The Healing Bite: Using Nutritious Foods to mend your Wounds
When trying to negotiate the complexity of wound care, it is often easy to overlook a person’s nutritional status and the impact of their diet.
We often focus on things like the type of wound, what dressing to use, signs of infection and the stage of wound. Whilst, all these factors are important, you may wonder why the wound is not healing as it should be, this is where we can look at their nutrition as people may be deficient in essential nutrients required for wound healing.
What is Wound Healing?
Wound healing is a natural process by which the body repairs and restores damaged tissue. Nutrition has an essential role in wound healing, it may not be a simple fix to put a dressing on a wound and hope for the best. You need to feed your body with the right nutrients to promote wound healing and often need additional energy and protein to assist in the process.
Types of wounds
Surgical Wounds – an incision through the skin that is made during surgery.
Pressure Injuries – the breakdown of skin integrity, as a result of exposure to prolonged pressure, friction or force.
Skin Tears – a wound that happens when the layers of skin separate or peel back, usually occurs in elderly as their skin becomes fragile.
Cuts or lacerations – a wound with separation of connective tissue, often occurs if a person falls or bumps into something.
Essential Nutrients in Wound Healing
Most people know that protein is one of the most important components of wound healing. The amount of protein required can depend on many factors and often requires the help of a Dietitian to determine your needs depending on the type of wound, infections, any losses/draining sites, kidney function and the number of wounds a person may have. Protein sources such as lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts/seeds and legumes provide the building blocks for tissues growth and repair.
Why did the wound need extra protein? To help it beef up and heal faster!
When our bodies are healing a wound, they require additional energy to carry out processes involved in tissue repair. This energy requirement can increase significantly depending on the size and severity of the wound. To support the increased energy demands of wound healing, it is important to consume a well-balanced diet that provides enough calories, carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C plays an important role in wound healing as it aids in tissue repair and assists in the production of collagen which provides structure, strength and support for the new skin. Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, strawberries, capsicum and tomatoes are great sources of Vitamin C.
Vitamin A: This vitamin assists in the formation of new skin tissue. Good sources include carrots, eggs, sweet potato, spinach, pumpkin, oily fish and dairy.
Zinc: A deficiency in zinc may alter the body inflammatory response, and delay the wound healing process. Good sources include nuts, beef, shellfish, eggs, yoghurt, wholegrains, and legumes.
Adequate fluid intake helps maintain hydration and blood flow, which are essential for the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the wound site and help flush out any toxins.
Supplementation in wound healing
Research has shown that multivitamin and mineral supplements show no benefit to wound healing if you do not have a vitamin/mineral deficiency and we encourage obtaining these nutrients through a balanced diet including all food groups.
Your Doctor or Dietitian may advise supplementation if there is a deficiency or to meet increased nutritional needs, for example food fortification strategies with a high energy, high protein diets and oral nutrition supplements to support your oral intake.
Another supplement your healthcare professional may recommend relevant to wound healing is Arginine. Arginine is an amino acid that helps the body build protein, assist in transporting oxygen and other nutrients to the wound site and helps in the formation of collagen. In addition, Arginine has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce swelling and pain at the wound site.
5 Tips from a Dietitian to help heal your wounds
Eat a balanced diet including a variety of foods such as wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy and healthy fats.
Get enough protein! Protein is essential for wound healing as it helps build new tissues. Make sure you include a good quality source of protein at every meal and snack.
Include the important vitamins and minerals in your diet including Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Zinc.
Stay Hydrated! Drinking enough water helps keep the skin hydration and promotes the flow of nutrients to the wound site.
Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption – as these may impair wound healing by reducing blood flow and decrease the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the wound site.
Why did the wound refuse to eat junk food? Because it wanted to heal-thyself with proper nutrition!
Overall, an understanding of nutrition in wounds may be beneficial in knowing how to nourish your body with the right nutrients to help you heal from the inside out.
How can a Dietitian help someone with wounds?
Assessing nutritional needs: A Dietitian can assess an individual’s nutritional status and identify any deficiencies that may be hindering wound healing. They can also determine the appropriate calorie and protein needs to support healing.
Developing a personalised meal plan that promote wound healing based on a person’s needs, preferences and medical conditions such as kidney problems and diabetes.
Provide education on the importance of wound healing and provide guidance on food choices and portions sizes.
Monitor wound healing progress and make adjustments to the nutrition plan as needed depending on changes such as infections, weight loss and poor healing rate.
Work in consultation with other health professionals such as Doctors and Wound consultants to achieve the best outcomes.
Our Accredited Practising Dietitians can assist in providing 1-on-1 nutritional support for wound healing with an individualised approach. We can also provide education sessions on Nutrition in Wound Healing to improve staff knowledge, assist in better wound healing rates and prevent complications/infections. Please send enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.