by Adam Brown BScPT, MClScPT
Advanced Practice Physiotherapist
updated Nov 20, 2023
One of the questions we consistently get from patients who are at the beginning of their physiotherapy recovery is about supplementation. It is natural to want to do everything you can to promote healing and recover as efficiently as possible. Whether or not supplements will be beneficial to you depends upon a few factors including the quality and variety of whole foods in your usual diet, other medical comorbidities and what type of injury you are recovering from.
Several supplements have been studied for their potential role in tissue repair. It’s important to note that while some supplements show promise in laboratory or animal studies, their effectiveness in humans can vary, and individual responses may differ.
We recommend that our patients consult with our dietitian if they want to optimize their nutritional intake to support their recovery. She can provide dietary and supplementation advice that is customized to the patients unique circumstances. With that said, are a there are a few supplements that have shown potential in tissue repair.
Protein is the fundamental building block of tissues in our bodies. It is important that as the body is attempting to repair damaged tissue it has access to amino acids to build new protein structures. Adequate protein intake is crucial for tissue repair, especially after injuries or surgeries (1). This can be in the form of dietary intake, or can be ‘topped up’ with a quality supplement. Ensure that you are getting all of the essential amino acids. Some strength training studies have suggested that to build muscle at least 0.7 grams of protein intake per pound of body weight may be optimal.
Vitamin D plays a role in immune regulation and has been associated with enhanced wound healing (2). Canadians tend to be deficient in vitamin D in general, and especially in the winter months. It has been suggested that if you live in the northern hemisphere, vitamin D supplementation is a good idea.
Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis, which is a crucial component of tissue repair. Studies have shown its importance in wound healing (3). A high quality diet often has plenty of vitamin C, but if you are uncertain if you are hitting the mark a dietitian can work with you to discover if supplementation or dietary changes are required.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and may aid in tissue repair (4) . Flax see oil or fish oil can help to boost your omega 3’s. These both can be consumed as whole foods or supplements.
Zinc is involved in various cellular processes, including tissue repair and immune function (5). It has been shown that zinc deficiency impairs wound healing. It can be difficult to get a clear idea of intracellular zinc levels. Ensuring you are getting the recommended daily intake of 8mg for women and 11mg for men (adults) could help your tissue repair process along.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
These supplements are commonly used for joint health but may also support tissue repair (6). The evidence is variable but side effects are very infrequent. Many patients take the approach of trying this supplement and if there is no impact after a month of use they discontinue. Our experience has been that half of patients report benefit and half report no change.
Individual responses to supplements can vary, and more research is often needed to establish definitive conclusions about their efficacy in tissue repair. Our dietitian Heather Tomar can help you navigate the best evidence and help to get you on track to support your recovery. Give us a call today and get us on your team!
1. Tipton, K. D. (2015). Nutritional support for exercise-induced injuries. Sports Medicine, 45(S1), 93-104.
2. Bashir, M., Prietl, B., Tauschmann, M., Mautner, S. I., Kump, P. K., Treiber, G., … & Pieber, T. R. (2013). Effects of high doses of vitamin D3 on mucosal immune response in Crohn’s disease. Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis, 7(11), 947-953.
3. Wintergerst, E. S., Maggini, S., & Hornig, D. H. (2006). Immune-enhancing role of vitamin C and zinc and effect on clinical conditions. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 50(2), 85-94.
4. Calder, P. C. (2013). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology?. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 75(3), 645-662.
5. Lansdown, A. B. G. (2007). Zinc in the healing wound. The Lancet, 369(9570), 1675-1676.
6. Richy, F., Bruyere, O., Ethgen, O., Cucherat, M., Henrotin, Y., & Reginster, J. Y. (2003). Structural and symptomatic efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine, 163(13), 1514-1522.
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