What Does Your Doctor Know About Nutrition and Healing?

A friend who recently had a calcaneous fracture, or fracture of the heel bone,  commented that he was undergoing rehab following his surgery to repair the broken bones and that his affected leg was much smaller than the unaffected side.   We wondered if our friend had been told about the importance  of protein in his diet.

Following any type of surgery or injury it is important to discuss with your physician and/or consult with a nutritionist if necessary to find out if a special diet and/or supplementation would help your healing process. In our friend’s case there are two reasons to add increased protein to his diet.

#1. He’s just had surgery and surgery puts stress on the body, the tissues, and protein and the amino acids in it help the body to heal

#2. He’s participating in an exercise/physical therapy rehabilitation program which is also stressing the body and muscles (which is a good thing) but if you think about how important it is for body builders to include adequate sources of protein in their diet while weightlifting, you will also understand that if you’ve suffered any type of injury where there is muscle wasting, and you’re trying to rebuild strength and muscle, then it is important to include a high quality protein in your diet.

Protein is a nutrient that is known to be a “building block” for the body and protein is used to build muscle, tissues, cells in the body responsible for delivering oxygen like your red blood cells, and your white blood cells which are critical for the proper functioning of your immune system.

How much protein do you need?

The answer is “it depends”, and the best thing to do is to consult your doctor if your practitioner is knowledgeable about nutrition, and if not, to find a good nutritionist who can work with your doctor to help you with some guidelines on the proper amount of protein for your particular situation.

In general however, most people without going through an illness or injury will need to consume between one-third and one-half of a gram of protein per day for each pound of body weight.  Men will need more protein than women, and illnesses or injury will also add to your protein requirements. 


Easy Ways to Include More Protein in your Diet:

Designer Whey Protein: 18g protein, 2g sugar, 2g fat, only 100 calories mixed with water.

Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein: 24g protein, 3gs sugar, 1.5g fat only 130 calories

Other important nutrients for bone/wound healing:

In addition to your protein for healing it is important to include nutrients from whole grain carbohydrates which will help your cells properly grow. Zinc is an important nutrient which is often overlooked and because many of us don’t get enough zinc in our diets it is sometimes important to supplement with a good high quality zinc supplement. Foods that contain zinc include oysters, which have more zinc per serving than any other food, along with crab and lobster, pork,  red meat and poultry, beans, nuts, and fortified breakfast cereals.

If you smoke, stop. Smoking is extremely detrimental to wound healing and reduces the ability of new blood vessels to establish themselves on the wound site.

Vitamins A, C, E, and the B- Complex vitamins  are also important for wound and tissue healing. Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables for example, berries, broccoli, bell peppers, and cauliflower. Vitamin A is found in some of the foods that are good sources of protein as well like calf’s liver, dairy products and eggs.  A good source of most all of these nutrients can be found in leafy green vegetables such as kale which includes Vitamins A, C, E, and some of the B complex vitamins. 

Just remember, your job after an illness or surgery is to find out all of the components that are important in order for you to return to wellness as quickly as possible. If you’re physician isn’t discussing what you can do nutritionally to help yourself in the healing process, be sure to remind your doctor to discuss this aspect of your care with you. Having adequate protein and other crucial nutrients can help you heal much more quickly and maintain healthy muscles during your recovery process.