Woman rubbing strain injury before resting to promote healing

5 Natural Ways to Heal Quickly

Our body is pretty amazing…not to mention resilient. But it doesn’t always navigate the great wide world around us and make it back unscathed. Anyone who’s bumped their toe in the middle of the night or suffered from a raging sunburn knows that injuries are a universal part of the human experience. When something happens to damage our chassis, so to speak, the body breaks out a pre-planned playlist of tricks and techniques to put itself back together again—a process we call healing.

Your body will start the healing process all on its own. Yet, there are several things you can do to speed up your recovery. Some of these are go-to, tried-and-true best practices to fall back on once you are already wounded. If you know you have a recovery in your future—for example, you’re preparing for a recovery from a surgery —there are also ways to help yourself bounce back faster.

Common sense alert: If you’ve just experienced a serious, acute trauma (read: you’ve got a fresh "boo-boo") put the internet down and seek medical attention. Don’t worry, this article will be here when you get back!

How Does Your Body Heal?

Before you offer yourself a helping hand in the healing process, understand the four different phases of how your body goes from "Owww!" to "All better":

  1. Coagulation: Immediately after injury, your body reduces blood flow to the damaged area. It also promotes blood clotting.
  2. Inflammation: Cytokine proteins released by nearby blood platelets attract immune cells to help fight infection. This causes swelling. Ever watch your ankle blow up in size just moments after a bad sprain? This is inflammation at work.
  3. Proliferative: Fibroblast cells and small blood vessels called capillaries grow into the injury site, delivering nutrients and structural support.
  4. Remodeling: New tissue begins to take on the same structure as the older, damaged tissue it is replacing—sometimes leaving a scar.

5 Ways to Help the Healing Process

1. Start With a Clean Bill of Health

A healthy body is more likely to heal quickly.
You’ll recover more quickly from injuries if you’re in optimal physical shape.

If you want to heal quickly, become the healthiest version of yourself before your body endures trauma. Whether the injuries you heal from are accidents or surgeries, you’ll be in a better position to recover if you aren’t hampered by preexisting conditions.

This is why avoiding obesity is so important. Extra fat has a negative impact on your body’s ability to heal for many reasons. Fat tissue is relatively low in blood and oxygen (your healing body needs those). And excess weight puts extra stress on surgical wounds, keeping them from closing.

Obesity is also associated with three other conditions that slow down healing:

  • Diabetes: This common health condition affects circulation, which is essential to getting everything from oxygen to immune cells to the wound. High glucose also increases glycation reactions, where sugars bond to protein and fat molecules they’re not supposed to…not the kind of thing you need when healing.
  • Atherosclerosis: Excess arterial plaque impedes wound recovery. This condition is dangerous for other reasons, too; heart disease is the #1 killer in the U.S. So, get your heart in good working order and your cholesterol in check to stay healthy and heal faster.
  • Sleep Apnea: This sleep disorder, which is also associated with obesity but can be a concern for patients who aren’t overweight, reduces the circulating levels of oxygen your body needs to heal—especially important when your body is recovering from chronic wounds.


2. Eat Nutrients That Promote Healing

Mediterranean Diet, focus on salmon or fish
Omega-3s, lean protein and nutritious veggies top the list

Your diet is so important. Not only will eating the right foods in the right quantities help you avoid obesity and related diseases, but there are certain nutrients that naturally promote healing. Here are three ways to ensure you’re consuming foods that will help you bounce back from injuries:

  • Follow the Mediterranean Diet: This lifestyle is full of lean protein and foods that are low in saturated fat. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids (think fish oil) that may reduce infections, promote immune health and help you recover after surgery.
  • Get your trace elements: For optimal results, make sure you’re getting nutrients like copper, selenium and zinc, which encourage wound healing. Copper helps your body produce collagen, selenium helps protect delicate cell membranes from oxidation and zinc is involved in tissue repair.
  • Keep an eye on vitamins: For healthy healing, turn to the (nutritional) alphabet! Topically applied vitamin A stimulates skin repair and vitamin C fights oxidative stress, inflammation and helps your body synthesize collagen in your skin.

3. Get Enough to Eat & Sleep Post-Injury

Get plenty of protein to facilitate healing.
Inflammation is part of healing, but keep it under control.

A healthy diet and normal weight are important before your injury, but you shouldn’t ease up on the calories after you’ve been injured or if you are recovering from surgery. That’s because your body actually needs more calories, protein and micro-nutrients to fuel your natural, healthy response to an injury.

That doesn’t mean pig out. For fast, hitch-free healing, stick with healthy foods.

  • Pack in the protein: Your body needs protein to help reconstruct and repair damaged tissue. Recovering from surgery? You can need anywhere from 1 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
  • Amp up the calories: Healing is hard work: your body is going to need calories to get it done. Chronic sores (those are the ones that take weeks or months to heal) can need even more "oomph," increasing caloric intake requirements by as much as 50%.
  • Get a balance of carbs and fats: Hitting these macros is tricky. You want enough carbs for energy production, but you want to keep simple carbohydrates (that’s sugar) low: too much blood sugar can get in the way of healing and increase unwanted inflammation.

One more thing. Get some rest. Poor sleep causes stress response, and we already know that’s bad. So chase that protein intake with a long, lazy nap. Your body will thank you!


4. Choose Natural Options to Manage Inflammation

Get plenty of protein to facilitate healing.
Increase healthy calories, protein & carbs to heal faster.

Swelling is a natural reaction to injury—but it’s not always a welcome one. Inflammation (especially chronic inflammation) can make it harder to heal. Our first instinct is often to reach for that bottle of painkillers on the shelf. But NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may actually impair wound healing.

Instead, consider these natural ways to manage healthy inflammation.

  • Curcumin: This compound derived from turmeric spice extract helps block inflammation in virtually every part of your body. Bonus: curcumin also supports the body’s immune system and encourages widespread organ health, such as your heart, liver and kidneys.
  • Specialized Pro Resolving Mediators (SPMs): These unique molecules actually resolve inflammation by speeding cell recovery, help macrophages clear left-over cellular debris and rejuvenate damaged tissue. SPMs also help re-balance cytokine response, returning your body’s tissues to their normal state.

Depending on what type of injury you’re dealing with and what your doctor recommends, good old-fashioned rest and elevation are also time-tested ways to manage swelling.


5. The Long Game: Choose a Healing Lifestyle

Exercising and other lifestyle choices will help you heal quickly.
Your lifestyle choices will help determine how quickly you heal.

Immediately after your injury, you’ll want to tend to your wounds, get the right nutrients and plenty of sleep. But just like avoiding risk factors is a good way to ensure that when you’re injured, you recover quickly, you should adopt lifestyle choices that will promote healing over the long run:

  • De-stress: Have you ever heard of cortisol? This compound is called "the stress hormone" for a reason. When you are frazzled mentally or physically, cortisol levels increase—hampering those immune-response-provoking cytokines we learned about…the ones in the inflammation stage of healing. Consider yoga, breathing exercises and meditation to take the edge off your nerves. Some people find that they feel more relaxed after talking about what’s on their mind—with friends, family, a counselor, or even just speaking their concerns aloud in a video journal.
  • Detox: We said to de-stress, and maybe you’re thinking, "Nothing relaxes me more than a beer or a cigarette." Well, you’re going to have to find a healthier method to unwind, because alcohol gets in the way of cytokine release. This means immune cells don’t make their way to the site of the wound like they should—significantly increasing your chances of infection. Smoking does too, so now’s the time to quit.
  • Do Work: Work out, that is. Evidence indicates that exercise can improve healing. This is especially true if you have chronic inflammation. People who exercise can improve wound healing speed by up to a week compared to a sedentary folks. Just keep in mind your injury location before you work up a sweat; no running on a sprained ankle or swimming when you’ve got sutures to protect. If you’re recovering from surgery, follow your doctor’s post-op instructions carefully to ensure you’re promoting healing and not risking setbacks.
  • A Word on Water: You need to stay hydrated while you’re healing (after exercise, too). Water is key to getting the oxygen and other nutrients to the wound site. So drink up if you want to get back in the game!

If you are concerned about a wound that is slow to heal, talk to your doctor. Also, make sure to clean and dress a wound immediately. If you get chills or a fever, seek medical attention, as these can be signs of infection.

Stay safe, and feel better!

About the Author: John Gawley graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in English before beginning his career as a technical writer, copy writer and content manager. John has extensive experience in the health and wellness field, and he is the Senior Copywriter at Life Extension.


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