Your body is an amazing thing, and one of the best examples of how incredible it is involves the healing process. You’re made up of somewhere between 30 and 40 trillion cells, all of which are working to keep you healthy. When you become injured or ill, some of your cells can become damaged or die, but they also work to replace themselves, heal, and keep your body functioning day in and day out.
Factors That can Affect your Body’s Healing Process
Whether you’re healing from a wound, a broken bone, or an illness, your body is hard-wired to heal. Wounded tissue mends, bones knit together, and your organs repair themselves. There are, however, a number of factors that affect how quickly or well you will heal, such as:
- Your age. In general, as you get older it takes your body longer to heal. Your skin and muscles lose tone and elasticity, your cardiovascular function decreases, and your immune system slows down, all of which translate to slower healing.
- Diet. A diet containing the necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients is crucial to the healing process. A poor diet and lack of nutrients can slow your recovery time.
- Hydration. Your body needs enough fluid to keep your electrolytes (minerals in your body) in balance and your tissues oxygenated. Conversely, when you become dehydrated, it slows the healing process.
- Chronic illness, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, or autoimmune illnesses can slow down how well or quickly your body heals. In addition, the level of trauma or severity of an illness may prevent recovery.
Things That Can Help Speed-up Healing and Recovery
Healing is a deeply complicated process, and you may not give it much thought. It’s only when it seems like an illness or injury is taking too long to resolve or not getting better at all that you turn your attention to healing and recovery. You may also think that there is nothing that you can do to impact how well or quickly you heal, but there are a number of things that that can help speed up the process. Among them:
- Rest and sleep. Your body repairs itself when you’re relaxing or asleep. Additionally, healing takes a lot of your body’s energy. It’s not surprising that people who are recovering from surgery, illness, or an injury feel deeply fatigued. One of the most important things you can do to help your body heal is to take it easy, get plenty of sleep, and take the time to rest during the day.
- Manage your pain. Having high levels of pain only serves to slow down your healing. Pain interrupts your sleep, makes your muscles tense, and causes stress, which suppresses your immune system’s ability to heal. Whether through acupuncture treatments or short-term pain medications, controlling the pain allows your body to heal. The bottom line is that there is no benefit in toughing it out.
- Eat well. While it’s always important to eat healthfully, it’s even more critical when you’re recovering from an illness or injury. Your body needs certain building blocks in order to heal, and those building blocks come from what you eat. A good strategy for healing involves balancing adequate protein with whole grains and a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables. In addition, a diet that’s plant forward can help tamp down inflammation.
- Keep your head in the healing game. If you’re laid low by illness, pain, or immobility it can be hard to stay upbeat. However, know that stress, anxiety, and depression can interfere with how well you heal. These negative emotions can have very physical impacts in the form of elevated stress hormones, increased inflammation, and suppressed immunity. A sense of optimism and calm can help you stay motivated to eat well, get up and around, and know that ultimately your body will heal to the best of its ability.
- Allow yourself to heal completely. It’s human nature to test your injury or ability to function at full capacity. However, doing too much too soon can be a recipe for further injury or relapse. Give your body the time it needs, and know that you’ll be back at it soon enough.
- Try acupuncture. This ancient medical treatment has grown in acceptance in the United States over the past several years. More and more hospitals, medical doctors and other healthcare professionals are recognizing acupuncture as a safe and effective form of treatment for reducing recovery times. Researchers have discovered that acupuncture can promote healing in a number of ways. It can decrease inflammation, promote better sleep, and boost your immune system. Acupuncture also ramps up your body’s own opioid-like system to relieve pain, and increases the circulation of neurotransmitters that promote calm and regulate your mood. Acupuncture helps to suppress pain by relieving achiness, tension, and spasms in tight and painful muscles.
While it may seem pretty straightforward to just get out of the way and let the healing happen, it’s actually good to know that there are some ways to help the process along. From eating well to getting enough rest to having a series of acupuncture sessions, you can positively impact how well and how quickly your body will heal.
Cindy Chamberlain is an acupuncturist in Overland Park, KS and the founder of Eastern Healing Solutions, LLC. She is licensed in Kansas and Missouri and has been practicing traditional Chinese medicine since 1996.