Nutrition: Body repair from the inside out

Protein forms the cells that restructure damaged skin and bones.

Protein forms the cells that restructure damaged skin and bones. (Getty Images)

I've spent the past week in a recliner, staring at my toes peeking out from a giant bandage on my foot. Surgery was a success, my surgeon assures me. Now the real healing begins.

First and foremost, doc's orders are for me to stay strictly non-weight bearing for six weeks. Guess it's a good season to stay home anyway. Plenty of time to catch up on long overdue projects. And thank you, God, for whoever invented those handy knee scooters. Sooo much better than crutches!

I also have time to research what I can do to speed up this process … or at least stay on track with my expected healing time. Here's what I've learned:

Our bodies have a built-in system to heal themselves, says integrative wellness doctor, Andrew Weil. Injured skin and broken bones can literally knit themselves back together.


For example, medical experts say that, as long as two broken fragments of bone are brought together and stay that way, specialized cells go to work to fill the gaps with new tissue. This process is so efficient that, over time, bone can completely restore itself to its original structure.

What can I do to assist this natural healing process? I can make sure my body has the needed supplies to complete its rebuilding project. Here's my daily checklist:

Protein forms the cells that restructure damaged skin and bones. I need a source of protein at least 3 times a day. That includes eggs, milk, yogurt, nuts, beans, cheese, meat, fish, and soy-based foods. Veggies and whole grain foods also contribute protein in smaller amounts in addition to an array of tissue healing vitamins and minerals.

Calcium. 99% of the body's store of this mineral is in our bones. My body lays down calcium to give strength to bones it fuses back together. Like most adults, I need 1000 to 1200 milligrams of calcium a day to assist this process. One cup of milk or a calcium-fortified beverage or juice contains about 300 milligrams of calcium. Other foods such as broccoli, turnip or collard greens, kale, bok choy and fortified cereals contain less calcium but for sure can contribute to my day's total.

Vitamin D helps my body absorb calcium so it can jump to the task of regenerating bone. Whole eggs and fatty fish like salmon contain vitamin D naturally. Other foods like milk, yogurt and some orange juices are fortified with this important nutrient.

Vitamin C! I'm sitting here eating an orange after I learned that this vitamin is needed to form collagen, the protein that literally knits my skin and bones back together. Citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers and tomatoes are excellent sources. I pledge to eat one good source of this vitamin every day.

Anything I need to avoid? Too much sugar can interfere with my body's ability to repair itself, warns registered dietitian Kerri-Ann Jennings. Darn it, better hide the leftover Halloween candy.

Body tissues take time to repair themselves. Broken bones knit themselves back together at their own pace. I need to be patient. Time truly does heal.


Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian nutritionist affiliated with the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at to ©2020 The Monterey County Herald. Visit The Monterey County Herald at . Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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