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National Nutrition Month: How sleep, mindfulness, and water heal the body

Published Mar 23, 2021

Beyond leafy greens, living a life that’s full of potential means fueling the body with the nutrients you specifically need, moving through the day in a present state, and connecting with nature.

At Gardyn, we’re all about living a healthy life centered around the whole person, starting with a well-rounded approach to nutrition. 

During the month of March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign focused on the importance of informed food choices and establishing healthy eating and physical activity practices. From inflammation to mental health, we’re here to help you on your journey to a fulfilled life, inside and out.

This week, our focus is on recovering from physical trauma and how a few changes to your lifestyle can help aid in the healing process.

Suffering from an injury, even a minor malfunction of how your body operates can be frustrating and painful at the very least. Car accidents, unexpected falls, how you sit when looking at your smart device – no matter what your age or activity level, unfortunate incidents can cause minor to severe long-lasting trauma on the body.

Gardyn is committed to working with health-focused practitioners and communities to inspire you to live a more harmonious lifestyle. This week, we introduce Dr. Ryan Todd, DPT, doctor of physical therapy, health coach, and owner of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Center of South Oak Park, Illinois.

Gardyn talked to Dr. Todd about a few steps we can take to improve the chances of recovering and living out a robust life of adventure and happiness…

“Most of the people I see at my practice are coming in because they’re in enough pain that they can’t function on a daily basis anymore,” explains Todd. “I’m a firm believer in building a relationship with my patients and working as a guide to find solutions to resolve pain.”

So why is diet and nutrition a key component of recovering from an injury?

“The standard American diet (SAD) is laden with inflammatory agents based on the ingredients added to maximize shelf life and benefit low-cost production. Preservatives and additives are inflammatory in nature,” explains Dr. Todd.

“The combination of consuming a diet with inflammatory properties with an injury that is either acutely or chronically inflamed prolongs and can even stop the healing process. You’re essentially pulling the rug out from under any healing.”

Dr. Todd encourages his patients to keep a varied diet, one where protein is a part of the plan for accelerated tissue healing.

In addition to a diet stocked with leafy greens like kale, arugula, mustard greens, and Swiss chard (all packed with essential immune function benefits of vitamin C, magnesium, and folate), Dr. Todd breaks down practical suggestions for quality healing with what he calls “The Big 3” – sleep, mindfulness, and water.

“It may sound repetitive, but there’s a reason doctors encourage getting quality sleep.”


Our bodies go into intense repair mode on a cellular level when we sleep, removing waste products, resolving problems that happened throughout the day, and repairing tissue.

The sympathetic nervous system (the network regulating the fight or flight response) has a chance to slow down, adding to the long list of reconstruction that happens when we sleep.

What happens if our sleep is poor quality:

“I can’t overemphasize the importance of sleep as the repair and maintenance of our bodies happens during this time of necessary shut down,” said Todd. “All of these systems are interconnected, and the key to quality sleep is being challenged with the uptick in hours of technology use.”

Dr. Todd explained the light of mobile devices, tablets, and laptops all disrupt our internal clock,  hijacking circadian rhythm, making it harder to sleep.


Currently working on a clinical trial at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Todd is working with fellow practitioners on a study comparing the value of spinal manipulation to mindfulness-based stress reduction on patients with lower back pain.

“Based on experience with my own patients, manual physical therapy and mindfulness/meditation to treat chronic low back pain is an excellent combination,” comments Dr. Todd. “The mindfulness element helps the patient create a different relationship with chronic pain.”

The constant nagging of chronic pain can easily segue into a feeling of hopelessness. Living with prolonged pain, a 2017 study comparing the relationship between chronic pain and depression found up to 85% of the patients who suffered from chronic pain also had depression.

Dr. Todd hopes the study at Rush will open up more discussion about using mindfulness and meditation in tandem with spinal manipulation therapies.


The transport medium of the body, water gets waste out, and the “good stuff” in on a cellular level. Just like having a balanced nutritional strategy – our bodies need a consistent supply of water – full stop.

What happens if you don’t drink enough water: 

Your body lacking water is similar to trying to push your car another 10 miles when you’re running on fumes. It stalls a bit, has a hard time accelerating, and overall does not perform to its full potential.

How to pick a physical therapist

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 258 thousand physical therapists are in practice, so how do you find a practitioner that’s right for you?

Dr. Todd says to call the office and ask.

“In my practice, we’re all on the same mission, to find solutions to resolve pain and help patients return to the activities they love. This process takes a focused guide to meet with patients and establishing an honest relationship. Ultimately, a one-on-one approach to treatment will help a physical therapist maximize where the patient succeeds and strategically troubleshoot areas that need improvement.”

To learn more about Dr. Todd and his hands-on approach to relieve pain and enhance mobility, visit

Disclaimer: Articles, interviews, and suggestions featured on the Gardyn website should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice from a licensed doctor and/or clinician. Please contact your preferred health provider for personal care and advice.

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