By Naturopath Jeremy Hill
My job comes with some great perks and the best one by far has to be that I sport a constantly robust state of health - energetic, positive and motivated, day after day, year after year. It's a terrific way to be and has provided me with a work attendance record to be proud of for close on a couple of decades now. I have spent years refining my trade by using myself as the beneficiary guinea pig, with the result being that nothing really slows me down.
So I was more than a little surprised when my perfect record was flawed after I had to subject myself to some surgery recently. My mind said, "Let's ignore the discomfort and just keep working - I'm a fast healer," while my body had other ideas, wisely suggesting, "Stop, I need to heal."
In typical male fashion, I ignored the body's suggestion of rest and recovery and instead went back to work the next day without missing a beat - albeit gingerly, bandaged, and in a sling. By the end of the day, I was spent, and by the next morning, my body had succumbed to a full-blown virus that my immune system would have normally just eaten alive. My body had found a way to make me stop. I found myself having to cancel a whole two days worth of clients (I'm still so sorry guys) and was relegated to a most unfamiliar territory - the sickbed.
Stress-free rest is what I needed. Research has shown that just 30 minutes of intense stress can delay the healing response by at least 20 per cent.
When the body suffers an open wound trauma, whether from an accident, an infection or surgery, the body's challenge is to direct enough energy towards controlling infections, managing oxidation and inflammation in the damaged area, and quickly start knitting the bits back together. This can leave one open to attack from other opportunistic complications, such as a cold like the one I succumbed to, as the body's reserves are already being compromised or redirected.
Comfort is important, and in healing it is wise to regulate pain and inflammation by helping the body to manage excessive responses by biochemical pain and inflammation drivers (for those of you who work in this field, you will be familiar with the varying roles of COX, LOX, NF Kappa B, TNF, Pg E2, leukotrienes, Substance P and Bradykinin). This can usually be effectively done with a combination of plant-based nutrients found in potent forms in both herbal and nutritional supplements and to lesser degrees in some foods common in a healthy diet.
As my body directed me towards bed, I was reminded of the rejuvenating properties of sleep. The concept of beauty sleep is no myth. The habit of getting to bed early is a terrific way to encourage the body to repair itself, boosting growth hormone levels, and helping to improve brain function, sex hormones and immunity. And it is not just about the amount of time spent in bed. A late night followed by a sleep in is no match for the same number of hours spent sleeping on an earlier schedule - an old wives' tale wisely suggests that every hour spent sleeping before midnight is worth two after midnight.
A healthy immune system is extremely important for healing with white blood cells working to prevent infections and clearing organic debris from the wound. Immune cells rely heavily upon adequate rest and nutrition, with dietary protein and specifics such as zinc, selenium, coenzyme Q10 and vitamin C being particularly important in healthy immune function. These nutrients are also very important for the development of strong and healthy scar tissue, with one of the signs of a vitamin C deficiency is poor wound healing and old wounds even re-opening.
Diabetics need to be particularly supported with healing, with poor healing being a hallmark of the disease, occurring predominantly as a result of the often severely compromised circulation of many diabetics. This is an example of how Anthocyanadin-rich foods such as berries, red cabbage and cocoa can have a strongly positive effect on healing. Berries in particular provide a combination of anti-inflammatory and terrific antioxidant effects that have been shown to benefit the circulation.
With circulation in mind, exercise is extremely important for encouraging healing, with the dramatic increase in circulation achieved from regular exercise flowing significantly more nutrient-rich blood to the wound site.
As well as a great diet and various nutritional supplements, I used several herbs, taken orally and applied internally, that are beneficial for promoting healing. Few come with such an impressive combination of empirical and research-based evidence as Centella Asiatica, also known as Indian Pennywort or Gotu Kola which has strong healing effects when used in either way.
I used many therapeutic agents, both topical and oral, to help me to bounce back rapidly, but none were going to work at their best if I didn't stop and take time out for a good rest. I'm all better now.
Good health, Jeremy Hill
Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy) is a qualified naturopath