The body’s self-restoration of bone fracture is instant and does not require direction from us. However, what we do during the healing process significantly affect the speed, comfort and completeness of the bone renewal process. Moreover, a healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet can strengthen the entire skeleton and reduce the likelihood of future fractures.
What Happens When the Fracture is Healing?
Fracture healing is a complex process of cell and tissue production. This requires growth, inflammation, antioxidants, bone breakdown as well as bone-building cells, hormones, amino acids (protein), and numerous nutrients.
Fracture Healing’s Three Stages
- Inflammation Phase – Blood clot forms immediately after fracture, allowing the inflow of inflammatory cleanup cells. Thereafter comes the (Cytokine), which brings the repair cells into the fracture gap. These cells instantly differentiate into specialized cells that build bone tissue and new cartilage.
- Reparative Phase – This begins around two weeks after the fracture occurred. In this stage, proteins produced by the bone-building and cartilage-building cells starts to merge into soft new bone substance, which eventually hardens as bone weaves together over a 6- to 12-week time period.
- Remodeling – The bone substance begins to mature and remodel itself into stronger lamellar bone by the bone formation cells and the bone resorption cells.
The Nutritional Demands of Healing
Every stage of the fracture healing process has increased nutritional needs. Importantly, the healing process requires a lot of energy, which is acquired though calories in food. Furthermore, the fracture healing needs a fusion of new protein – these amino acids are also obtained through food. Good blood supply is another factor mandatory for fracture healing (anything reducing blood flow – smoking, little physical activity etc. slows the healing process). Finally, the trauma of the fracture itself creates a biochemical eruption of free radicals (pro oxidants), resulting in oxidative stress that can drain the body’s antioxidant reserves.
Foods that Promote Healing
Generally, people are not aware that they can actually make their bones heal faster. They are normally just told to limit use of the injured bone. However, there are many ways to reduce healing time of the bone fracture:
Provide the body with sufficient energy
The fracture healing requires a great deal of energy, so it is important to increase the calorie intake. An adult normally requires around 2,500 calories per day, but a person with severe bone fractures may need up to 6,000 calories in a day! If this need is not met, the healing process is compromised.
Increase protein intake
Bone is made of living protein upon which mineral crystals are implanted. By volume, about 50% of bone is protein. When a bone fracture takes place, the body starts collecting protein building blocks to create new bone. Increasing protein consumption promotes growth factors such as insulin like growth, which has a positive effect on skeletal integrity, muscle strength, immune response, and bone renewal. A number of studies have proven that even a modest 10 to 20 grams increase in protein intake notably accelerate bone fracture healing. Specific amino acids of particular importance are: lysine, arginine, proline, glycine, cystine, and glutamine. Lysine enhances the calcium absorption, which increase the amount of calcium absorbed into the bone matrix, aiding the regeneration of tissue.
Increase consumption of anti-inflammatory nutrients
Antioxidants repair the oxidative damage caused by free radicals that are produced by the injured tissues. These free radicals are resulting in inflammation, further breakdown of bone collagen and excessive bone turnover. Antioxidants – including vitamins E and C, lycopene and ((alpha lipoic acid)) have been claimed to reduce the destructive effect of oxidant free radicals and therefore improving fracture healing.
Inflammation is vital for cleaning up and rebuilding the bone. Many standard anti-inflammatory drugs inhibit the inflammation enzymes. This relieves the pain, but also slows healing. On the contrary, nourishing the body to reduce inflammation naturally actually speeds the healing process. Vitamin C, bioflavonoids and flavonols (such as quercitin, proanthrocydins), omega 3 fatty acids and proteolytic enzymes (such as bromalain and trypsin) naturally calm the inflammation and speed healing. Also, anti-inflammatory nutrients help reduce pain.
Boost Mineral Intake
By weigh, approximately 70% of bone is minerals (calcium, phosphorous magnesium, silicon, zinc etc.), and the healing process demands available minerals. Most people does not get sufficient amounts of minerals through their diet, which can negatively affect the healing when a fracture occurs. Key minerals for bone fracture healing:
- Zinc – aids in bone formation, enhances bone protein production and thus improves the rate of healing.
- Copper – aids formation of bone collagen. The body’s need for copper and zink increases correspondingly to the severity of the trauma.
- Calcium and Phosphorous – the main minerals in bone. They regulate the elastic stiffness and tensile strength of the bone. Research has found that during the first few weeks of healing, calcium is taken from the skeleton. After that the diet needs to provide the mineral and restore the depleted reserves. Calcium absorption is dependent on vitamin D, so for the best fracture healing, both calcium and vitamin D should be consumed in abundance every day.
- Silicon – bioactive silicon (silica) is important for bone collagen synthesis. It is found to improve the effects of calcium and vitamin D on new bone formation.
Proteins and minerals are building blocks for bone creation and healing. Vitamins, however, promotes a series of biochemical reactions and are equally important. Several vitamins have vital roles in the healing process; vitamins C, D and K as well as the energy producing B vitamins.
- Vitamin C – One of the most important antioxidants and anti inflammatory nutrients as well as being essential for synthesis of the bone collagen matrix. Studies have shown that higher intake of vitamin C accelerate fracture healing and develop stronger bone repair.
- Vitamin D – Main regulator of calcium absorption. Also, vitamin D in combination with Vitamin K stimulates the transformation of fracture site stem cells, to bone building tissue. Vitamin D is therefore crucial for fracture healing.
- Vitamin K – Bind calcium to bone and needed for proper formation of bone protein. Also, it helps conserve calcium by reducing the loss of calcium though the urine. Vitamin K has a real effect on all collagen tissues, and especially bone tissue.
- Vitamin B6 – Deficiency of this vitamin results in more frequent fractures and a slower healing. Vitamin B6 regulates the effects of vitamin K on bone.
Fracture healing time was reduced by approximately 2 weeks
A placebo controlled, multi nutrient study gave vitamin C, lysine, proline, and vitamin B6 to tibia fracture patients. The ones doing the multi nutrient therapy, fracture healing time was reduced by approximately 2 weeks.
The body’s pH value needs to be right to create an optimal environment for healing. A diet containing a lot of fruit and vegetables alkalizes the body, and conserves bone building minerals and proteins. It also increases growth hormones and other growth factors such as IGF insulin like growth factor. These growth hormones are some of the most important biochemical processes, boosting fracture repair and new bone formation.
Various herbs have long been used to speed bone fracture healing:
- Comfrey (Symphytum uplandics) – used for pain relief and the joining of set bones. In folk medicine called “knit-bone” as it assist knitting the bone substance together. Comfrey is recommended to be used in the form of a strong tea (infusion) or as a cream applied on the fracture area.
- Burdock leaf – a hot fresh leaf bandaged over the fracture to reduce swelling from the fracture.
- Arnica – Function as anti trauma and should be taken immediately after fracture. 5 or less drops given every 3 to 4 hours after the fracture took place helps recovering from this trauma.
- Horsetailgrass – high in silicon, which can be boiled and made into a tea. This is valuable in the early stages of the fracture healing process.
- Cissus Quadrangularis – has been widely studied for its fracture healing properties.
However, herbal medicine should be used under the guidance of a qualified herbalist.
Exercise to Speed Fracture Healing
Exercise is an important way to accelerate fracture healing. The healing process requires good blood circulation, and a satisfactory flow of nutrient replenishing blood to the fracture area. However, make sure to not put stress on the fracture.
Energy Healing for Bone Fracture
Pulsating electromagnetic field therapy has been used for many years in conventional medicine to heal fractures unable to heal by itself (non union fractures – approximately 5-10% fail to heal normally).
Homeopathy, reiki, qi gong, polarity therapy, healing touch, acupuncture and massage are other alternative treatments often used in connection with bone fracture healing.
Fracture Healing and Smoking
Research has shown that smoking can delay the healing process, taking up to 62% longer to heal than non-smokers. Infections and non-union are also much more common among smokers.
Fracture Healing and Alcohol
Alcohol can be directly toxic to bone and alcohol abuse is linked to increased facture incidents, reduced ability for fracture healing and infections.
Where Can I Purchase These Bone Healing Supplements?
Many online vendors now carry supplements to help the bone healing process. Upping your intake of these beneficial supplements does not have to break your wallet. At an affordable cost and the highest quality, Calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and Zinc are all available to purchase online from dietary supplement vendors like Powder City, Bulk Supplements and Amazon.