Most people understand that nutrition is important for growth during childhood and for providing strength. At the other end of the spectrum lies dieting for weight loss. In between these two zones lies an area of great importance which is frequently forgotten. And that is nutrition for healing. In other words – correct nutrition to recover from illnesses. Once, nutrition was a part and parcel of the science of healing and doctors would explain in detail about the correct diet to be consumed during the process of healing in order to ensure complete recovery.
Food and nutrition form the basis of the development and regeneration of the body and if the nutrition is adequate, the body has the capacity and ability to heal itself faster and regain its lost strength. Conversely, if the nutrition is deficient or inadequate, the body takes a lot of time to heal and at times even falls prey to other illnesses.Today medicine and nutrition have separated to quite an extent and while medicine has progressed very fast, the science of nutrition for healing has failed to progress to that level. As a result, in most cases the patient is left to his own devices to find the correct nutrition for healing, post illness. There are different nutritional requirements in different kinds of illnesses for optimum recovery. And they fall in these broad categories:
Recovery from upper respiratory tract infections (throat, cold, cough, lungs)
The lung is the site for kapha, and most of the upper respiratory infections are due to too much of kapha. For healing from such infections the food should be pitta in taasir and have drying properties. One must keep the following points in mind:
Avoid kapha foods like rice, banana, cold drinks, maida, fried foods, butter, lassi and paneer
Soups which contain the following ingredients should be consumed regularly throughout the day
Black pepper - It reduces phlegm, and dries infections
Turmeric - It reduces infection and helps in healing
Ginger - It dries the secretions and is a natural antibiotic
One should inhale steam which contains neem and tulsi
Nutrition - High protein foods with low fat like pulses (mung, lobhia, channa), black channa soup, soya, corn in boiled form should be eaten as they effectively dry lungs after pneumonia. Fruits like pomegranate, apple, sweet lime (mosambi) also help as they provide adequate protein for tissue repair. Zinc and vitamin C are required for regeneration as well.
While recovering from fevers, the most important aspects are fluid replenishment and liver strengthening. So, it’s essential to have foods rich in vitamin C and electrolytes.
Coconut water - It provides electrolytes and natural sugar Nimbu paani - One must have it with brown sugar and rock salt
Sweet lime - Fresh juice
Barley water - Have barley broth khichri made with rice and mung dal
Avoid dairy products - Non-vegetarian foods, processed foods and dry foods like corn, besan, phool-makhana (lotus seeds) should not be had.
Fractures and post-surgical healing
Let’s take a typical case of the fracture. While in hospital the bones are aligned so that they touch each other. This alignment is held together by a cast or by steel rods. However, the actual healing is a chain of processes which begins the moment the injury takes place. First the body creates clots to prevent too much blood loss, then the body brings all the healing components or “stuff” at the point of injury to aid the tissues to heal. And finally the bones themselves begin to generate cells which multiply and join or reconstruct the bone.
This absolutely amazing power of the body is assisted in part by nutrition. The body requires the basic nutritive components to aid in the repair and healing process. Typically the body may use the following components (besides several other things):
Calcium - It is very essential in bone healing and repair as it maintains the blood acid base balance. It is equally important for diabetics for glucose transport. It also provides a basic structure to the bone.
To make up for common deficiencies
Potassium - It’s required to maintain the acid - base balance and also to ensure effective and timely clotting of the blood. It also helps in forming the bone
Zinc - It is one of the most important minerals and is useful in skin healing and regeneration. Many popular and successful brands of medicinal ointments contain zinc for faster recovery. It is also essential for maintaining fertility.
Vitamin E - Vitamin E is important for tissue repair and healing, Its main sources are almonds and flaxseed.
Vitamin D - It is activated by sunlight (a good reason to do suryanamaskar in the morning)
Vitamin C - It’s important for skin healing and also essential as it helps the immune cells which are the soldiers who fight and eat up the deadly viruses and bacteria in the body. It is also required for tissue healing and collagen rebuilding.
Chromium - Another mineral which is important for faster healing in diabetics. It has been seen that diabetics who have poor insulin function are also deficient in chromium.
Vitamin B12 - This is a very interesting and important vitamin, as it helps the nervous system. In several cases of chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic listlessness and depressive feeling, it has been seen that supplementation with Vitamin B 12 helps in a major way to give relief from the symptoms and provide relief.
Vitamin A- This vitamin being the precursor to important vitamins is very essential for skin healing and regeneration. Several medicated skin ointments contain vitamin A.
Protein - Protein supplementation is needed for post surgical healing in cases of bone injuries, muscle injuries and post partum nutrition. The quality and quantity of protein needs to be balanced in order to provide optimal nutrition whilst avoiding protein overload on the liver. Post surgical nutrition is a science which has not been explored enough. Its benefits are immense and it needs to be explored more so that the recovery of patients is faster.
Recovery from liver and digestive problems, infections etc
The liver is the seat of metabolism and also detoxification of the body. It is not only responsible for transforming the ingested food into energy but for providing components for tissue repair and generation as well. If the liver falls ill it needs certain components for healing. Especially in the critical stage, there are certain foods and herbs which are important:
Electrolytes - To replenish electrolytes, the best combination to try is brown sugar and rock salt, with a decoction of saunf
Healing fluids - Turmeric decoction for infections, ginger decoction for improving liver function and digestion and peppermint for gas are useful
Alkaline foods - The liver, due to its functions, ends up collecting a lot of toxins. To cleanse it, one needs to have counterbalancing foods, which by nature are alkaline and cool the liver down. And they are:
Aloe vera juice - It provides cooling and detoxification
Amla - A rich source of vitamin C, it helps in tissue repair
B complex - It’s very important for replenishing the metabolic raw material. In the deficiency of B complex, liver metabolism also suffers. Sources of B complex include fruits and whole grains.
Dr Shikha Sharma is a regular Brunch columnist and a well-known wellness consultant. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
- From HT Brunch, June 26
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