You took a nasty fall and twisted your ankle during all the commotion. Pain and a heating sensation radiate through the area. Soon, you know your ankle will swell to the size of a grapefruit and you won't be able to hold up long under your own weight.
You're looking at up to six weeks to recover, depending on the grade of the sprain. Protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation are all keys to assisting your body with recovery. But when you need a quicker way to get back on your feet, there are six essential vitamins and minerals that can do the trick.
What Happens During an Injury
Your body is ingenious. Following an injury, it responds first by inducing pain, then by causing the affected area to swell as fluid accumulates either inside or outside the joint capsule. Pain and swelling, although by all appearances and feel, may seem counterproductive, are your body's natural reactions to an injury and are the first steps toward healing.
Pain not only alerts you to the injury, but it acts as a safeguard, preventing further damage as you consciously take weight off the affected limb. Meanwhile, your body sends cells called macrophages to the area, where they act as cleaners, removing damaged cells by digesting them--literally. Macrophages alone kickstart the process of repair and regeneration that triggers swelling, largely because macrophage-induced damage causes holes to develop in the muscle membrane, allowing fluid to rush in and cushion the joint as the macrophages' "insulin-like growth factor-1" speeds muscle regeneration.
Without swelling, you would lose the growth factor and muscle repair could not occur. This was seen in a 2011 study published in The FASEB Journal, in which researches compared two groups of mice, one of which was genetically altered so they didn't produce swelling. The non-swelling group of mice "showed markedly reduced macrophage infiltration," according to the study, and as a result "the diminished inflammatory response was accompanied by poor muscle regeneration, suggesting that muscle inflammation is beneficial...to acute skeletal muscle injury repair."
But WoundEducators.com suggests that outside of your body's own natural responses during an injury, a proactive approach to wound healing comes in the form of proper vitamin and nutrient intake.
The Big Six: Vitamins & Nutrients with Healing Powers
When you are suffering from an injury, you'll want to be back on your feet quickly so that you can return to your normal day-to-day life. You can get there with these vitamins and minerals--and the foods that contain them.
Found in salmon, eggs, avocados and whole grains, biotin is fundamental to cell growth. It also helps our bodies transform the food we eat into energy, which, in turn, influences our body’s abilities—from thinking to movement. Between 30 to 100 mcg is all that is needed for adolescents and adults, according to the Mayo Clinic.
This mineral is important as it helps distribute oxygen to our cells, brain and muscles. It also aids in the production of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that communicate information between the brain and the body. Without enough oxygen being carried to your muscles and brain, and without the proper fabrication of neurotransmitters, your physical and mental performance will be lacking. The recommended daily allowance depends on your age and gender. For females 19-50 years old, you need 18mg. Males of the same age range, on the other hand, only need 8 mg.
Found in milk, yogurt, tofu, cheese and spinach, calcium is essential for strong bones, blood clotting, muscle function, hormone secretion, stabilizing blood pressure and ensuring nerves are signaling properly. Try partnering calcium with magnesium for an added punch. Magnesium—found in oat bran, spinach and bananas—helps in many of the same ways as calcium, so combining the two makes them a powerful duo. The recommended daily allowance of calcium in men and women ages 19 to 50 is 1,000 mg.
This water-soluble B vitamin can be found in eggs, milk, beef, broccoli and Brussel sprouts. It is a building block of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that is vital for brain and nerve activities, particularly those that regulate muscle movement and memory. As established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Institute of Medicine, adults should consume between 425 and 550 mg per day.
When you think of copper, you might visualize the pennies in your purse or pocket, but this trace mineral—found in oysters, nuts, beans, whole grains, peanut butter, dark chocolate and raw mushrooms—is essential in the development of red blood cells and is important for immunity and proper nervous system function. A deficiency can lead to bone deterioration, anemia and a low white blood cell count. Luckily you don't need a lot of this heavy metal--the tolerable upper intake is 10 mg daily.
This trace mineral—found in pecans, oatmeal, green tea and brown rice—is also an antioxidant. It’s not only useful for wound healing, it aids in bone development and metabolism. Up to 11 mg is recommended per day.
Which Vitamins & Minerals are Right for You
Because vitamins and minerals found in foods are naturally-occurring and our bodies are better able to process them, you'll just want to adhere to the dietary guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has created what is called MyPlate, a plate that illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet. However, if your doctor recommends medication for your injury, you will want to understand how certain foods might interact with it. For instance, there is some evidence that manganese could decrease the effectiveness of some antibiotics because it can attach to quinolones in the stomach and decrease how much the body absorbs them.
Should you be interested in supplements, be sure to speak with your physician or nutritionist first. While getting nutrients is important for your health, taking supplements in excess can lead to adverse effects like toxicity. Your doctor or nutritionist, should they suggest supplements, will discuss how and when they should be taken to provide optimal health.