February is heart health month so of course we start to see more posts on heart-healthy recipes and natural ingredients. One thing you might notice is that many of these natural compounds fall into the category of antioxidants. This is a broad term that includes any substance that that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are produced in our bodies as results of normal cell energy production or from external damaging influences (i.e. UV radiation, chemicals etc.). The cardio-vascular system is especially sensitive to the effects of free radicals.
Most of us have had the unpleasant opportunity to experience a fractured bone at some point in our lives. As children, we’re constantly running, falling and bumping into one another on the playground. Adulthood tends to bring less activity, but many other factors that increase the risk of fracture, mainly lower bone mineral density. Being handicapped by a broken bone can lead to missed days of school or work, depressed mood, missed social events, and overall poorer quality of life. This is why it’s so important to speed up the recovery process!
There are many factors that contribute to the healing process of a fractured bone. Here are some key considerations:
– Protein: Amino acids are needed to build new proteins for your new bone tissue. Low protein intake after fractures leads to longer recovery times and more complications.
– Minerals and vitamins: Calcium and vitamin D have long ago secured the top spot in preventing osteoporosis. Not surprisingly, these nutrients have also demonstrated their ability to speed recovery from broken bones. Other minerals and vitamins for bone health should be considered as well (i.e. Magnesium, Vitamin K2)
– Energy Intake: Building bone is an energy-intensive process. Be sure that your body is getting enough calories in the form of high-quality foods. In other words, no skipping meals or dieting.
– Stress: minimizing stress is crucial to prevent the up-regulation of cortisol, a hormone that prevents osteogenesis (the formation of new bone). See Dr. Paul Hrkal’s article on “Top Nutrients to Reduce Stress”.
– Circulation: Blood flow to the area is necessary to deliver nutrients and healing factors, while removing waste products (debris from the fracture site). This means that smoking is a big no-no: it drastically slows the healing process by promoting poor circulation.
– Exercise: While this may seem counter-intuitive, exercise has long been known to stimulate bone growth. In the case of a fracture, of course you do not want to over-stress the area, but rather gently stimulate the surrounding structure. Speak with a qualified practitioner (ie. a physiotherapist) before implementing any range of motion exercises and certainly wait until the initial pain is over (minimum two weeks).
In addition to these dietary and lifestyle factors, Cissus qudrangularis (QC), a plant native to India and Africa, shows the most promise in bone recovery. It has been traditionally used for not only healing broken bones, but also prevention of osteoporosis, weight loss, joint pain, blood sugar regulation and many more health concerns.
In the case of bone health, QC has been extensively studied in test tubes, animals, and humans. In fact, one human study of QC dates back to the 1960’s where it was found that the herb shortened fracture healing time by almost two weeks! Since then, multiple delivery forms (ie. orally or as a topical paste) have been examined, and various mechanisms of action have been identified. Ultimately, QC appears to stimulate fibroblasts, chondroblasts and osteoblasts, leading to the buildup of collagen and other essential bone tissues.
More recent human studies have been better controlled while still yielding astonishing results. For example, a 2002 study looked at 60 patients with fractured long bones. QC reduced the average healing time from 16-20 weeks down to 12-14 weeks. In other words, the herb accelerated healing by 30-40%. A 2011 study of 33 patients supported these findings by showing that QC shortened bone healing time by two to three weeks. Other researchers have found increases in bone mineral density, meaning the bone becomes much stronger.
All in all, the take home message is that you don’t just have to sit around and wait for your bone to heal, be proactive, take control of your health, and get back on your feet sooner! Consider the many dietary and lifestyle adjustments that you can make and the added benefits of herbs such as Cissus Qudrangularis.
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