Wound healing is quite a complex process. The body literally replaces injured tissue with new tissue that the body produces. This increases the body needs for energy and particular nutrients to be able to undergo this process.
The body goes into a catabolic phase when it heals a wound. It releases stress hormones and changes the way it metabolise your food in oder to supply the injured area with nutrients.
Before we get into the nutrients and foods that we need to promote wound healing I have to mention rest. Our body does all it’s repairing when we are in a restful state. When our bodies are operating in the parasympathetic nervous system, it is in the optimal state to promote healing.
The amount of rest that you will need will ultimately be dependent on the wound. The bigger the wound, the more rest you will need. If you had an operation, you wound will not just be what you can see. Our skin in made up of many layers, each of these will need repairing. We also have epithelial cells – the cells that make up our outer layer of skin – on the outer surfaces of our organs and blood vessels. Wounds can very much be more than skin deep.
So what do we need to help feed our body and specifically our skin to make sure it repairs.
This is critical for our body to heal. Our body is made up of protein. Our skin is made from protein. When we consume protein our body breaks it down into individual amino acids, then puts them back together in the best way to support what our body needs. Collagen is particularly important for skin repair.
Now individual needs of protein will differ from person to person. As a great rule of thumb to begin with is to make sure you are having a serve of protein with each meal. You want this protein to equal around 20-25g.
- 120g of chicken, beef, lamb
- 3 large eggs
- 120-150g of Tofu or Tempeh
- When using plant sources of protein you will need to combine your proteins
Eg: 120g of Chickpeas with 50g of Almonds
Our body uses Vitamin C to help the body form new collagen, the part of our skin that makes it stretchy and also helps it rebound into place. Collagen is super important to help the wound not actually heal but to also help your skin and the wound regain the flexibility it had.
In addition to supporting collagen production, Vitamin C also provides antioxidants to the skin, allowing the body to remove free radicals from the wound area and also helps with the formation of new blood vessels to the area. Blood is how the body transports and delivers nutrients around the body. Vitamin C is a powerhouse for wound healing.
Most people think of oranges when it comes to Vitamin C and yes they are a good source but Capsicums (or Peppers for my people in the Northern Hemisphere) are actually the highest food source of Vitamin C. Other yummy ways to get in some Vitamin C is kiwi fruit, strawberries, papaya and broccoli.
This helps regulate the inflammatory response that is present around the wound area, turning it on when needed to stimulate the production of collagen, but also knowing when to switch it off when the inflammatory response is no longer needed.
Retonil and beta-carotene are the preferred sources of Vitamin A and can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin or squash, kale and eggs.
Zinc works hand in hand with protein and vitamin C to produce the collagen our skin requires to heal our wounds and also aid in new tissue broths and healing.
Sources of zinc are best found in red meat, fish, shellfish, chicken, pumpkin seeds and eggs.
I know carbs can get a bad wrap but we do need them in our diets, just maybe not in the quantities we have come to eat them. That being said carbs or more specifically glucose, the simplest form of carbs provides energy for our white blood cells. It is these cells that actually go to work to signal to the body that we are in need of repair. This also boosts collagen production and promotes the fibroblast growth. Fibroblast cells are in the layer of skin just under the outermost skin layer – that epithelial layer, and they carry collagen to the skin to repair it.
The types of carbs that you skin would love best would be in the form of whole foods – like the sweet potato mentioned above or the fruits like kiwi, strawberries and citrus fruits. This way your body is doubling up on the nutrients it needs. Other great sources would be plant based proteins, chickpeas, lentils etc as these would also be providing your body with protein. Try to steer clear of processed carbs as they will increase inflammation in the body and slow down your wound healing.
And whilst this one may not be a food or nutrient, water, hydration, is super important. Not only does our skin need to be hydrated, it also helps the nutrients get to the skin by ensuring the blood is free flowing. If we become dehydrated the skin can become fragile and susceptible to breakdown.
Our body really does know what to do to heal itself. This is particularly true for wound healing. We just need to provide it with all the nutrients, rest and hydration it needs to be able to perform at it’s best and get us well again.
As a little bonus this Moroccan Sweet Potato + Lentil Soup has all the key nutrients needed for your wound to heal. It is a soul-warming recipe that makes the whole house smell warm and cozy!