Inflammation is a normal anatomical and physiological response to injury that helps with tissue repair and wound healing. The acute inflammatory response is self-limiting and usually takes 8 – 10 days from onset to healing. This is the most commonly encountered inflammatory response and one that most people would be familiar with. The process of inflammation involves different cellular components and biochemical mediators that move to the site of injury and promote the classic symptoms associated with inflammation: redness, swelling, heat and pain. Inflammatory responses as a result of injury can be rapid, occurring within seconds to minutes – depending on the location of the injury. The diameter of the blood vessels surrounding the injured area increases, slowing blood flow and increasing the volume of blood flow to the injured site. This allows an increased number of inflammatory cells and chemicals to reach the injured area. During the initial response the blood vessels also become more permeable which means that gaps appear between the cells that make up the blood vessels. This allows plasma to leak out of the vessels, which in turn causes swelling at the site of injury. Consequently, the circulating blood becomes thicker and flows more slowly. The increased blood volume and increasing concentration of red blood cells at the site of inflammation cause the warmth and redness observed in inflamed regions. Inflammation is important during the first stage of recovery as it initiates healing through the removal of bacterial products and dead cells as well as activating mechanisms of repair. However, if the acute inflammatory response proves inadequate, chronic inflammation may develop and persist for weeks or months.
When this occurs, it can cause cellular and tissue damage and can then actually delay recovery and impact mobility. One of the ways to help modulate the inflammatory response is through diet. Anti-inflammatory wholefoods such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish or fish oil, avocado, and flaxseeds/flax meal/flax oil are all high in Omega-3 which is an essential fatty acid that helps to fight inflammation and should be consumed daily during the recovery process. These foods are all sources of unsaturated fat (the healthy fat!) which is necessary for the optimal functioning of our bodies and which many people are severely lacking in their diets. Other anti-inflammatory foods include turmeric, garlic and fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant properties, particularly berries as well as pineapple for its bromelain content. Some of these foods are available in supplement form which can further aid the recovery process as they are formulated so that their healing properties can be consumed at higher dosages than what you can practically eat in a day. However, nutritional supplements (like medication) should be taken under the direction of a professional in the industry to avoid any potential interactions or side effects. Foods to be avoided during the inflammation stage of recovery include vegetable oils, processed foods and large amounts of animal meat, alcohol, salt and sugar. All of these foods contribute to inflammation in the body and can hinder and prolong the injury recovery process.