An Article Written By Cecilia Brennan
Podiatrist – New Step Podiatry
Reviewing your diet and making changes may assist in preventing new injuries and reinjuries. Unfortunately, there isn’t the best medical evidence for diet changes to resolve existing injuries. Rather we use nutrition to assist or be a piece of the puzzle in resolving injuries.
What good nutrition is great at is prevention of injuries and chronic disease prevention and management.
Keep reading to see how you can at home give your feet and lower limbs the best chance at avoiding injuries, but first some background about myself and nutrition.
When I was a teenager I was going to be a dietician. I selected my subjects at school accordingly and worked as hard as I could to get the HSC mark required to enter a degree of dietetics. About 5 weeks into my dietetics degree I realised that this wasn’t the career for me and that I was going to change my degree to podiatry. I have never looked back but at the same time I have kept a passion for understanding the role of food and nutrition in health. Still to this day I often type or write ‘food’ instead of ‘foot’ in my daily work life, notes and even this blog article is catching me out!
In saying all this, I do not claim to be a dietitian or nutritionist. The below information has mostly been derived from reputable Australian sources. I’m just pulling all the information together to make it easier for my patients and community. If there isn’t strong evidence on something mentioned below, I’ve said so and it’s up to you to consider the information or not.
How to Prevent Fractures with Good Nutrition
Do you have osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones) or osteopenia? Or perhaps you are at risk of developing these conditions. Not sure? see this chart to assess if you are at risk. Resource from Healthy Bones Australia.
Postmenopausal women are at the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis due to the cessation in ovarian hormone production, which causes accelerated bone loss.
Those with osteoporosis are at increased risk of stress fractures and fractures such as hip fractures and metatarsal stress fractures. Healthy Bones Australia like to keep advice simple on how best to improve bone health and therefore reduce the risk of bone injuries.
The advice: Calcium. Vitamin D. Exercise.
Regarding vitamin D, it’s really hard to get daily recommended sources from food. Hence why Healthy Bones Australia recommends limited sun exposure. If you take vitamin D supplements, be sure to check there is some vitamin K as this vitamin helps to get the calcium into our bones (and not our arteries).
Nutritional Considerations for Tendon, Ligament and Muscle Injuries
First up, don’t drastically reduce your food intake! Us health professionals understand that you won’t be moving around as much due to your injury and you might be inclined to reduce your calorie intake. Be careful with this, reducing your calorie intake significantly may impact your healing. Lots of energy is required for healing!
If you are going to reduce intake, reduce sugar, saturated fats and alcohol intake as these are potentially inflammatory which is not ideal if you have an inflamed tissue such as a sprained ankle or achilles tendonitis. Instead, focus on getting enough of the following nutrients using these guidelines for portion advice.
Protein: contains amino acids which are the building blocks of new tissue found in meat sources, fish, eggs, tofu, greek yoghurt and beans.
Omega 3: has anti-inflammatory properties and is found in fish, walnuts, chia seeds.
Zinc: helps with wound healing. Zinc-rich foods include meat, fish, shellfish, whole grains and nuts.
Vitamin D: promotes and maintains muscle function. Found in oily fish, egg yolk, red meat, fortified foods (and sunshine).
Collagen: as discussed below in “Nutritional Considerations for dry, flaky and easily damaged skin”.
Nutritional Considerations for Dry, Flaky and Easily Damaged Skin
Remember my blog article on menopause? I explained that collagen is a protein in our body found in bones, muscles, skin and tendons. It is our body’s version of building scaffolding.
Therefore, you may consider increasing your collagen intake if your skin appears dry, flaky or breaks easily. This is particularly the case if you are in perimenopausal or post menopausal stages of life. Although the evidence isn’t great on this one, so if you consider this, do a trial. If you increase your collagen intake and your skin improves, continue with your increased uptake.
Sources of collagen include tough cuts of meat full of connective tissue, in the bones and skin of fresh and saltwater fish and bone broth. There weren’t any reputative sources on collagen and collagen intake from Australia, however, this advice from Harvard University explained the pros and cons of collagen supplementation and bone broth well.
You may also look at your zinc intake. As described above zinc assists with wound healing. The best source of zinc is oysters, but it’s also plentiful in red meat and poultry. Other good sources are beans, nuts, crab, lobster, whole grains, breakfast cereals, and dairy products.
Nutritional Consideration for Growth Spurts
A few years ago, I was reviewing the nutritional requirements of girls. I was quite surprised in the jump in milk/dairy/milk alternative sources from 1.5 for ages 4-8 to 3 for ages 9-11. It makes sense, this is when growth spurts (periods of rapid growth) occur. I’m sure there are other parents, guardians and carer givers who will also be surprised about how much milk, cheese, yoghurt and dairy alternatives we need to be providing.
For your kid’s growth spurts, ensure they are receiving the below recommendations. Here’s the link for the whole leaflet from Eat For Health, Australian Government, it’s a great resource!
If you want to know about managing growing pains, check out Shaun Vu’s blog article here.
Nutritional Considerations for Cramping
There are so many causes of cramping and it’s not necessarily from a lack of a nutrient. In terms of diet, a great place to start to ensure you are drinking enough water. Guideline 2 of the Australian Dietary Guidelines includes “and drink plenty of water” for a reason. So many of us don’t drink enough water, particularly in the cold winters in Canberra.
Often people discuss magnesium for cramping. The evidence on this is variable, it seems effective and consistent advice for pregnant women. For older people it is not and it more like trial and error. This is likely due to the fact that cramping has so many causes. It’s best to discuss your cramping with your General Practitioner, after you ensure you are drinking enough water.
Nutritional Considerations for Osteoarthritis
There are 2 things that have the best evidence to reduce pain associated with osteoarthritic joints, in particular knee and hip osteoarthritis. They are strengthening exercises and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Therefore, the nutritional consideration for osteoarthritis is focused on weight loss if you need to lose weight. For this, it’s best to seek professional advice, specifically from a General Practitioner or Dietician. In the meantime, have a read of the information above about ligaments, tendons and muscles and have a look at healthy eating advice Eat For Health, Australian Government.
Book an Appointment at Our Canberra Clinic for a injury assessment
Our podiatrists are here to ensure those in Canberra have access to quality services that can help individuals get the treatment they deserve. Easily book an appointment at our clinic online or give us a call on 02 6198 4818.