Getting the Body to Heal and Repair Itself
One of the most amazing aspects of the human body is its ability to heal itself. There are 30-40 trillion cells in the human body, and every second that we’re alive, these cells are working tirelessly to keep us at, or even bring us back to, a state of good health. When our bodies are injured or become ill, our cells can be damaged or destroyed, sometimes in large quantities. However, these cells have the ability to heal or replace themselves, to keep our body functioning at its optimal level.
A Small Example of the Repair Process
There are plenty of examples of how the body repairs itself, including the liver regenerating. the intestines replacing their worn lining, bones knitting back together, lungs repairing themselves after someone stops smoking, and many more. But probably the simplest example of cell repair is when you cut or damage your skin. Blood vessels at the site clamp down to slow the bleeding, while blood platelets begin clumping together to form a clot to stop the bleeding. Once the clot is in place, blood vessels reopen a bit to allow the necessary amount of oxygen back into the wound for healing.
Next, white blood cells begin digesting dead cells in order to make room for new cells to form. They also fight infection and oversee the repair process. In the rebuilding process, oxygen-rich blood cells arrive to build new tissue by creating collagen (you usually see the result of this process as a scar that starts out red and dulls over time). Over time, the new tissue gets stronger until the process is completed.
Factors Affecting Your Healing
While the body’s ability to heal itself is truly impressive, there are a number of factors that can restrict this process.
- The immune system is responsible for healing in the body, so if your immune system is not working well your body won’t be able to repair itself properly
- Chronic diseases can cause healing issues, as they cause the immune system to function at a lower level
- People who have taken steroids or have undergone chemotherapy will have compromised immune systems
- The same applies for those who have taken any medications to suppress the immune system
- If a person sweats a lot (regardless of whether it is from a health issue or due to exercise), a number of important minerals can be lost, which can result in poor healing
- Too much fibre in the diet can stop you absorbing many types of minerals
- Not drinking enough water causes electrolyte imbalances and also decreases the amount of oxygen getting to the tissues, both of which are needed for healing
- In the elderly, the level of stomach acid often decreases, reducing the level of protein and other nutrients absorbed by their bodies
- If someone is obese, the excess fat tissue does not have a good blood supply and so healing in damaged areas is restricted
- If someone has diabetes, poor circulation can significantly affect their healing and repair, particularly in their extremities
- The more key nutrients a person has in their body, the quicker and better they will heal. And the most important factor in getting enough nutrients is good digestion. The more effective your digestive system is, the more nutrients you will absorb.
- If you don’t have a good level of proteins, minerals (especially zinc) and vitamins in your body, healing may be delayed because collagen synthesis- the building blocks for wound healing- won’t happen properly
- If you regularly experience diarrhoea, it is likely your nutrient absorption will be low
- Zinc is needed by the body to create new cells, so is absolutely crucial for repair and healing. Both alcohol and iron supplements affect zinc absorption.
- Coffee, regular tea and caffeinated drinks are diuretics, so will tend to dehydrate the body and restrict its healing
- Caffeine also reduces the level of vitamin C in your body, which is the main vitamin used for healing
Inflammation is not always a bad thing. In fact, when the immune system is working effectively, inflammation plays an important role in healing. When a body is damaged, inflammation is fundamental to several stages in the healing process, including clearing out the dead cells in the area.
However, if the inflammation doesn’t settle down properly it can actually cause more damage to the area. (If an old injury still looks slightly red or is still a little tender when you press any part of it firmly, it is highly likely there is still inflammation there, stopping it repairing fully.)
Even if you have fantastic levels of all the important nutrients, the damaged area your body won’t heal properly if the nutrients can’t get there. Poor blood flow in the area will result in low levels of nutrients, low levels of oxygen, and high levels of wastes, prolonging pain and inflammation, and possibly causing increased scarring.
- The liver is often the key when it comes to blood flow in the body. The liver is like a filter for your blood, and if it becomes congested the blood cannot flow through it easily. The movement of blood in the body is slowed down and restricted, causing it to ‘back up’ a little in the body, like peak hour in the city.
- Cholesterol and calcium can sometimes build up inside the lining of blood vessels (forming a substance called plaque), which narrows the artery and restricts the blood flow through it
- Old injuries that did not heal perfectly or scar tissue can restrict blood flow
- Stress has an effect on your blood flow. Your ‘fight or flight’ response causes the body to direct blood to your essential organs, such as your heart and lungs, at the expense of most of the rest of your body.
- Tight muscles also restrict the blood flow
Improving the Body’s Healing Process
A healthy body fights infection, heals wounds, kills cancer cells, repairs damage, and fights the aging process. So a healthy diet, appropriate exercise, and plenty of sleep are all helpful.
- The key nutrients for general repair are zinc and vitamin C, so a strong therapeutic dose of these can significantly improve the speed and effectiveness of the healing. However, taking too much or the wrong type of these can cause problems, so ideally a qualified naturopath would determine the right type and dosage for you.
- A naturopath is also likely to recommend other specific nutrients depending on the type of tissue affected. (The absolute basics include calcium, vitamin D and protein for damaged bones, zinc, vitamin C and protein for muscle damage, B vitamins and Alpha-lipoic acid for nerves, and l-Glutamine, zinc and magnesium for the digestive tract. However, we stress that every case is different, and getting good results often requires a fully trained and experienced therapist, together with practitioner-quality supplements.)
- She may also decide to boost your immune system or reduce the inflammation to speed up the repair, or provide natural pain relievers
Acupuncture is often great to free up the liver, improve the blood flow in the area, reduce inflammation and stimulate the repair processes. (We find that a combination of acupuncture and naturopathic treatment usually works much better than either one on its own.)
Our bodies are in a constant state of removing damage and producing new, healthy tissue. Daily wear and tear are also promptly dealt with, so even ‘age-related’ and degenerative problems such as arthritis can be improved with the proper treatment.
Free Assessment Offer
If there is a problem in your body that is not going away, we suggest booking in for a Comprehensive Assessment at our clinic. We can then have an in-depth look at what is happening in your body, what is causing the problem, and what can be done to sort it out. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.) Most people find their assessment to be a very helpful, interesting and informative session.