Most people know the basic steps to letting a wound or injury heal: bandage, rest, ice, compression, elevation...and WAIT. But did you know that there are certain types of food that can help your body heal quicker so that you don't have to wait as long?
Disclaimer: This site is not offering medical advice. Please consult a health care specialist before changing your diet. Diabetic, elderly, or patients with other health factors will have additional considerations when choosing a diet.
Vitamin C Rich Foods
Vitamin C is a key player in repairing and growing new tissue. Vitamin C is needed to helping the body produce collagen enzymes. Collagen is a structural protein comprised of the amino acids lysine, proline, and glycine. It is the main component to healing wounds since it acts as a framework for new tissue growth and helps in repairing the body.
Since Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that you body does not produce, you must get it from food. While Vitamin C deficiency is rare in America, recent studies suggest that many people have low levels of vitamin C due to smoking, age, metabolic rate increasing after injury, and not eating enough Vitamin C rich foods.
This can be a problem if your body is trying to heal itself. To combat this, try eating oranges, kiwi, red peppers, kale, broccoli, grapefruit, papaya, or other foods with high levels of vitamin C.
Eating enough protein is important to the healing process since it aids in repairing and replacing damaged tissue in the body. The National Institutes of Health has seen a link between low protein levels and slower rates of healing. If you low protein levels, then your body has a hard time forming collagen. On top of that, protein is necessary to keep energy levels high.
The normal recommended amount of protein is .8g/kg of body weight (going up to 1 g/kg in people over 50), but with a wound, including pressure ulcers and surgical wounds, it is usually recommended to boost this up to between 1 to 1.5 g protein/kg. Patients with chronic wounds or more severe injuries might be recommended to go up to as much as 3 g/kg. While the exact amount isn’t certain, studies have shown that higher levels of protein can help in healing.
You can add red meats, eggs, beans, fish, seeds, dairy, and nuts to your diet. Try to avoid low quality and processed meat products such as hot dogs and salami as they may increase your risks for more health problems long term.
Vitamin A is important in the production of white blood cells, especially white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocyte white blood cells attack foreign invaders such as germs and infections that can develop.
With low levels of vitamin A , the body may not be able to produce enough white blood cells to fight off possible infections. If a wound becomes infected, then it takes longer for the body to heal as it must first fight off the infection before healing the injury. Even if your wound is starting to heal, your body will continue to need white blood cells to protect the injury until it is fully healed. White blood cells also help in the development of new tissue being formed.
A general rule of thumb is that women should consume 700 micrograms of vitamin A per day and men should consume 900 micrograms of vitamin A. You can increase your vitamin A in your diet by eating sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, eggs, cheese, and milk.
Omega 3 Fats
Omega 3 Fats have shown to bring down inflammation in most studies. One of the reasons a wound might not be healing quickly is that the body is stuck in the second stage of the wound healing process (the inflammation stage). By bringing the swelling down, you might be able to heal the wound faster.
Saying that, it should be noted that part of the wound healing process involves inflammation. During this phase of healing, the body gets rid of injured cells and tissue and initiates tissue repair. It is part of the natural wound healing phase and you should expect to see some forms of inflammation for the first three days after an injury. If swelling continues, then you should have a doctor check to see if it is related to a chronic wound or infection.
You can find omega-3 fatty acids in fish, walnuts, and flax seeds.
Zinc Rich Foods
The National Institutes of Health has stated that zinc is essential for overall aspects of health and cellular metabolism, which makes sense when you realize that ever tissue in your body contains zinc.
For wound healing, it does 3 major things to help the body heal:
- - Zinc helps maintain and rebuild the structure of dermal tissue and mucosal membranes.
- - Zinc aids in the division of cells by helping the body use fats and proteins you consume to promote new cellular growth and repair of injured tissue.
- - Zinc has also been shown to help the immune system. A stronger immune system helps fight off potentially harmful elements that could slow down the healing process.
The recommended daily allowances of zinc for men are about 11 milligrams and 8 milligrams for women. Zinc can be found in shrimp, cashews, lentils, lamb, turkey, quinoa, chicken, and seeds.
Foods with Healthy Fats
The membranes of your cells are created with fatty acids. To help your body produce healthy new tissue and cells, your body might need a little bit of extra fat in the diet. That isn't a cue to start loading up on buttery popcorn or smothering fries in cheese, but an extra cup of milk or yogurt while your healing, can help speed up the process of creating healthy new skin cells.
Cooking oils, meats, yogurt, avocados, and cheese are also good sources of healthy fats the body needs.
It might not be food, but water is an important element in the healing process. Water is the primary way oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the wounded area. Poor circulation that occur from dehydration has been shown to increase the length of time it takes for a wound to heal.
In fact, dehydration is one of the most common reasons why cell function and the healing process becomes disrupted. On top of that, a wound needs to stay moist to heal. If an injury doesn’t stay moist enough, epithelial cells (the cells that make up the outer surface of the body and enclose organs) that migrate over repaired tissue may be able to cover the wound at an expected pace, leaving it open for infection and germs.
It is important while you are healing to drink the recommended eight 8-oz glasses or possibly more.