Did you know pineapple and vitamin C can help your body heal faster? To find out how the body heals itself and what we can do to help it along, the Wellness Advisor spoke to Sandra Marin, M.P.H. and R.D., about wound healing.
Wellness Advisor: How does my body heal wounds naturally?
Sandra Marin: Our bodies are able to heal most wounds without complication if we are in fairly good health and care for the wound properly. The body goes through four phases when it is healing: the inflammatory phase, the proliferative phase, the fibroblastic phase and the maturation phase. In each phase blood cells, tissues, cytokines, and other body processes lay down the foundation for new skin. Throughout different cell groups are acting in a very organized way to get the appropriate things in and to keep substances which could cause infection out. In order for all of the right substances to be available for wound healing, we need to have all of the nutrients in our bodies to begin with.
WA: What are the vitamins which can help my body heal faster?
Marin: We know that nutrition plays a major role in healing from many different studies that have been done over the years, but there are probably even more roles we have yet to discover. Here are some of the vitamins have been noted for their important roles in wound healing:
Vitamin A helps to make epithelial cells and helps with bone formation. It also plays a major role in cell differentiation and in supporting the appropriate immune responses.
Vitamin C is a key player in the formation of collagen, and collagen is one of the major goals that the four processes of wound healing aim for. The body needs to lay down layers of collagen that will later mature and actually create new skin where the wound is. Vitamin C also helps to support the immune response and it is a major tissue antioxidant.
Vitamin E is a major anti-oxidant and we suspect that it is very important in wound healing as well. Many experts believe that it is an influential factor in diminishing scar tissue as well all though this is still not proven. Still many doctors recommend vitamin E after surgery for reduction of visible scar tissue.
Amino acids are found in protein and are very important, especially glucosamine, arginine, and glutamine. Amino acids help build proteins which are essential in the process of wound healing. Proteins are necessary to create all the new cells needed to create the new skin.
Zinc is involved with the wound healing process, as well as with immune system support and is necessary to heal the body.
WA: What should I do while my body is healing to help it along?
Marin: First, make sure that if you have a deep wound, that it is evaluated by a doctor. In some cases it may be wise for you to be on different therapies as the body works to repair itself, such as antibiotics. Once the doctor has done his or her part, it's your turn. You need to keep the wound clean and change the bandages as instructed, and make sure it doesn't get wet, since water promotes bacterial growth. Eat a balanced diet and take a multivitamin which contains all of the vitamins mentioned above. In addition, I would recommend taking extra vitamin C, about 500 mg, with meals in addition to the vitamin C found in the multivitamin. Vitamin C is water soluble so it doesn't stay in the body as long as the other vitamins do, and studies show that taking up to 2000 mg per day is safe for most people. Lastly, eat lots of pineapple! Studies show that the substance known as bromelain helps in reducing swelling, reducing bruising, reducing pain, and speeding up healing time.