patients recovering from injury or surgery. However, the carbohydrates should be high-quality and whole-food sources such as quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes, and bananas. Intake of the right carbohydrates can improve post-surgical outcomes, and when carbohydrate loading is practiced before the operation, it can decrease surgical stress and insulin resistance. [7] 

Adequate intake of carbohydrates is also necessary for fibroblast production and movement and immune activity [8]. Carbohydrates also stimulate the release of hormones and growth factors helpful in the recovery processes of the proliferative phase.

I recommend consuming healthy whole foods rich in carbohydrates in every meal, including either whole grains, root vegetables, or fruits.

Zinc 

Zinc deficiency can delay wound healing from oxidative stress, inflammation, and poor immune response. In a study on how zinc impacts wound healing, researchers concluded that zinc helps improve recovery from injury or surgery due to its ability to heal wounds, repair membranes, and defend the body against inflammation and oxidative stress. Zinc supplementation also leads to a reduced risk of scar formation. [9] 

Zinc is also essential for DNA replication in cells with high cell division rates, as occurs during inflammation and wound healing. In the inflammatory phase, zinc promotes immune response and counteracts susceptibility to infectious complications [10]. In the proliferative and remodeling phases, it is essential for collagen production by stimulating the activity of involved enzymes [3, 11, 12]. Topical zinc administration to wounds significantly improves the healing process [13].

I recommend supplementing with 15 mg/day zinc sulfate or picolinate for two weeks.

Vitamin C 

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that encourages healing. It is essential to counteract the production of free radicals in damaged cells protecting cells from free radical damage. At the same time, its deficiency might increase the fragility of new blood vessels [14]. 

Because it’s essential in collagen formation, it plays a critical role in connective tissue health. According to a study on vitamin C in orthopedic trauma and bone health, observational data supports that high dietary intake or supplementation with vitamin C improved recovery outcomes in orthopedic injuries and surgeries, including hip fractures, wrist fractures, foot, and ankle surgery. [15] In the inflammatory phase of healing, vitamin C brings cells to the wound helping in the immune process [8]. And later, during collagen synthesis, vitamin C forms extra bonds between collagen fibers that increase the stability and strength of collagen [3].

The current recommendation of vitamin C supplementation ranges from 500 mg/day in non-complicated wounds to 2 g/day in severe injuries [16]. Use liposomal vitamin C supplement for maximum absorption. However, vitamin C supplementation seems to have a beneficial effect only with zinc and the amino acid arginine found in nuts, seeds, and soybeans. [17].

Vitamin D and Calcium 

Calcium is essential for building stronger, healthier bones. Because vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, vitamin D and calcium are best when taken together. Researchers observed how vitamin D and calcium combined reduced fracture risk and healing speed in a study involving daily supplementation. [18] Vitamin D controls structural integrity and transport across epithelial barriers [19-21]. However, daily supplementation of vitamin D alone did not yield the same results, proving that you must combine vitamin D with calcium supplementation to increase bone strength. I recommend supplementing daily with 1000 IU vitamin D and a tablespoon of whole sesame seed paste to receive high calcium and arginine content.

Superfoods

Aloe vera: Studies show that aloe vera accelerates wound healing. [22-24] I recommend taking aloe vera gel supplements five times a week during the healing period. 

Barley grass

Barley grass has a protective and restorative effect on wounds and healing. [25] I recommend taking a barley grass supplement 5-7 times a week during the healing period.

Curcumin 

The Indian spice turmeric, in which the active and dominant polyphenol is curcumin, has been demonstrated to have significant medicinal properties, including healing and anti-inflammatory effects aiding in recovery.

Curcumin accelerates the healing process by shortening the inflammatory phase. Moreover, curcumin facilitates collagen production.

However, curcumin has poor bioavailability due to poor absorption, rapid metabolism, and rapid elimination. Piperine, the primary active component of black pepper, can increase the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%. Therefore, it would be best to take piperine with curcumin when supplementing. [26-29]

Herbal tea preparations that may help include lemon balm, licorice root, olive leaf, nettle leaf, mullein leaf, and cats claw. You may replace a glass of water with these herbal teas throughout the day without adding sugar.

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you liked best about this article.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’d be honored if you would share it with your family, friends, and followers by clicking the Like, Tweet, and Share buttons. If you are serious about improving your health no matter what your age or circumstances, and are ready to finally achieve optimal health and lose the weight you’ve been struggling with, then click HERE to check out my online Guerrilla Diet Wholistic Lifestyle Bootcamp for Healthy and Lasting Weight Loss.

If you are not already on my mailing list where you will receive my weekly articles packed with scientifically based health, and nutrition content, as well as many FREE bonuses and special offers, and much more, then click HEREto subscribe.

Thank You, 🙂

Dr. Galit Goldfarb

References 

  1. Russell L. The importance of patients’ nutritional status in wound healing. Br. J. Nurs. 2001;10:S42–S49. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2001.10.Sup1.5336.
  2. Breslow R.A., Hallfrisch J., Guy D.G., Crawley B., Goldberg A.P. The importance of dietary protein in healing pressure ulcers. J. Am. Geriatr. Soc. 1993;41:357–362. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1993.tb06940.x.
  3. Harris C.L., Fraser C. Malnutrition in the institutionalized elderly: The effects on wound healing. Ostomy Wound Manag. 2004;50:54–63
  4. Chen C.C., Schilling L.S., Lyder C.H. A concept analysis of malnutrition in the elderly. J. Adv. Nurs. 2001;36:131–142. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2001.01950.x
  5. Hirsch KR, Wolfe RR, Ferrando AA. Pre- and Post-Surgical Nutrition for Preservation of Muscle Mass, Strength, and Functionality Following Orthopedic Surgery. Nutrients. 2021;13(5):1675. Published 2021 May 15. doi:10.3390/nu13051675 
  6. Evans C. Malnutrition in the elderly: A multifactorial failure to thrive. Perm. J. 2005;9:38–41. doi: 10.7812/TPP/05-056
  7. Ackerman RS, Tufts CW, DePinto DG, Chen J, Altshuler JR, Serdiuk A, Cohen JB, Patel SY. How Sweet Is This? A Review and Evaluation of Preoperative Carbohydrate Loading in the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Model. Nutr Clin Pract. 2020 Apr;35(2):246-253. doi: 10.1002/ncp.10427. Epub 2019 Oct 21. PMID: 31637778.
  8. Casey G. Nutritional support in wound healing. Nurs. Stand. 2003;17:55–58. doi: 10.7748/ns.17.23.55.s57.
  9. Lin PH, Sermersheim M, Li H, Lee PHU, Steinberg SM, Ma J. Zinc in Wound Healing Modulation. Nutrients. 2017;10(1):16. Published 2017 Dec 24. doi:10.3390/nu10010016
  10. Todorovic V. Food and wounds: Nutritional factors in wound formation and healing. Br. J. Community Nurs. 2002;7:43–54. doi: 10.12968/bjcn.2002.7.Sup2.12981
  11. Fosmire G.J. Zinc toxicity. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1990;51:225–227. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/51.2.225.
  12. Thompson C., Fuhrman M.P. Nutrients and wound healing: Still searching for the magic bullet. Nutr. Clin. Pract. 2005;20:331–347. doi: 10.1177/0115426505020003331. 
  13. Lansdown A.B., Mirastschijski U., Stubbs N., Scanlon E., Agren M.S. Zinc in wound healing: Theoretical, experimental, and clinical aspects. Wound Repair Regen. 2007;15:2–16. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-475X.2006.00179.x.
  14. Shepherd A.A. Nutrition for optimum wound healing. Nurs. Stand. 2003;18:55–58.
  15. Hart A, Cota A, Makhdom A, Harvey EJ. The Role of Vitamin C in Orthopedic Trauma and Bone Health. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead NJ). 2015 Jul;44(7):306-11. PMID: 26161758.
  16. Molnar J.A., Underdown M.J., Clark W.A. Nutrition and Chronic Wounds. Adv. Wound Care (New Rochelle) 2014;3:663–681. doi: 10.1089/wound.2014.0530.
  17. Ellinger S., Stehle P. Efficacy of vitamin supplementation in situations with wound healing disorders: Results from clinical intervention studies. Curr. Opin. Clin. Nutr. Metab. Care. 2009;12:588–595. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328331a5b5.
  18. Yao P, Bennett D, Mafham M, et al. Vitamin D and Calcium for the Prevention of Fracture: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(12):e1917789. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.17789 
  19. Burkievcz C.J., Skare T.L., Malafaia O., Nassif P.A., Ribas C.S., Santos L.R. Vitamin D deficiency in patients with chronic venous ulcers. Rev. Col. Bras. Cir. 2012;39:60–63. doi: 10.1590/S0100-69912012000100012
  20. Kalava U.R., Cha S.S., Takahashi P.Y. Association between vitamin D and pressure ulcers in older ambulatory adults: Results of a matched case-control study. Clin. Interv. Aging. 2011;6:213–219. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S23109.
  21. Zhang Y.G., Wu S., Sun J. Vitamin D, Vitamin D Receptor, and Tissue Barriers. Tissue Barriers. 2013;1:e23118. doi: 10.4161/tisb.23118.
  22. Teplicki E, Ma Q, Castillo DE, Zarei M, Hustad AP, Chen J, Li J. The Effects of Aloe vera on Wound Healing in Cell Proliferation, Migration, and Viability. Wounds. 2018 Sep;30(9):263-268. PMID: 30256753.
  23. Seyyed Abbas Hashemi, Seyyed Abdollah Madani, Saied Abediankenari, “The Review on Properties of Aloe Vera in Healing of Cutaneous Wounds”, BioMed Research International, vol. 2015, Article ID 714216, 6 pages, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/714216
  24. Dat AD, Poon F, Pham KBT, Doust J. Aloe vera for treating acute and chronic wounds. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD008762. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008762.pub2
  25. Gromkowska-K?pka KJ, Markiewicz-?ukowska R, Nowakowski P, et al. Chemical Composition and Protective Effect of Young Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) Dietary Supplements Extracts on UV-Treated Human Skin Fibroblasts in In Vitro Studies. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021;10(9):1402. Published 2021 Aug 31. doi:10.3390/antiox10091402
  26. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017;6(10):92. Published 2017 Oct 22. doi:10.3390/foods6100092
  27. Peddada KV, Peddada KV, Shukla SK, Mishra A, Verma V. Role of Curcumin in Common Musculoskeletal Disorders: a Review of Current Laboratory, Translational, and Clinical Data. Orthop Surg. 2015;7(3):222-231. doi:10.1111/os.12183
  28. Sanivarapu R, Vallabhaneni V, Verma V. The Potential of Curcumin in Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury. Neurol Res Int. 2016;2016:9468193. doi:10.1155/2016/9468193
  29. Barchitta M, Maugeri A, Favara G, et al. Nutrition and Wound Healing: An Overview Focusing on the Beneficial Effects of Curcumin. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(5):1119. Published 2019 Mar 5. doi:10.3390/ijms20051119