Posting on my blog this week has been difficult. I cut the middle knuckle on my left hand while giving my daughter a haircut. After receiving 8 stitches, I was given a splint so that I don't bend the finger and rip out the stitches. I can't get it wet, which rules out doing dishes (yay!), but since I'm left-handed, it makes chopping, cooking, writing and typing a real challenge. The only thing I can do right-handed is cut with scissors, and that's what got me into this mess.
My injury got me thinking about the remarkable ability that the body has to heal and repair itself when properly nourished. In general, how fast a wound heals is influenced by the health of the affected person. Poor nutrition, impaired immune function, diabetes, and smoking all slow wound healing.
Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen available to the body to repair itself, slowing the healing process. It also impairs the immune system.
In order to heal, injured tissues require greater amounts of nutrients and energy than normal tissues. So let's begin by looking at diet.
Dietary Needs for Wound Healing
Adequate protein is necessary for wound repair. This one's easy, as long as you eat a variety of plant foods including legumes and nuts, you'll have no problem. Most americans consume at least twice as much protein as the body needs.
Adequate carbohydrate intake is necessary for cellular energy. Be sure to get complex carbs from whole foods, not refined carbs that are devoid of nutrients.
Adequate essential fatty acid intake is necessary for tissue repair. Be sure you are getting omega 3's found in walnuts and flaxseed. Fat-free diets are extremely unhealthy and won't help you heal.
Vitamin A is important for healthy skin and to maintain an effective immune system which prevents and fights infection. The best way to get it is by eating fruits and vegetables that are loaded with beta-carotene. Your body will turn the beta-carotene into the vitamin A that it needs. Vitamin A is fat-soluble, which means it needs to be consumed with some fat in order to be absorbed. Extra A can be stored in your body fat. The best sources of beta-carotene are carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C promotes wound healing by aiding the production of collagen. It also helps battle bruises. Vitamin C is water-soluble which means it dissolves in water, mixes easily in blood and is excreted in the urine. Water-soluble vitamins aren't stored in the body and need to be frequently replenished. Good sources of vitamin C are red and yellow peppers, strawberries, broccoli and citrus.
Vitamin D plays an important role in immune function. Your best source of vitamin D is "10-15 minutes in the sun several times a week ", according to the American Medical Association Complete Guide to Prevention and Wellness. The AMA's book goes on to say, " It now appears that getting a certain amount of sun every day is essential for good health." It's about time the American Medical Association figured out what those of us with common sense have known all along. Unlike dietary supplements, vitamin D from the sun is impossible to overdose on. If you've gotten ample sun during the summer, your fat cells can store up vitamin D.
Vitamin K is crucial for helping blood to clot. It also strengthens blood vessel walls to prevent and heal bruises. Your intestinal bacteria produce some K, but it is important to get it in your diet. It's found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, swiss chard and broccoli. Your body can only absorb vitamin K when it's accompanied by fat, so be sure to avoid those fat-free salad dressings.
Zinc plays an important role in wound healing, helping to create new skin cells and boosting the immune system. Good sources include eggs (eat the whole egg since the nutrients are in the yolk), nuts and seeds.
Topical Natural and Herbal Remedies for Wound Healing
Aloe Vera has potent healing properties. Aloe applied to the wound reduces inflammation and accelerates the wound healing process. It's my favorite for burns and sunburn. It also works for scrapes and minimizes scarring. Here's how to use aloe vera for first aid.
Calendula is a time honored herbal remedy. The flowerheads are made into a cream or ointment which speeds healing, counters infection and reduces scarring.
Finally, my favorite natural remedy for cuts:
Raw honey has been used on wounds, including infected ones for thousands of years. It has been shown to speed tissue regeneration, and is now being "rediscovered" by the medical profession. It prevents bacterial growth without the side effects of antibiotics, and is effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Manuka honey comes from New Zealand or Australia and is the only honey that is tested for antibacterial activity. It should be rated UMF 10 or higher for treating infections. There are wound dressings available which are infused with manuka honey. Here's an article telling about the medical use of manuka honey.
All raw honey contains nutrients that include vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids. Once honey has been heated and pasteurized, it loses its healing benefits. Honey used for wound healing must be raw. Raw honey is what I use most for cuts, and is what my stitches are dressed with now.
In the interest of full disclosure, I purchased the honey that I use on wounds. I have had great results using it and would not recommend a product that I do not use. I am an Amazon Associate, so if you would like to order the Wedderspoon Raw Organic Manuka Honey and do it through the link on my sidebar, I receive a small commission from them.
One last thing that affects wound healing is stress. It's not possible to avoid it, so try and find a healthy way to deal with it. Exercise, prayer and meditation are a few good ones.