The Real Food Guide

5 ways to support bone healing in kids

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bone healingMy son has had one goal this summer: master the monkey bars. Every chance he’s gotten, he’s been hanging around trying to traverse as many sets of monkey bars as possible. Unfortunately, he took a tumble off a set of bars and landed on his hand over the weekend – which resulted in a buckle fracture (aka greenstick fracture). It’s a type of fracture that kids often get, because their bones are much more pliable than an adult’s – the bone bends, but doesn’t completely break. So now he’s sporting a half-cast/splint to help him heal. Being a student of natural nutrition, I wanted to support his bone healing naturally and/or through good nutrition. Here’s the rundown:

1. Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen

At the children’s hospital, we were told not to give him any ibuprofen (e.g. Advil), because non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin are thought to impair bone healing, inhibit collagen matrix-building and accelerate cartilage destruction. Rather than risk slowing down the healing of the fracture, the doctor recommended giving Tylenol if there was any pain. Aside from the initial fall, the pain seemed to subside quickly, so there wasn’t actually any need for any pain remedies for him.

2. Up the anti-inflammatory nutrients

With a break comes inflammation and damage from the rupturing tissues releasing free-radicals. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients such as: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A (beta-carotene) selenium, manganese, will help the healing process. These nutrients also happen to work synergistically with each other – and help increase absorption of iron.

Luckily, it’s summer, so our little guy is getting plenty of local leafy greens (high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and E) – he especially likes kale chips, so there’s been no problem in getting him to eat them. Local strawberries are ripe for the picking, so he’s also gotten plenty of vitamin C and antioxidants that way.

3. Get plenty of vitamin D

Vitamin D helps to increase calcium absorption and helps regulate the calcification and mineralization of bones. We normally don’t supplement for vitamin D in the summer, because we get plenty of safe sun exposure at this time of year. However, with his fracture and the heat and humidity, it’s been hard to spend as much time outside (a sweaty splint is not a happy splint) so we’ve been giving him a vitamin D supplement at his normal winter-time dosage. (The Vitamin D Council recommends that children get 1000 IU per 25 lbs of body weight).

4. Increase your bone building minerals

Since his little body is working on repairing his bone, we want to make sure there are plenty of building blocks to work with. When most people think of bones, they only think of calcium, but there are lots of other trace minerals that are necessary, such as zinc, copper, phosphorus, silicon.

Lo and behold, all of these minerals are available in the ratios found in bone broth! A hot, steaming bowl of broth isn’t exactly a welcome summertime treat, but there are plenty of ways to making drinking bone broth more palatable in the summer. Our guy’s favorite involves cooking sweet potato vermicelli (available at your local Asian grocer – look to make sure that the ingredient list contains no fillers or preservatives) in broth. In this summer heat, it helps to make bone broth in a slow cooker so you’re not slaving over a hot stove.

5. Get enough protein

Proteins are needed to build body structures!  What most people don’t realize, is that beyond the minerals, bone is also largely made up of protein – mostly collagen and glycosaminoglycans, and both can be found in bone broth. We’re also making sure our little monkey is getting some jello as a dessert too. We make it using unflavored gelatin, and flavor it with fruit juice or kombucha.

He’s also eating plenty of grass-fed beef and pastured eggs as his other protein sources, so we’re not worried about him not getting enough.

Overall, our little guy eats a pretty nutritious real food diet already, so hopefully this will help speed his bone healing. Has your child ever suffered a broken bone? Do you have any other tips to help a kid (or adult for that matter) heal from a fracture? If so, let me know in the comments.


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Photo credit: Oblique and AP Radius – child by Lindsay Davis

Vivian is the founder of the Real Food Guide and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) who believes that each individual needs to go on their own Real Food Journey to find what works. While she herself eats a diet of real food (aka a paleo diet), some people may find that they can flourish on a vegetarian diet instead. However, universal to optimal health and well-being is good quality, nutrient-dense, Real Food.

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July 19 |

4 thoughts on “5 ways to support bone healing in kids

  1. Terri says:

    Hi Vivian, this article brought much needed comfort today. My beautiful 10yr old girl (only child) incurred a fracture in her humerus bone of her arm (from a sport accident) and it was not a good experience especially for me. I will be following all the suggestions here and grateful she didnt request or appear to need pain killers (she’s never had any in her life). I hope I can find the same supplements in Australia but once again thanks for posting this article, it really is useful. Terri.

    • If nothing else, be thankful that children generally heal a lot faster than us adults! Although inconvenienced, my son was able to heal from his fracture in just a couple of weeks.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Hi Vivian,
    I was researching bone healing in children, and your article hit the nail on the head. My six year hold nephew snapped his femur in three places while riding a bike. His parents are very nutrition-conscious, so I found your “quick read” article informative and useful. I sent them a copy of it. The bone broth recipe sounds like a gem, we are going to give it a try. Thank you.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I also appreciate the point you made as to why NSAIDs are not recommended for pain relief. Unfortunately, my nephew was given Tylenol, but I now understand the reason behind it.

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