The body is a “nutrient driven” machine, continuously breaking down and rebuilding connective tissue on a daily basis. This happens in both a state of injury and non-injury. However, during a state of injury, healing connective tissue requires many more nutrients. Good nutrition is vital as repair places a great demand on the body’s stores of existing nutrients.
There is now scientific evidence to support that “nutritional” therapy is a key factor in connective tissue repair. By creating the correct “nutritional environment” we can stimulate new growth and accelerate the repair process. So it is important for people working on closing their diastasis to pay attention to the nutritional component of healing connective tissue.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LACK NUTRITION?
Along with nutrition, other things to consider are stress, lack of sleep and exposure to environmental toxins. These all affect our hormone levels, resulting in two things:
1. Increased cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland. One of its functions is to inhibit inflammatory and immune responses. This is a problem when healing connective tissue because inflammation is a natural response to injury and it is important to keep it in balance. Meaning, that you do not want to either prevent this process from occurring or have it continue for too long a time. Prolonged inflammation causes pain and dysfunction. Totally stopping inflammation with increased cortisol levels or medication can result in delayed healing. Vitamin C and zinc are helpful for “control” of inflammation.
2. Decreased glucose absorption into cells and therefore an inability to make glucosamine. Glucosamine is an “amino sugar” that consists of glucose (sugar) and glutamine, an amino acid. Glucosamine helps cartilage hold water which is vital to cartilage health.
To prevent these two problems which impede connective tissue healing it is important that you have a clean (low toxin) environment and clean drinking water and increase your sleep and decrease your stress. Besides good nutrition, add to your connective tissue repair protocol natural cleaning products, a counter top water filter, and have your daily seated exercises be your “muscle meditation” to decrease your stress.
DIASTASIS RECTI & COLLAGEN
With a diastasis recti, the connective tissue we are wanting to heal is the “stretched out” linea alba. The linea alba is the vertical line that divides the rectus abdominis or “six-pack” muscle into left and right halves. In addition to dividing the rectus abdominis in half, the function of the linea alba is to also unite the other muscles of the abdominal wall. On its deep surface it is an attachment point for the external oblique, internal oblique, and the transverse abdominis.
Like the rest of the body’s connective tissue, the linea alba is made up of collagen and elastin fibers. What you are looking to do with your diet is to assist with collagen production. This will help your connective tissue regain its elasticity. As your connective tissue becomes stronger it will become shallower.
GET INTO A “HYDRATION HABIT”
My clients ask me all the time if it is too late for them to heal their connective tissue. My answer is always the same. No, it is never too late. However, factors that affect the speed with which the connective tissue heals can make the healing process longer, but never impossible. Two factors are age and circulation. Generally connective tissue heals faster and better in the young who possess a better nutritional state and blood supply as well as a faster metabolic rate which can process needed materials more quickly. That is why it is SO important to drink lots of water as this can increase your metabolism no matter what your age. At the very minimum a glass in the morning when you wake up, one in the afternoon and one before you go to bed. Drinking even more water would be even better because water is required for:
1. Dissolving and eliminating waste;
2. Maintaining the circulatory system;
3. Supporting the activity of enzymes and functioning of all cell membrane components;
4.Dispersing and dissolving nutrients and nutrient carriers in the body.
Yes, water does all that!!! So, get into a “hydration habit.” If you don’t like just plain water, add lemon or lime to it. Or, add diluted juices or make it into herbal tea.
VITAMINS & MINERALS TO HELP HEAL YOUR CONNECTIVE TISSUE
Nutrition for healthy connective tissue needs to focus on collagen/connective tissue building foods. The first thing you need to know is that Vitamin C is key in the healthy connective tissue department. Fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C often have bioflavonoids, which are produced by the cells responsible for photosynthesis in plants. (They account for most of the yellow, red and blue coloration in plants.) Bioflavonoids can repair connective tissue damage by assisting in the production of collagen. Additionally, bioflavonoids strengthen the capillary walls, which decrease inflammation, bruising and bleeding. We need all the capillary action which we can drum up in the largely bloodless linea alba.
Another great benefit of Vitamin C besides aiding in collagen production, is that it slows the deterioration of cartilage. Vitamin C also promotes the healing of the connective tissue and all other soft tissues because it promotes the production of elastin and neurotransmitters, which are necessary elements in the process. You can find foods with Vitamin C in a host of fresh fruit and vegetables, such as kiwis, papaya, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, oranges, kale, red peppers, tomatoes and broccoli.
Next on the list is Zinc. Zinc is also a heavy-hitter in the realm of connective tissue repair. Zinc is essential to connective tissue production as well as that of cartilage and bone. It also neutralizes free radicals which are destructive to healthy cells. (Free radicals can come from a variety of sources from pollution to junk food, but drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup and also aspartame are big culprits.) Get zinc from oysters, prawns, scallops, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains.
Next is Vitamin E, another antioxidant. Vitamin E is critical to maintain healthy cell membranes and in assisting injured tissues to heal. This mineral neutralizes free radicals which otherwise attack the lipids in the cell membranes. These lipids help repair tissue. Get Vitamin E from sunflower seeds, almonds, eggs, asparagus, avocados and kale.
Adequate protein is important as most of the cell structure is made from proteins. Protein also plays a big role in repairing damaged tissue. Include good protein with every meal. My favorite sources of protein are grass-fed or organic meat, wild fish, nuts and eggs.
Lots of oxygen in your body also is important for the healing process. Iron is the ‘transportation vehicle’ that delivers oxygen to the body cells. Eat high quality iron-rich foods like beef, broccoli and apricots to make sure you’re getting enough.
A San Diego Center for Health paper called “Nutrition for Soft Tissue Recovery” cites the following vitamins necessary for soft tissue repair: vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, C, D, E and K. It also lists the following minerals as necessary to the process: Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, Manganese and Copper (in small doses).
FOODS TO STAY AWAY FROM
Remember, any food that puts stress on your body is a drain on its healing powers. Stay away from processed, refined and GMO foods and foods containing trans-fat. Also, be aware of inflammatory foods such as sugar (especially high-fructose corn syrup and aspartame) alcohol and caffeine. These foods are nutritional poisons and may be preventing you from recovering. So, treat your body like you treat your car. When you put the best gasoline in your car it runs the best. When you put the “best” food in your body it will both run and heal better! Food that grew, walked or swam in the wild is the best.