The Role Nutrition Plays in Healing from Trauma

Your diet may be most important factor in how quickly you recover


Dramatic experiences and subsequent shocks and upsets are a part of life. Robberies, car accidents, abusive relationships, random attacks – such traumatic events take time to overcome. The recovery process, after both a physical and mental ordeal, should start with your diet. “You are what you eat” has never been more true.

Unhealthy eating habits lead to inflammation, which causes oxidative stress, which is imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to detoxify their harmful effects, making you look and feel sicker and older.

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Nutritional status is extremely important in wound healing, especially the major wounds, studies show. The stress response to injury and any preexistent protein-energy malnutrition will alter this response, impeding healing and leading to potential severe morbidity. 

The worst thing you can do as you try to recover is lose lean body mass. Unfortunately, this often happens because the breakdown of healthy tissue is often necessary to respond to the need to repair damaged tissue. Decrease in lean body mass is of particular concern as this component is responsible for all protein synthesis necessary for curing.

The body during times of healing needs increased oxygen and nutrients, according to the DRS Health Foundation. Demand must go beyond the basal rate to be able to maintain the normal functions of the body and rebuild injured tissue. “Studies over the last 20 years have demonstrated that a positive nutritional balance results in improved healing rates of wounds, decreased hospital stays, and decreased infection rates.”

A 2011 report suggests that nutrition appears to play a vital role in improving the outcome of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in service members wounded in battle, especially if it is administered soon after the injury occurs. Consumption of calories and protein-rich foods that started within a day and continued for two weeks significantly reduced inflammation in the brain and helped recovery.

Also, new information suggests that nutritional interventions could help in treating or even providing resilience against TBI.

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Vitamins and minerals – such as A, B, C, and D as well as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc – are essential nutrients the body needs in small amounts for metabolic reactions, according to Precision Nutrition. They can act as catalysts that bind to enzymes to facilitate enzyme action in the body.

Nutrition is also important in dealing with psychological trauma. Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body. A healthy diet builds a solid, more enduring foundation for your body by reducing oxidation and inflammation and by helping to reduce weight gain.

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Stress negatively effects blood pressure and blood flow. There is a strong relationship between fluctuations in brain blood flow and brain health and these compounds over time. Nutrients from healthy foods can help improve blood flow in the body. Eat more foods that are rich in omega-3s (EPA and DHA), vitamin E and polyphenols found in red wine, blueberries and dark chocolate.

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Foods to avoid during recovery, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, include alcohol, which impairs muscle protein synthesis, simple carbs (sweets and candies), which impede healing and result in immune dysfunction, and caffeine, which may have an inhibitory effect on wound healing.

More readings:

20 Natural Habits That Keep You Young

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Are Vitamins and Supplements Worth Taking?