Eat Right to Rehab Right

Dr. Sam Santoriello has given an excellent video instruction of very effective and easy comprehensive rehabilitation exercises that he prescribes to his patients at Multi-Specialty HealthCare. However, while we are considering the role of rehabilitation, we also want to point out the important role of all lifestyle adaptations and their effect on your health. Nutrition is one of them.

Nutrition can both help or hinder your recovery efforts, because of the effect of nutrients on your muscles, joints and general health and well being. You want to maintain a good diet during your rehabilitation for the most effective overall healing, and diet has a big impact on that healing.

A balance of good (complex) carbohydrates and protein are helpful for, respectively, muscle energy and muscle healing/building. Several vitamins and minerals directly affect your healing. Vitamin C for example aids your body in the formation of collagen, which is a protein that repairs tendons and ligaments and strengthens bone. It is also needed for strength and flexibility. Vitamin A promotes cell and bone growth and development. Both Vitamins C and A assist with immune function. Zinc is involved in wound healing. And these are just a few examples.

Iron can be important for those in rehabilitation, since iron is used to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood, and myoglobin, which handles oxygen inside muscles. (Yet you don’t want to have too much iron). Antioxidants are also important in avoiding cell damage.

Many people continue to eat the same amount they ate before they were injured or hurt, and thus when they were more active. If you do this, the odds are you will put on weight. In addition to not feeling your best, extra weight can put more strain on your joints or any injured area which you are working to heal, and therefore want less stress.

Conversely, lack of calories can also negatively impact healing. Studies suggest, for example, that athletes who have broken their femur (the large bone in the upper part of the leg), may experience an increase in basal metabolism of around 20 percent (because their bodies ‘gear up’ to repair the injured bone). So, simply cutting back or ‘starving’ yourself isn’t the best approach either.

The best way to determine an ideal diet, during rehabilitation and in general — including whether you want to consider supplements — is to consult a registered dietician and get a customized program. This is particularly important in the area of supplementation, since you will find everyone has different advice and opinions. Keeping a food diary can also assist you to understand and become more conscious of what you are eating, when and why. It can also greatly assist a dietician in providing you with personalized advice.

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