Dear Mark: Healing Broken Bones, and Blended Soups

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answer two questions. First, is there a way to speed up the healing process after a broken bone? What nutrients should we make sure to consume? Are there supplements we can take, foods we can eat, lifestyle modifications we can make? The next question comes from a reader trying to nurse his grandfather back to health after a bad stroke. Grandpa’s still in the hospital and can only eat through a straw. Are there better options than the tasteless slop, butterscotch pudding, and bad ice cream he’s currently receiving?

Let’s find out:

Dear Mark,

I was in a car accident and lost my right leg and my left leg has a Tibia Fibia fracture. It’s been just two months, but I am not seeing a lot of healing in the leg. What parts of the paleo diet are going to best help me in the bone healing department. I am currently taking a collagen and gelatin supplement in place of a bone broth. I fear my protein intake is low so I’ve begun supplementing with a protein shake. Wondering if you have any thoughts on bone healing. Would you recommend the Damage Control Master Formula supplement? I’ve got damage that is for sure. Any advice would be appreciated.


Move safely. Obviously, your mobility is limited. You can’t do nearly as much you’re used to doing. Shearing movement can hamper the healing process. And whatever you do must be done with the blessing and guidance of your physician, physical therapist, and anyone else with a stake in your healing. But some degree of movement and mechanical loading should help. Stability is good and crucial. Rigidity and immobility are not.

Protein matters. In wound healing, protein requirements go way up. Whether it’s a bad burn, a laceration, or a broken bone, you need protein to build new tissue. And even though we don’t really think of broken bones as wounds, you’re essentially recovering from a traumatic wound. The gelatin and protein powder are good starts, but you should seek to get most of your protein through whole foods, as they’ll contain other pro-bone nutrients. One review recommends around 1.5 g protein/kg bodyweight or close to 0.7 g protein/lb bodyweight for injured patients. Use powders to fill in the gaps.

Calories matter. The more healing you have, the more food you need. Bone remodeling is incredibly energy-intensive. Don’t go so far as to start putting on weight, but eat more food than you think you need.

As for specific nutrients?

Strontium has been shown to speed up fracture healing time. Strontium ranelate, a prescription form, seems to have the most backing in the literature, though there are some contraindications you should discuss with your doctor.

Vitamin D, a pre-requisite for bone formation and mineral deposition, probably helps fracture healing, although the evidence is a bit scant, with just one pilot study published to date showing improved fracture healing with supplementation. Still, vitamin D is an important nutrient that many of us don’t get enough of. Perhaps some midmorning sun-bathing sessions are in order.

Milk basic protein, a component of whey, has been shown to speed up fracture healing in animal models and is available as a supplement.

Zinc, found in oysters, red meat, and seeds, can boost fracture healing in animal models.

Don’t forget about calcium, the basic stuff of bones. Paired with vitamin D, it’s been shown to improve some markers of fracture healing in humans. Dairy, bone-in canned fish, and leafy greens are great sources of calcium.

Vitamin C helps tissue construction, and a 2004 study even found that giving tibial fracture patients a mix of vitamin C, proline, lysine, vitamin B6, and other essential nutrients (likely many of the ones listed above) decreased the healing time (PDF).

Vitamin K2 is an underutilized and under-eaten but extremely important nutrient for bone metabolism. Take a supplement or eat natto, gouda, or goose liver paté.

Silicon is a trace mineral most people don’t consider essential, but it plays a small but important role in bone health. Most mineral waters are good sources of silicon; check the label or look up the water’s website for confirmation.

Copper matters. In one study, the protective effect of calcium in drinking water on fractures was enhanced by the presence of copper.

Damage Control Master Formula is a great source of micronutrients, polyphenols, and other antioxidant compounds. It’s really the best, most comprehensive and balanced multivitamin in existence, in my humble opinion. As such, it can help control inflammation that may be slowing your fracture healing. It’s definitely worth a try.

There are some “alternative” therapies showing promise:

Pulsed low-dose ultrasound has strong evidence for the healing of fresh fractures and weaker evidence for the healing of “delayed union” (or slower to heal) fractures. It might be worth a shot.

Infrared light may also improve fracture healing. Many professional sports teams are using infrared lasers to improve athlete healing times.

Parathyroid hormone administration may be able to speed up healing.

This review paper discusses some other therapies with potential for healing bone fractures. You can’t exactly get stem cell therapy or bone marrow concentrate aspirate off Amazon, so print it out and discuss them with your doctor.

For further discussions on bone health, stay tuned for a post in the coming weeks.

My Grandfather recently suffered a major stroke, and although he’s back on semi-solid foods, the range of things he can eat is still fairly limited. The bigger problem is that the “food” they’re serving him in the hospital is so heavily processed, so devoid of flavour, that he eats nothing but the butterscotch pudding and ice cream that they bring with the meal. After tasting some of his food, I can’t say I really blame him. I’ve found some nice butternut squash soup recipes, but I’m curious what some of your favourite recipes for purée type soups are? Maybe something with a nice bone broth?



Great question. Here are three options you can try. I apologize in advance for imprecise measurements. Unless I’m putting together a recipe book (and getting lots of help/cajoling from editors and co-authors), I don’t really weigh and measure.

Throw together a basic seafood chowder. With clams, mussels, oysters, fish—any edible sea creature, really—they are nutritional powerhouses. Assemble garlic, shallots (the better onion), pre-cooked and cooled potatoes, herbs, broth, olive oil/butter, and cream. Here’s what I do:

  1. Sweat shallots and garlic in either some olive oil/ butter (or both), or cook up some chopped bacon and use the resultant fat as a cooking fat.
  2. Add a few splashes of white wine, reduce.
  3. Add broth. Typically you’d use a fish broth, but I find that poultry broths work well. Heck, I’ve used rich beef broth before.
  4. Drop in some finely chopped rosemary and thyme. Dried is fine.
  5. Add some heavy cream. Add the potatoes (already cooked and cooled for maximum resistant starch, remember). Simmer and thicken. Allow it to get thicker than you’d prefer, because adding the seafood in the next step will increase the liquid.
  6. Add the seafood. It’ll cook fast, so don’t overcook.
  7. Blend.

Simple butternut squash soups are fantastic. Winter squash in general blend up incredibly well. Find a good one (it should be heavy in your hand), steam it until soft, blend flesh with broth, salt, and a little fat (olive oil, butter, cream, whatever you prefer), then heat? Baby, you’ve got yourself a soup you can drink through a straw that only took a few minutes to make. Some good salty pork sausage goes really well with a butternut squash soup.

Paul Jaminet recently published the baby food recipe he’s been giving his son as a supplemental food. If you made a few changes, it’d be perfect for grandpa. Here’s what I’d do:

Increase the liver. Having grown up with parents who made it on the regular, most grandpas (and grandmas) can usually handle more liver than the average Millennial.

Use whole eggs rather than just yolks. Paul omits the whites for allergic reaction concerns, which you don’t have in this situation. Seniors recovering from health issues need more protein, particularly when they’re on bed rest. To cook the whites, you’d obviously have to drop the eggs in while the porridge simmers. Time it so the white is fully cooked and the yolk is still soft.

Add some more animal. Include something like chuck roast, brisket, beef shank, oxtail, chicken thigh that breaks down and softens up when cooked for sufficient time.

Use bone broth instead of water. Adds gelatin and other important nutrients. Also, tastes way better than water.

Include some leafy greens. A mix of baby kale, chard, and spinach work great in soups and blend up nicely.

Basically, anything will work and be better than the swill they’re offering at the hospital. Have fun with it!

That’s it for today, folks. If anyone else has any recommendations for M or Steve, such as soups or nutrients they can try, add them down below! I for one am always interested in new soup recipes.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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24 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Healing Broken Bones, and Blended Soups”

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  1. The herb comfrey, also called boneset, is another alt health option to speed bone knitting. Fda says external use only.

  2. The recipe for basic seafood chowder sounds so mouth-wateringly good that I’m going to pick up the ingredients and make some today.

  3. M – Unpasteurized Camel’s milk, is packed with calcium (more then any other milk) and other goodies. Something you may want to consider.

    I drank it over a duration of a couple months, after severely breaking my wrist while mounting biking last Nov.

  4. When my father was on a liquid diet, the first thing I got was a top quality stick blender. With one of these you can turn anything into liquid meal. Trader joes has several boxed soups that make a good base if one does not have time to make stock from scratch. My dad’s favorite was the TJs roasted red pepper soup with a tin of smoked mussles(also from TJs), a dash of cream and a shot of sherry. Also I think Mark’s Primal Fuel is a better option than the branded supplement drinks targeted towards seniors. I wish I knew about PF when my dad was living off of shakes and soups.

    1. Heh. For real blending horsepower, I use one of the famous blenders that can turn an iphone into a nice blended soup. All kinds of minerals in there.

    2. So glad you refered to that tool as a ‘stick blender’. I thought I was the only one who used that name. It’s one of my most-used kitchen appliances, and I make mayonnaise with it in about 30 seconds. 🙂

  5. M,

    You may want to find a health practitioner who prescribes the Classical Pearls formula Ox Bone Pearls (basically, a capsule version of a Chinese Medicine formula called Gu Zhe Nei Fu Fang–an ancient Daoist trauma remedy that combines a number of healing herbs, including ox bone and crab shell).

    In clinic, I often prescribe this for bone breaks, usually in combination with other Chinese formulas fitting the individual’s pattern and/or Standard Process/Medi-Herb supplements. All of these are available through licensed practitioners (DOMs, DOs, LAc, DCs, MDs).

    Wishing you ease in your healing journey.

  6. While waiting for my clavicle to heal, my research indicated that one of the limiting factors for bone growth is boron. Apples are one of the good sources.

  7. Do be sure to talk to hospital staff before bringing in food. Sometimes they are measuring input and output and the patient may not know that. If they give you the OK you might want to bring extra for the staff as a thank you. They’d probably like to have some healthy, tasty food as well.

  8. Any soup you want to make more nutritious, boil some marrow bones with the broth, then get the marrow out and blend with the soup. Mmmm!

  9. I second the comfrey comment. That stuff is amazing and can be taken internally; especially in a tea.

    Good luck!

  10. A further thought for M and healing of those bones – bones sometimes don’t knit until you are weight bearing on them. I’d imagine your physio is completely on top of that, but if not, research for yourself. Around the two month mark is when I see surgeons (I’m a nurse) getting their patient to start putting weight on the limb regardless of how healed it is.
    I’m NOT suggesting to jump out of bed without assistance or a plan, but I am saying hang in there, once you start moving a bit more you might see results. Keep going with the protein and the calories and reaching out for help and ideas!

    1. I can second the weight-bearing theory – my husband had a tib-fib break in his left leg after a work accident, and until he started putting weight on his leg there wasn’t much progress at all. Unfortunately, fractures and breaks (especially in a weight-bearing bone like that one) will take many months to heal.

      M, if there is ANY way you can get your hands (leg) on an electromagnetic pulse machine – DO IT. Husband’s healing accelerated tenfold once he started using it. Best of luck to you!

      1. This is encouraging. I have one of these and use it daily.

        I’m at the three month mark and going to the doc this morning to determine weight bearing status. Fingers crossed.

    2. Just adding… of course, my suggestions should be verified with your doc/physical therapist before doing anything to change your routine – don’t want you to harm yourself. Good luck 🙂

  11. Dear M- I am so sorry about yor accident and the loss of your leg. My daughter was in an ATV accident when she was 19 and lost her left lower leg. Very traumatic, multiple surgeries and extended hospital stay. And she had no desire to use healthy food and nutrition for healing!

    My thoughts and prayers are with you as you heal, recover, and adapt. I hope you have an excellent prosthetist. We interviewed four different companies, and chose a small family owned business over a big national chain. Because you will be spending a lot of time with your prosthetist and the office staff, choose a place that feels good to you. Kerry’s prosthetist has been wonderful! Mike is open and friendly and just crazy enough to relate to my daughter. He is not restricted by company policies and has been able to use the best components for her prosthesis. And Mike has always gone to bat for us with the insurance company.

    1. Thank you Karen. My prosthetist is pretty good and is open to all my ideas. The relationship is so key.

  12. Nutrition is so very important in healing. I have been threw 3 hip replacement surgeries in the past 7 years. Without good nutrition, I wouldn’t be where I am today! Also, my nutrition is also the reason that my degenerative joint issues continue to get better. Food is the answer! Thanks to Mark for this awesome blog and to everyone who participates.

  13. In addition to meat-based soups, I guess it’s okay to feed Grandpa a basic fruit smoothie for dessert. Use the stick blender to mix 1 cup fruit, 1 scoop whey powder, some green tea, and a teaspoon of honey. Caution: don’t use red raspberries, black raspberries, or blackberries. They have a massive amount of seeds, which are really bad for old teeth. If you use seeded berries, strain the mixture before adding the whey powder.

  14. @Steve, depending on the cause of the stroke you may want to avoid blood-thinning agents like garlic and green tea, they can have a clinically measurable effect. Hemorraghic stroke is the kind caused by a bleed, and you can search the name of the food/herb and the word ‘blood clotting’ or ‘blood thinning’ to be double sure.

  15. This was so timely for me. I recently received a bone and soft tissue implant in preparation for an implant (to occur in about 4 months). In addition to the trauma of the surgery, I took an antibiotic at my oral surgeon’s instructions. So my gut is also in trauma. To support healing in both places, I’ve been feeding on bone broths, oyster stew (made with bone broth + coconut milk + oysters & their liquor), and plenty of natural pro- and probiotics, e.g., cooked & cooled potatoes in the stew, of course, primal flora, and wildbrine krauts. My surgeon is not pleased with the lack of healing, unfortunately. I feel that the antibiotic may be to blame, but regardless I’ll be trying a few more of these suggestions. Thanks so much, Mark!

    1. oops, that was “bone and soft issue GRAFT” in preparation for dental implant).