The Importance of Proper Nutrition in Wound Healing
When a wound occurs, whether by injury, disease or surgery, our bodies work overtime to heal the wound site in a complex chain of events that occur at the cellular level. This wound healing process is enhanced and aided by proper nutrition.
A balanced diet, which includes plenty of fluids and adequate calories and is simultaneously rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, supports wound healing in a way that reduces inflammation, fuels tissue repair and regeneration, guards against infection, and minimizes scarring.
Ample fluid intake maintains blood volume and supports circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the tissues that are undergoing repair. Wound care patients should therefore drink plenty of water.
The body’s natural response to many wounds includes an increased metabolism. The cellular changes that occur during wound healing create a demand for increased energy, so patients should make sure to eat regularly, even if they experience a decreased appetite associated with the injury, disease or surgery that caused their wound.
Specifically, patients will want to take great care not to become deficient in protein, vitamins or minerals, as these nutritional deficiencies can impede or even halt the healing process.
The best sources of protein for wound healing support and tissue repair are lean beef, fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs. Patients may also want to include liver, oysters, crab, lobster and whole grains in their diets, as these are also high in zinc, an essential trace mineral present in almost every cell in the body.
Copper is another mineral that can be found in all tissues, and sufficient levels support wound healing. Shellfish, whole grains and liver, mentioned above as good sources of zinc, also supply the body with adequate copper. Other foods that contain copper include beans, nuts, potatoes, prunes and leafy green vegetables.
These same leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens and arugula, are also excellent sources of calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K, nutrients that work together to support wound healing. Calcium and Vitamin K, for example, are essential for blood clotting, without which the healing process could not even begin.
Vitamins A and C are necessary for cell repair and infection prevention during wound healing. Liver, eggs and dairy products, in addition to being good protein sources, also contain Vitamin A. Vitamin A is also found in beta carotene-rich foods like carrots and sweet potatoes, as well as cantaloupe and mangoes which are good sources of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C, well-known to be plentiful in citrus fruits, is also found in red and green peppers, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, watermelon, kiwi, grapefruit and papaya. Berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and cranberries, also deliver important Vitamin C to wound sites, where it aids in the production of collagen to create scar tissue and close open wounds.
Wound care patients must maintain satisfactory levels of B vitamins, which help replace the red blood cells lost through bleeding when a wound occurs. Of these, Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, encourages healthy cells toward the wound site, helps control inflammation and speeds the healing process. It is found in mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, turnip greens and sunflower seeds.
Medical caregivers may recommend nutritional supplements to their wound care patients if protein, vitamin or mineral deficiencies are indicated, or if a patient’s wound is slow to heal. Generally, however, a well-balanced diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, and a generous variety of fruits and vegetables will often provide a wound care patient with nutrition sufficient to support and speed wound healing.