Most of us never give a second thought to the healing process, we get an injury and it heals up; simple. What we neglect to appreciate is just how complex and well orchestrated the healing process actually is. If any step along the way is defective or interrupted the healing process can become delayed and problems can ensue.
When we damage any tissue in the body the natural process of wound healing jumps in and immediately starts to clear things up. The damaged tissues need to be replaced with new. This process demands the use of precious raw materials such as proteins, specific nutrients and energy in the form of calories to fuel the mechanisms of repair. Even following a small wound the natural reaction of the body is to stimulate the metabolism as part of a stress reaction. In this situation the term stress does not imply the anxiety reaction commonly associated with the phrase but refers to the biological and hormonal stress reaction that places specific demands (stress) on the body. This early phase of wound healing is technically known as the ‘catabolic phase’ because it is characterized by a breakdown of tissue. During this time water can be used at an increased rate along with an increased release of energy from food or stored body fat. In very undernourished individuals, with low body fat, muscle may be broken down for energy. This situation is not good because it starves the healing wound of much needed proteins (since they are being ‘burnt’ to provide energy) when they should be being utilized for the healing process. In such cases, delayed wound healing is the inevitable result.
Common problems that are associated with delayed wound healing
The importance of protein
Without a good protein supply wounds will not heal well at all. Reduced intake of protein will decrease the production of collagen; the ‘glue’ that literally holds us together. Most diets deliver adequate proteins but over phases of wound healing special attention should be given to high protein foods like grains, seeds, nuts, eggs, fish, meat and if you are not sensitive to it dairy foods.
L-Arginine is an important amino acid found in many protein foods. It’s a vital ingredient for the production of proteins structures needed for repair and a strong healed wound. Supplements containing L-Arginine have been shown to promote collagen production and accelerate the healthy healing of many kinds of soft tissue (skin, muscle, tendon) injuries. Another key amino acid needed for healing is L-Glutamine which is also needed for optimal collagen production. Using a supplement containing these saves the body from mobilizing them from muscle tissue and ensures a ready and adequate supply.
The importance of fats
Fats get a bad press but we do know that there are good and bad fats. All the cells in our body have a fat membrane that keeps the tissues flexible. Making sure that you get enough good fat in the diet can make a big difference to the healing process. There is no need to take excessive amounts of additional oils but 500-1000 mg of flax oil per day would be adequate. Taking too much omega-3 oil (eg. high strength fish oil) may actually reduce the strength of a healed wound.
The importance of carbohydrates
Energy is the currency needed to heal a wound. Carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, cereals, brown rice and potatoes deliver plenty of starch that is readily metabolized into energy for life and healing. However, diabetics need t take care not to radically change their carbohydrate intake without supervision.
How about vitamins and minerals
Balanced diets should deliver all the nutrients needed but some nutrients do appear more important to boost wound healing. It may come as no surprise that vitamin C demands increase. This vitamin is needed for collagen production and immune support. Poor healed wounds and wound infection is associated with low vitamin C levels or intake. The same can be said about vitamin A but this nutrient should only be taken in the form of beta carotene because of the potential for toxic side effects from pure vitamin A (retinol). Eating plenty of coloured fruits and vegetables will boost the dietary levels and a supplement may help as well. Of all the minerals available to the body a healing wound demands extra zinc and iron. Unless anaemic, the body has good stores of iron and supplements are not recommended because of the risk of iron overload (toxicity) or more commonly bowel upset. Supplementation with zinc on the other hand may offer some additional benefit. Slow to heal wounds have been shown to improve with the use of additional zinc and by increasing the intake of key zinc foods such as fish, eggs and shellfish. Eating more red meat, eggs, dried fruit and dark green vegetables can boost dietary iron.
In general wounds healing can be significantly improved by careful attention to diet and fluid intake; it may sound simple but it’s a vital step and makes all the difference between a well healed or poorly healed wound. The preparation ST-Repair will deliver the key additional nutrients L-Arginine, L-Glutamine, vitamin C, beta carotene and zinc in the form of a supplement that have all been associated with optimal healing. Whether you have a surgical wound that needs healing, a sports injury or other soft tissue strain never forget the importance of food and nutrients in the process of healthy tissue repair.