Barbara Depta - July 26 2021

Key healing nutrients to recover faster from a bone fracture

Once your doctor has set a fractured bone, you're sent home to do what?
You rest and just wait, right?

That may be enough for some people, but if you want to get back to your best high-performing self, there are a few strategies that can help you heal a bone faster.

You can take a role in your healing by eating and not eating specific foods. There are even particular nutrients that specific tissues need to heal faster — and I can tell you now that each layer of your body needs tailored nutrients, including your bones.

Even so, there are a few low-hanging fruits, and we'll get to the best fruit for healing a fracture later, which has been demonstrated in research studies to accelerate recovery from a sprain, fracture, or break. 

how do broken bones heal?

The inflammatory process involves three steps: Inflammation, Resolution, and Remodeling. Each of these steps is essential for healing from any injury. And yes, sometimes inflammation is a good thing.

Initial inflammation involves swelling, heat, pain, and redness. These all help your body to heal faster. The swelling is caused by an influx of immune cells that start to break down damaged cells. Heat and redness are due to the increased blood flow to get nutrients into the area and waste products out. Finally, pain is an unmistakable signal to your conscious brain to not mess with that injured area.

The resolution step starts soon after an injury but ramps up once the initial inflammation subsides, about 7-14 days, depending on the person and the injury. Then, pro-resolving immune cells get the broken, damaged cells out and set a structural framework to build new tissue.

According to some scientists, if the initial inflammatory stage is impaired or delayed, it may, in turn, slow down the resolution step.

The last stage in the inflammatory process is the remodeling of your tissues. This stage is when broken bones are calcified and collagen macro-proteins are put in place. This process may only start after three weeks and can last for months, depending on the anti-inflammatory nutrients in your diet.

Ensuring that each step is supported nutritionally ensures that your healing process is fast while also being effective.

Inflammatory Process and Nutrition

The initial inflammation and what happens after are affected by the way you support your body nutritionally. Take an example: anti-inflammatories. They're popular and seemingly safe ways to reduce pain, so should you be taking anti-inflammatories to heal a bone?

Taking high-dose over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories during the first few days of an injury can slow the healing process down — take the emerging research around painkillers as an example. Of course, follow your doctor's orders, but cutting the pain caused by inflammation at the beginning of the process sets you up for slow healing.

In the next step, resolution, foods that support your anti-inflammatory and pro-resolution system (not NSAIDS, which short-circuit one inflammatory pathway) should take center stage.

In addition, the building blocks you need for strong bones must be present. Even though broken bones don't heal stronger, during the resolution and the beginning of the remodeling phase, there is so much calcium stored in the collagen framework that it is stronger than it has ever been.

Bioavailable calcium, a good amount of collagen, and a slew of other supportive nutrients are helpful here.

Then, when your body is finally remodeling and setting the final tissue in place, you can start getting back to a regular, healthy diet.

As you can see, your nutrition has to be optimized for the stage of healing you're. 

What to eat to heal after breaking a bone

If you want to accelerate the healing speed of a broken bone, these nutrients are going to be your go-to. These serve as building blocks for tissues and essential nutrients for your bone-building machinery to run smoothly.

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Fluoride
  • Zinc
  • Boron
  • Silica
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Gelatin
  • Collagen Peptides

If you want to learn about the ten best supplements for bone health (including the best types of vitamin D and calcium for bone health), check out our article: 10+ Benefits of Bone Health.

Best Foods For Broken Bones

The foods highest in these nutrients and other bioactive rich with healing potential are part of the Mediterranean or plant-based diet's general anti-inflammatory eating pattern. Some examples of bone-healthy foods that you should eat regularly are:

Tofu and other soy products - which also have genistein and soy isoflavones to promote bone formation.

Salmon - one of the best sources of calcium, vitamin D, Magnesium, and even collagen (but only if you eat the skin). Its red color is due to astaxanthin, another anti-inflammatory plant chemical linked with better bone health, in a preliminary study.

Collagen peptides support proper bones at a structural level since the hard part of your bones is 90% collagen protein. A good collagen supplement is particularly enhanced when mixed with bone-supporting bioactive, blood flow-enhancing nitric oxide, and vitamin C for absorption.

Red and green leafy vegetables provide a spread of minerals, almost all of the bone-specific vitamins you need, nitrates to improve blood flow around an injury, and specific anti-inflammatories that can optimize your inflammatory status.

Aronia berry is probably the best fruit for bones, not just because of its high vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin K content. Aronia berries are an excellent source of nitrates — which support blood flow: doubly important for healing a broken bone — and one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidant anthocyanin polyphenols in nature!

Mineral and artisan water contains trace mineral silica and boron in appreciable amounts linked with better bone structure.

With this, we are just scratching the surface, though: to optimize your recovery process, you need to optimize every single nutrient that impacts your bones, the recipes (including smoothies) that will support every layer of your body, along with the physical therapy to enhance bone remodeling.

If you want to know how these ingredients work with each other to help prevent bone injuries and enhance healing time — as well as the resources to explain it clearly, the references to back it up, and the recipes and tips to help you make it happen — sign up for our newsletter to get notified of our upcoming course, "Nutrition to Optimize Your Connective Tissue"!

What Foods To Avoid For Broken Bones

Foods that lead to chronic inflammation — pretty much your standard American diet — supports excessive inflammation.

Although the acute response right after any injury is inflammatory, if your body is already in an inflamed state, it won't handle this influx of responsibility.

Think of it this way: if your fire alarms go off every time you cook, and you just become used to them, then if they went off due to an actual emergency, your response would be delayed and uncoordinated.

For a list of inflammatory foods, we've got you covered on this blog:
Staying Healthy While Staying in: Cooking on a Healthy Budget.

The long story short is that most processed foods, pre-packaged foods, and refined grains (sugar, white rice, corn products) are linked with chronic inflammatory diseases.

It's best to avoid these while your body is growing new bone. Otherwise, you're setting your bone on an inflammatory foundation and yourself up for another injury!

Painkillers And Bone Healing

I want to highlight not a food but a frequent flyer in the medicine cabinet: painkillers. Unfortunately, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are the go-to for pain relief, but these over-the-counters delay the healing time and hurt your connective tissue strength long-term.

Painkillers treat the symptoms, not the problem. And then they set you up to need them repeatedly without addressing the underlying issue. The worst part is they prolong the inflammation in your musculoskeletal system; that's the opposite of what you want!

Takeaways for optimizing bone health after injury

There are a few strategies that can speed up the healing process of a broken or fractured bone. Here are the main details.

  • After an injury, your body goes through three healthy and essential steps: inflammation, resolution, and remodeling. Each of these can be optimally supported with the appropriate nutrition.
  • The way you eat affects your inflammatory status. With inflammation being so high throughout the world, it's essential to eat a generally anti-inflammatory diet to set your healing body up for success.
  • Food high in specific ingredients (Calcium, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Fluoride, Zinc, Boron, Silica, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Plant-based Nitrates, and Collagen Peptides) are essential for proper bone tissue development.
  • NSAIDs, though essential for numbing pain, should be minimized to the lowest dose you can handle. Otherwise, you run the risk of slowing down the healing process.

If you want every nutrient to pay attention to optimize bone healing, as well as the foods, recipes, and resources to implement these strategies, sign up for our newsletter and take our audience survey so we can serve you better.What are the benefits?You tell us what you want, and we notify you when our new courses on nutrition to heal every layer of the body are available!

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The Resync Team

References

Close, Graeme L., et al. "Nutrition for the Prevention and Treatment of Injuries in Track and Field Athletes." International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, vol. 29, no. 2, Human Kinetics, Mar. 2019, pp. 189–97. journals.humankinetics.com, doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0290.Dakin, Stephanie G., et al. "Resolving an Inflammatory Concept: The Importance of Inflammation and Resolution in Tendinopathy." Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, vol. 158, no. 3–4, Apr. 2014, pp. 121–27. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.vetimm.2014.01.007.Hwang, Yun-Ho, et al. "Suppression Effect of Astaxanthin on Osteoclast Formation In Vitro and Bone Loss In Vivo." International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 19, no. 3, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI), Mar. 2018. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, doi:10.3390/ijms19030912.Jugdaohsingh, Ravin, et al. "Silicon and Boron Differ in Their Localization and Loading in Bone." Bone Reports, vol. 1, Jan. 2015, pp. 9–15. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.bonr.2014.10.002.Kanadys, Wiesław, et al. "Effects of Soy Isoflavones on Biochemical Markers of Bone Metabolism in Postmenopausal Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 18, no. 10, May 2021, p. 5346. PubMed, doi:10.3390/ijerph18105346.Machida, M., and T. Takemasa. "Ibuprofen Administration during Endurance Training Cancels Running-Distance-Dependent Adaptations of Skeletal Muscle in Mice." Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology: An Official Journal of the Polish Physiological Society, vol. 61, no. 5, Oct. 2010, pp. 559–63.Nieman, David C., et al. "Ibuprofen Use, Endotoxemia, Inflammation, and Plasma Cytokines during Ultramarathon Competition." Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, vol. 20, no. 6, Nov. 2006, pp. 578–84. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2006.02.001.Pountos, Ippokratis, et al. "Do Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Affect Bone Healing? A Critical Analysis." The Scientific World Journal, vol. 2012, Hindawi Limited, 2012. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, doi:10.1100/2012/606404.Tiku, Moti L., and Balaraman Madhan. "Preserving the Longevity of Long-Lived Type II Collagen and Its Implication for Cartilage Therapeutics." Ageing Research Reviews, vol. 28, July 2016, pp. 62–71. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.arr.2016.04.011.Written by Barbara Depta and registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated on 7/26/2021.

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This content is for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute the practice of any professional healthcare service, INCLUDING the giving of medical advice. No provider-patient relationship is formed. The use of this information, and the materials linked to this content is at the user's own risk. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should abide by the advice of their healthcare provider, and should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice for any medical condition they may have.

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