Cheshire Medical Center is host to a dedicated wound care clinic, where an experienced team specializes in treating chronic and complex wounds. Most people referred to the clinic have had surgery or are managing a chronic condition that affects their quality of life. With every patient they see, the team stresses the importance of nutrition to support the healing of damaged tissue.
While this may not currently apply to you, the same recommendations apply to minor injuries, such as scrapes and cuts that don’t need medical attention.
“Eating well during wound healing helps you heal faster and fight infection,” says Michael Ormont, MD, who worked in General Surgery for 18 years and has specialized exclusively in wound care since 2020. “During healing, your body needs more protein, calories, fluid, vitamin A, vitamin C, and Zinc.”
“Of course, the best source of nutrients is food,” says Dr. Ormont. “However, some of our patients are unable to eat enough healthy food daily.” In this case, Dr. Ormont directs patients to Cheshire’s wound care nurses and Nutrition team to suggest additional supplements. He adds, “everyone is managing different health challenges. If you have diabetes, kidney disease, or if you are on a fluid-restricted diet, please speak to your dietitian before following these recommendations.”
Eat a variety of healthy foods
Choose foods from a range of food groups so your body has plenty of different micro and macronutrients to use while healing.
“It’s important to eat vegetables and fruits, whole grain products, milk or milk alternatives, and protein such as meat and alternative protein sources,” says Dr. Ormont.
“Your body needs extra calories for energy while your wound is healing,” he says. “Check your weight at least once a week to ensure you are eating enough to avoid any weight loss.
”Some patients who have undergone surgery find they can’t eat large amounts at one sitting. Dr. Ormont suggests to eat smaller meals more often and eat healthy snacks between meals.
“All tissue needed to heal your wounds comes from the protein in your diet,” he says. “Protein helps build and maintain muscle, produce new tissue for healing, and helps support the immune system to reduce risk of infection. Try and eat foods with protein at each meal and with each snack.”
Foods with protein include:
- Soy beverages
- Meat, poultry, fish
- Peanut Butter
Dr. Ormont says, “your body needs more fluid when you are healing wounds and to keep your skin healthy.” He says your goal should be to drink 8 glasses (or 64 ounces) of water a day. Some people find it helpful to track this easily by measuring it out in a re-useable bottle, as it is easier to keep track of drinking 2 whole bottles than 8 glasses.
“If you are not eating enough, then drink milk, smoothies or protein drinks instead of just water,” he says. “But drink water regularly, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Keep a glass or bottle of water with you at all times, and at your bedside at night.”
Additional sources of fluid include:
- Fortified soy beverages
- Fruit or vegetable juice
- Coffee or tea*
*Note that caffeine can dehydrate you further as it is a diuretic, so you may need to compensate with other fluids if you don’t choose decaf.
“Vitamins are best eaten as food rather than supplements,” says Dr. Ormont. “Some work together and some support the same type of healing. For example, Vitamin A and vitamin C help your body repair tissue damage, fight infections and keep your skin healthy.”
Eating whole foods to get the vitamins your body needs to heal is important because your body absorbs them better when eaten with other vitamins and different types of food. For example, “fat-soluble” vitamins such as A, D, E and K are easiest for your body to absorb when eaten in foods with some fat in them, such as eggs, avocado, milk, cheese, or nuts and seeds. When people take supplements of these vitamins without food, they typically do not benefit as much as they expect.
Vitamin A is found in animal foods and brightly colored vegetables and fruits, such as:
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potato
Vitamin C promotes blood vessel health and skin regeneration. Foods with Vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Turnip greens
- Green pepper
- Citrus and vitamin C-fortified juices
“Minerals support many of the wound healing processes in the body.” Dr. Ormont explains, “while most are obtained in the diet, taking a daily multivitamin while you have your wound is also recommended.”
Iron helps deliver oxygen to healing tissues, and promotes faster healing. Foods with iron include:
- Dried fruits
- Egg yolks
There are other minerals important to wound healing that you will find in many of the foods already listed in this article. However, supplementation can be helpful as your body may need more of the following supplements than you can absorb from food, alone if you have significant wounds.
- Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It helps with cell growth and repair.
- Copper helps strengthen scars and supports chemical reactions related to wound healing.
- Selenium supports the Immune system.
- Zinc supports the body’s enzymes that contribute to healing.