What do fractured bones need to heal?
I want my broken radius bone to heal quickly so that I can go back to flying down mountains, running the icy streets and attempting headstands in yoga. Although I can’t control how my body reacts, I can certainly help it by providing it with the right nutrients to do its job. One of the most obvious things I need is Calcium, which helps to build strong bones, and Vitamin D to help with its absorption. But what else will help me heal and how can I get it through nutrition?
Magnesium – Magnesium helps to create dense bones; almost 50% of magnesium in the body is stored in the bones. As well as helping the pituitary gland to function, it also helps to bind calcium and fluorine together. Magnesium helps to relax the mind and body too. The best sources are pumpkin seeds and nuts but it’s also found in legumes (such as kidney beans), green leafy vegetables and whole grains.
Zinc – Zinc is needed to form collagen, which must be created during the bone fracture healing process. It also helps bones to absorb calcium, protects the liver and regulates Vitamin E, which is needed for blood clotting. Zinc is important for people that exercise regularly since we lose a lot of the mineral through sweat. The best time for the body to absorb zinc is after eating protein rather than wholegrain cereals that contain phytates; these cannot be digested by the body and stop absorbtion of minerals like zinc and iron. And the most zinc rich food – oysters! People like me that shy away from the aphrodisiac can get zinc through meat and poultry, nuts and beans, although the zinc content of animal protein is much higher than that of plant protein.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C is essential for growth, maintenance and repair of healthy body tissue. It helps with both collagen production and boosting bone mineral density. Vitamin C deficiency was the cause of scurvy among sailors and pirates in ye olden days, since they weren’t able to get enough fresh fruit and vegetables at sea. Unlike many animals, that synthesize their own Vitamin C, we need to get it from food – citrus fruit, tomatoes and vegetables. Time to stock up on orange juice.
Vitamin K – Vitamin K is actually the name for a group of vitamins with similar composition and is often overlooked. It too helps to regulate blood clotting and promote bone formation by helping the body to form the proteins needed for calcium metabolism. This vitamin comes from plant foods and the best sources are leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli and superfood extraordinaire – Kale, also popular in World War II Britain.
And what to avoid?
Anything unhealthy! Sodium, hydrogenated oil and sugary drinks all rob the body of calcium. Soft drinks contain a large amount of phosphorus that can lessen calcium reserves and reduce the body’s ability to use additional supplements. Excessive sodium consumption can deplete calcium and magnesium sources. Stimulants such alcohol, caffeinated drinks and tobacco all hinder the absorption of calcium and increase its loss through urine. Alcohol also obstructs Vitamin D absorption. And lastly, there is a debate about how much protein the body needs to take in the optimal amount of calcium; red meat is known to be a ‘bone robber’, removing calcium from the kidneys.