There are many species that will actually grow a new limb when one has been lost in some kind of wildlife duel. Unfortunately, humans are not one of them and despite lacking this particular super power, we do have a myriad of other rather miraculous regeneration abilities. Some of us can even grow entire humans.
In fact, I’ve previously grown four entire limbs in utero. Inasmuch, it would be relatively plausible to assume that I could grow myself a new hamstring. There’s always a surgical option as well, but seeing as I’m a nutritionist, it seems like I should at least try the you-are-what-you-eat methodology and rump roast myself back to health.
As many of us outdoors folk (or those of you who take the gym super serious) can attest, injuries happen. This year alone I managed to separate the majority of my hamstring from the pelvis, and, in an attempt to complete that tear, dislocated my opposite shoulder. Even my best efforts did not meet my insurance deductible. But the real reason I’m trying to avoid surgery is because those hospital gowns are never very flattering.
The thing about these soft tissue injuries is that they take a long time to heal. Like… entire ski seasons. The other thing about soft tissue injuries in the joint is, not letting it heal leads to chronic inflammation, which leads to arthritis, which leads to no more ski seasons ever. They also require a kind of passive healing process that makes most of us want to hibernate in a bottle of wine or an endless pint of ice cream (or both). We commonly stare with blinking eyes at our health care experts. Rest?
There are many psychologists out there exploring the mental and emotional impact of the injured athlete and some of the most challenging things they face is the aspect of having to wait for the body to do what the body does (heal) on its own clock. What if we could actively take part in that process and feel less like standers-by as we witnessed measurable improvement? What if we could grow ourselves some new limbs?
Helping our soft tissue recover requires rest and cellular activity. The body needs to push things into and out of the cells, needs to remove debris from the injured site, build scar tissue or repair damage. It requires not only a lot of energy, but also the ingredients to make this happen. Both the environment and the nutrients must be appropriate to an optimal healing process. And since we all get injured from time to time, here are my favorite nutritional rehabilitation tricks:
- Stop drinking alcohol. Yeah, no one ever wants to hear that, especially this time of year. Alcohol is pro-inflammatory and an immune suppressant, two things we just don’t need when recovering from an injury. It also disrupts our blood sugars and our precious sleep—those key hours when our resting body can do most of its healing work. For how long? It depends on the injury, but this hamstring of mine will enjoy a year of sobriety. That’s how much I want to grow a new leg.
- Watch the sugar. And remember that sugar comes in a lot of forms—empty carbohydrates like bread and white rice, crackers, and fruit cakes. First of all, if you can’t move as much, you really don’t need the extra calories. If you need to heal, you really can’t afford empty Everything that goes in should be nutrient-dense. Sugar is pro-inflammatory, too. This isn’t buzzword bingo; it literally increases the amount of cytokines in our bloodstream. These little messengers of our cells send signals that increase inflammation and suppress inflammation and are key to the immune and healing process.
- Traditional bone broth. Every. Day. The hype is real. Bone broth is loaded with collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, gelatin, and essential minerals (not to mention protein!). This is the very stuff your own tissues are made out of. We don’t have a lot of science on Grandma’s recipe, but there is a myriad of science supporting the benefits of consuming the specific compounds in bone broth and their essential role to our health. Get a slow cooker to save your dollars and make yourself some chicken soup. Then drink the stuff out of your thermos all afternoon. It’s a perfect replacement for that sugary mocha or spiked cider.
- Be your own guinea pig. I’m not suggesting you drop a ridiculous amount of cash on snake oil, but do be open to trying methods and means you haven’t tried before. I’ve seen no less than twelve witchdoctors in an attempt to pamper this tattered limb and the hobby may well have replaced my running habit. I learned that acupuncture reliably reduces my pain and that I can actually sleep with needles in me. I learned that prolotherapy brings out the sailor swearing in me. And I learned that Tiger Balm should never be rubbed into a part of my body that is that close to other parts of my body.
And of course, eat your vegetables. Your body is doing some underground work. Supply it with the love and tenderness it needs, and it will not disappoint you. Then do like your doctor said, and rest. //
Ammi Midstokke tried to sever more than one limb from her body this year. She’s currently on lock down and swimming slow, careful pool laps. Last month, she wrote about the wonders of a good soup.