Medical History Explained: Diet and Osteopathy

A wise man once said: “He who thinks he has no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” It should come as no real surprise that in terms of tissue healing and injury prevention, the role of a healthy diet is pivotal. You may recall that last week’s blog post discussed the role of inflammation on tissue healing and also touched on the topic of food allergies and their relationship to pain. In addition to allergies, the food and drink you put in to your body each day can also have a direct impact on your musculoskeletal system by causing inflammation and delayed tissue healing times.

In your initial consultation at MOSIC you may remember being asked about your diet: How many meals do you eat each day? Do you prepare your own food or eat out? Do you drink coffee or tea? How much water do you drink each day? And so on. While this information may seem irrelevant for a musculoskeletal complaint, as Osteopaths it is a crucial element in helping you recover from you injury and prevent further damage down the track.

Studies have shown that the tissue repair healing process can be sped up slightly through a proper diet. The key is to eat foods that naturally boost your immune system, affect skin and tissue, and have anti-inflammatory properties. However, it is still important to maintain a balanced diet, otherwise these foods may not have the desired effect. So what does a healthy diet consist of and what are we looking for when we ask about your eating habits?

During a state of injury, healing tissue requires an increased number of macro and micro nutrients. These enable the body to maintain a positive state of repair. Micronutrients, or minerals, are an important component of tissue healing. They include, but are not limited to: calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, manganese and copper (in small doses). Most of us get enough of these micronutrients through a well balanced diet and don’t generally need supplementation.

When it comes to macro nutrients, the body needs sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and particularly proteins, to aid in rebuilding the damaged tissues. Some people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet may struggle to consume adequate protein to allow this healing process to occur at the correct rate. In these cases it is sometimes recommended that you seek advice from a registered dietician to help you get your macro nutrient consumption up to a more desirable level.

Proper hydration is essential for helping your body with everything from boosting your brain function to decreasing the risk of cardiovascular failure. But did you know that it can also assist with tissue healing? When your body is not receiving an adequate amount of fluids, several abnormalities can arise including: poor oxygen perfusion, reduced delivery of essential nutrients to injured tissue, and draining inefficiency. Over time, decreased fluid intake leads to dehydration, which in turn leads to delayed healing. Typically, the body’s water composition fluctuates between 60 to 70 percent of its total weight. For most people this means that adequate hydration requires the consumption of no less than 2 litres of water per day (the equivalent of about eight glasses). Keep in mind that this is the bare minimum, and someone recovering from an injury will want to drink even more to assist in the delivery of oxygen and nutrient-rich cells to the injury site.

Dehydration is also heavily affected by caffeine intake. Both coffee and caffeinated tea can have a big impact. Many people are guilty of sneaking in an extra coffee at work to help get through the mid-afternoon slump. However, most don’t realise that this caffeine hit can end up delaying our tissue healing. Aside from its dehydrating properties, recent studies showed that caffeine can also restrict cellular proliferation and delay cell migration to injured tissue, thereby hindering the wound healing process. It is therefore vitally important to understand how these simple day-to-day habits can negatively affect your healing.

In an age where many people work long hours with minimal breaks, eating and drinking whatever is available in order to survive a hectic lifestyle, it is important to pause and think about what you are putting into your body. Your diet will affect you more than you realise. A healthy and balanced diet will not only improve energy levels, sleep patterns and generally make you feel better, it will also help speed up your injury healing times. Next time you reach for a quick 3pm fix of fundraiser chocolates or another coffee, think twice and remember that your Osteopath can help guide you to the resources you need to help you get back on track.

Dr Catherine Allison is an experienced Osteopath and competitive triathlete. She has fantastic experience treating all sorts of injuries and can assist you with many diet-related queries.

If you would like to speak to Dr Catherine Allison or one of our other practitioners about how your diet may be affecting your healing time, please feel free to ask a question, contact us or email us at: [email protected]