​Foods to support natural healing

Feb 15 2022

​Foods to support natural healing

Our bodies are truly amazing. When we injure ourselves, recovery from injury is usually a seamless process. But did you know, what we eat affects this process and ultimately determines how we heal? Hippocrates noticed this connection some 2000 years ago when he wrote, ‘feed the patient and they’ll get better’. Incredible that only now we are beginning to re-appreciate the significance of these words and the effects nutrition can have on the healing process.

The 4 stages of healing

When it comes to recovery from injury there are four different stages of healing:

Stage 1 - Vascular Reaction: The initial phase following an injury is characterised by the rapid constriction of blood vessels, closely followed by a more prolonged phase of blood vessel dilation. During this phase, the involved vessels become leaky, which allows various components of the blood to seep into and collect around the injury site. With its complement of immune cells and inflammatory chemicals, the fluid starts to clear away the damaged tissue and cells and prevent secondary infections.

Stage 2 - Inflammation: Heat is a typical sign of injury and represents the outward effects of the inflammatory process, which causes an increased blood supply with swelling and an activated pain response. The purpose of inflammation is to deliver fresh blood to the injury site. Blood delivers the elements of the immune system needed to prevent infection to the site of injury, along with a myriad of specialist healing cells that initiate the next phases of the repair process.

Stage 3 - Proliferation: This phase is characterised by a high level of cellular activity devoted to the production of the vital protein-based framework that needs to be laid down. This is the biological scaffolding onto which new tissue will be deposited as the injury site is repaired [1][2].

Stage 4 - Remodelling : In most cases, basic tissue healing is up to 70% complete after four weeks, but the process of remodelling can continue for up to two years. Remodelling involves the subtle laying down, breaking down and re-laying of healing tissues until the injured region has been returned to its pre-injury state.

Key nutrients for natural healing

Each of these four healing stages require specific vitamins, minerals and amino acids for recovery from injury to be as successful as possible. These key nutrients include vitamin Avitamin C, zinc and the amino acids L-Arginine and L-Glutamine.

Vitamin A is needed for the formation of strong and effective collagen, which prevents wounds from breaking down prematurely, and an effective immune response. If the immune function is low or sub-optimal, any ensuing infection can delay and disrupt the entire healing process [3]. Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is converted by the body into retinol as needed.

Food sources of vitamin A:

Foods that are colourful tend to owe their colours to the carotenoid group of compounds of which beta-carotene is just one. To get your fix of carotenoids, make sure you select from a variety of foods such as carrots, spinach, kale, apricots, papaya, mango and tomatoes.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also needed for the production of collagen and the body’s natural healing process. Collagen, the very glue that holds us together, is dependent on adequate vitamin C levels, a lack of which is associated with fragile and poorly healed injuries.

Food sources of vitamin C:

Sweet red peppers actually provide the highest amounts of vitamin C. Strawberries are also a great source of vitamin C, as, of course, are oranges. Broccoli is another food rich in vitamin C and cooking it releases more bioavailable vitamin C than eating it raw. Also consider eating more ‘greens’, sprouts and tomatoes to boost your vitamin C intake from food.

Zinc

Zinc deficiency is known to result in a delayed or poorly healed injury because it is needed to increase internal and external scar strength. The body’s need for zinc is thought to be at its highest at the time of injury, especially during the early inflammatory phase.

Food sources of zinc:

Getting a good boost of zinc from your diet can present vegetarians with a dilemma; the highest amounts are found in oysters (around 77mg per serving), followed by beef, crab, pork and lobster! Vegetarian food sources of zinc are available – think pumpkin seeds, baked beans and cashew nuts, but they provide less zinc than foods of animal origin. It’s worth considering a supplement dose of around 15mg a day for a few months post injury as the body’s need for zinc will be higher than normal.

Amino Acids

Arginine and glutamine, within the important role that protein plays during healing, are two key amino acids that appear to be essential for soft tissue regeneration and repair. Arginine has a surprising immune-stimulating function in addition to enhancing the protein matrix essential for the formation of new body tissue [4], and glutamine is utilised primarily by fibroblasts, healing cells that are central to the laying down of fibrous scar tissue, as an energy source during the healing process. Amino acid supplements have been shown to enhance repair and healing [5].

Food sources of amino acids: Balancing the proteins in your diet is normally the best way to obtain a broad spectrum of well-absorbed amino acids. Foods such as parsley, raw spinach, fish, meat and beans are rich in glutamine, and food sources of arginine include chocolate (happy days), coconut, dairy products, meat, oats, nuts, raw cereals, peanuts, soybeans and walnuts.

Source: ‘Nutrients for Healing’, www.fsnmag.com, FSN May/June 2011

Need a helping hand with natural healing?

ST Repair Tissue Healing Complex from Hadley Wood Healthcare, is formulated to supplement the diet of those recovering from injury or boost the nutritional status of those preparing for surgery.

With vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, vitamin C, zinc and the amino acids arginine and glutamine, it helps to promote collagen production and supports and speeds the wound healing process.

Most of us never give a second thought to the healing process, we get an injury and it heals - simple. What we neglect to appreciate is just how complex and well-orchestrated the healing process actually is. If any step along the way is defective or interrupted, the healing process can become delayed and problems can ensue.

Tissue healing requires good nutrition. Even minor injuries place demands on the body to supply and deliver adequate building blocks to maximise and optimise the healing process and ultimately produce a well-healed wound. Delay in wound healing can be associated with opportunistic infections, cause unnecessary scar formation, impede function and cause additional emotional stress as well as delaying over all recovery.

Diet plays a vital role and needs to provide calories, proteins and nutrients. ST-Repair provides key vitamins, zinc and amino acids to help the body recover from injury. Its ingredients have a long and well-documented role to play in the healing process, and used alongside a healthy diet, ensures that all the basic repair materials are in adequate supply to support the body’s natural healing mechanisms. ST-Repair can also be used to boost the nutritional status of those preparing for surgery.

Simply take one to three capsules daily and for the length of time indicated by your healthcare practitioner. Not sure how to take? Ask in store.


[1] Molnar J (2007). Overview of nutrition and wound healing. In: Nutrition and wound healing. CRC Press

[2] Stadelmann WK, Digenis AG & Tobin GR (1998). Physiology and healing dynamics of chronic cutaneous wounds. Am J Surg. 176:26S-38S.

[3] Levenson SM et al (1984). Supplemental vitamin A prevents the acute radiation-induced defect in wound healing. Ann Surg. 200:494-512.

[4] Toriosian MH (1994). Arginine in nutrition and surgery: current status and potential. In: Latifi R, ed. Amino Acids in Critical Care and Cancer. Austin, TX: R.G. Landes Company; 45-52.

[5] Williams JZ, Abumrad N, Barbul A (2002). Effect of a specialized amino acid mixture on human collagen deposition. Ann Surg. 236:369-374.