Fortunately, researchers have identified steps you can take immediately to bounce back faster. For starters, you should get adequate sleep, a good 8 to 9 hours each night. During the first 2 hours of sleep, your body experiences a spike in the production of growth hormone, which is vital to all the body's healing processes, says Elizabeth G. Motyka, MD, coauthor of The Rapid Recovery Handbook. She also advises a nurturing diet rich in lean proteins, vitamin-packed produce, and healthy fats.
To move even faster down the road to recovery, though, add these more-surprising, but equally effective, strategies. Whether you're scheduled for surgery or trying to recover from a muscle strain, these six speed healers can shave days—even weeks—off your downtime.
1. HoneyThe proof: On superficial wounds, such as cuts and burns, honey acts as an antibacterial agent, rapidly cleaning out and preventing further infection, according to an analysis of nearly two dozen studies by New Zealand researchers. One found that burns treated with honey healed, on average, in 11 days—4 days less than burns treated without it. The sweet stuff also reduced swelling and minimized scarring.
Try it: Researchers used Manuka honey from New Zealand (available in both pure and ointment forms at manukahoneyusa.com), but any locally farmed product (as opposed to commercial brands; heat used during production reduces antibacterial strength) will be just as effective. To get the fastest results, follow the researchers' method: Put some honey on sterile gauze, apply to the wound, and change the dressing every 24 hours.
2. Hubby harmonyThe proof: A rough patch in your marriage can actually slow your recovery from illness or injury, while a strong relationship may speed your repair, says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at Ohio State University College of Medicine. In an experiment, she found that small blisters on couples whose interactions were more hostile healed at only 60% the rate of friendlier couples. The culprit: the stress hormone cortisol. The relationship is clear-cut between the two. The more conflict, the more cortisol; and the more cortisol, the slower the healing. This means the opposite is true, too: When your relationships are strong and positive, healing proceeds faster.
Try it: Mending an up-and-down marriage takes time (and sometimes, a commitment to therapy). For now, just do your best to handle disagreements as calmly as possible, removing any element of hostility and nastiness so neither of you feels under personal attack. Watch for cortisol-triggering communication styles: Studies have found that couples tend to produce more cortisol when their conflicts include demanding, negative comments on the part of the wife and the husband withdrawing