What Does Nutrition Have to do with Physical Therapy?

I love to talk to my patients about what foods they eat, when they eat, and how they eat. Most of the time they respond with, “You are a physical therapist. Why are you talking to me about nutrition?”

To set the record straight – I am not trying to convince anyone to start a particular diet or meal plan. There are many, and different people respond differently to each. I usually don’t want to talk about calories, or the food pyramid. I want to know what kinds of foods they are eating, are they getting enough vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, and is there variety? Is their diet potentially contributing to ongoing inflammation? Is it delaying healing? Related to persistent pain or fatigue?


To back up for a minute, if you are not familiar with the term phytonutrient, these are chemicals that are found in plants that benefit humans by providing anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. Eating a plant-based diet is a great way to insure you are getting sufficient nutrition.

However, not all of us are vegans – I’m not. I do a good job eating a variety of foods, but I also enjoy pizza, ice cream and Swedish fish on occasion (yep – my favorite junk foods). I truly believe that moderation is key. However, there needs to be moderation. Eating one carrot a day and fast food at lunch and dinner is not going to provide you adequate nutrition. I once had a friend who told me he ate vegetables because there was lettuce on his Big Mac (true story)! Likewise, sustaining on protein bars, nuts in the car, or any type of “prepackaged” foods, no matter how fortified, will also not stand the test of time. Poor diet does not cause pain. Poor diet does not cause inflammation. However, if you are dealing with issues such as chronic pain, fatigue or illness, you may want to consider adding key nutrients to your diet. I look at it as “nature’s medicine.” And by stocking our pantries (bodies) with good nutrition, we will be better equipped to handle any ailments that may come our way.

Sometimes it is difficult to get all you need through diet. This requires planning, shopping, availability of food and time to cook. I think it's important to recognize that you are doing your best. After that, supplements can help fill the gap. Supplements should never be your first source of nutrition. High quality supplements can help where you have holes in your diet.

Want to learn more about nutrition and how to maximize your body's ability to work at its best? Follow us this week on Facebook where we will talk all about optimizing nutrition. Join our newsletter to get more tips and tools from Catalyst Physical Therapy!

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