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How can food promote wound healing? – Prevention

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Diet plays an essential role in the healing process of a wound. It is therefore necessary to adopt good nutritional habits, especially if you are about to undergo surgery. Explanations.

We often ignore it, but it is important to eat well to heal well. According to the Annual Statistics of Health Institutions (SAE), there were in France, in 2016, just over 8.5 million surgical acts in France. And who says scalpel, says wound and healing. A weakened, malnourished or exhausted organism does not offer ideal conditions for recovery after the aggression of the surgical procedure or in the treatment of chronic wounds.

“Scarring is a long and complex process allowing a wound to close naturally thanks to the regenerative power of the body’s tissue cells, explains Dr. Corinne Chicheportiche-Ayache, nutritionist in Paris. This healing ability can be undermined by an infection, certain diseases, such as diabetes, but also by malnutrition, or even undernutrition. »

Malnutrition and undernutrition: threats to skin healing

According to the High Authority for Health (HAS), undernutrition affects nearly 3 million French people. “As a general rule, an adolescent or an adult without any particular pathology and provided with a sufficiently balanced diet heals correctly, indicates Dr. Chicheportiche-Ayache. On the other hand, we observe that healing becomes more complex for people over 60 who tend to neglect their diet for multiple reasons related, for example, to a depressive state, a feeling of isolation or loneliness, exhaustion caused by an illness, dental problems, etc. »

In fact, many elderly people start to eat little or inappropriately, especially during the evening meal. “Now, the cellular repairs of the skin, very important for good healing, occur mainly at night “, emphasizes Dr. Nina Roos, dermatologist in Paris.

Take care of your collagen

Collagen is the supporting tissue of the skin. Our body makes collagen naturally until the age of 30. But with advancing age, its production will decrease, making the skin thinner and therefore less resistant to attacks.

However, time is not the only enemy of collagen. “A diet that is too rich and too sweet can accelerate its degradation by causing the so-called Maillard reaction. This is a chemical reaction which, when ingested sugars come into contact with collagen, leads to permanent stiffening of the collagen fibers and therefore greater difficulty in healing,” warns Dr. Roos.

“Beyond age and particular situations, we must not forget either that we are not all equal in terms of healing since there are skins that heal more or less well, insists Dr. Chicheportiche-Ayache. While it is obvious that we should not overestimate the role of diet in the healing process, it nevertheless remains one of the few modifiable factors on which we can play by appropriate behavior. »

What are the foods to favor for better healing?

Animal and vegetable proteins in good quantities

All studies have shown thata high-protein diet, such as the pulse diet*, improved, among other things, the healing of severe burns. Animal protein is found in meats, seafood and eggs. Pulses, whole grains and tofu are excellent sources of vegetable protein.

The essential vitamin C

The occurrence of an infection is a major risk during healing. Vitamin C helps to stimulate immune defense mechanisms to avoid this risk. In addition, it plays a fundamental role in the production of collagen. Fruits, and especially citrus fruits, are full of vitamin C, but it is also found in vegetables. For example, peppers, spinach, or even parsley, which is too often forgotten, have very good levels of vitamin C.

The National Health Nutrition Program (PNNS) recommends consume 3 to 4 fresh fruits and a portion of vegetables every day.

The support of good lipids

Omega-3s are good “essential” fats, which means that our body cannot make them on its own. They help improve wound healing and reduce inflammation.

There are two types: those from animal sourcessuch as fatty fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel, etc.), those from plant sources, such as vegetable oils (walnut, flax or rapeseed). It is recommended to have two meals of fish, preferably fatty, per week.

Three non-negligible trace elements as reinforcement

Trace elements are substances present in very small quantities in nutrients. They are necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Zinc helps strengthen the immune system and activates wound healing. The foods richest in zinc are seafood, offal, dairy products and, in particular, cooked pressed cheeses (comté, gruyère, etc.). But also pumpkin seeds, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, etc.), pulses and eggs.

Iron, by fighting against anemia which lengthens healing times, accelerates wound repair. It is found in oysters, offal, fish, pulses.

Finally, copper also has good potential in healing processes. The foods richest in copper are calf’s liver, shellfish and oysters, but also nuts, dark chocolate, pulses, potatoes and fruit.

* The pulsed diet is used in particular in hospitals to compensate for the deficiencies of malnourished people. It consists of consuming at least 80% of protein during lunch and evening meals (i.e. between 40 and 50 protein per meal).

What is the difference between malnutrition and undernutrition?

Malnutrition is the direct consequence of a poor diet linked to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s energy and/or nutritional intake.

Malnutrition occurs when you do not eat enough in relation to your needs, sometimes even without realizing it. We lose weight, muscle and strength.

  • Photo credit: Getty Images
Article author

Sandrine Letellier

journalist specializing in health topics (prevention, care and treatment, innovation, environment, etc.).