Wounds need a lot of energy to heal well. Since energy can only come from food, it is vital to eat healthily especially before and after surgery, or after an injury. Crucial nutrients for wound healing include protein, zinc and the vitamins A and C.
So what are the best things to eat? Meats, nuts, beans and dairy products are great sources of protein. Yogurt, green peas, beef, oysters, black beans and crab are great sources of zinc. Carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach and apricots are great sources of vitamin A. Citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables are great sources of Vitamin C.
Unfortunately, the body does not divert enough vitamin C to the skin. Using a topical scar treatment containing a stable form of vitamin C will increase the amount of vitamin C reaching the skin.
Good hydration is also crucial so it is important to drink enough water. Dehydration causes the skin and soft tissues to lose moisture and become dry. Dry wounds do not heal well. A good goal is to drink eight (8 oz) glasses of water a day. Avoid caffeinated products because caffeine can cause dehydration. Scar treatments containing dimethicone silicone also help boost hydration by trapping moisture. This improves scar healing.
Smoking can also really affect healing. The nicotine in cigarette smoke causes blood vessels to shrink, so tissues do not receive enough of the nutrients and oxygen required for healing. At best, this can cause the wound healing process to take much longer. At worst, smoking can cause wounds to breakdown and open up. These “problem” wounds typically eventually heal but leave the worst scars. Unfortunately, many smoking-cessation products will also increase the risk of healing problems because of the nicotine they contain!
Cigarette smoke also contains carbon monoxide. This combines with blood cells preventing them from carrying oxygen. This lowers the level of oxygen in the blood. Since oxygen is vital for healing, it is crucial to stop smoking to decrease the risk of healing complications.
Another great thing to do is exercise. Regular aerobic exercise improves healing and boosts the immune system. Start with walking and progressively build up to more of a sweat (but don’t forget to get the “all-clear” from your doctor if you are recovering from surgery).