The moment we are injured (whether by accident or by surgical scalpel) the body goes on red alert. Stress hormones are released and there is a cascade of biochemical reactions. The first is inflammation, a process which blocks off the area, reducing the range of damage. Immune cells then enter the fray, helping to prevent infection from spreading, and clearing away any debris... such as injured tissue.
Finally, healing can take place with the formation of new, healthy cells and repairing of the wound.
How quickly we heal is an indicator of good health. All the processes require particular nutrients, so if we are deficient in any one of these, healing time is prolonged.
What To Do
- Avoid eating sugar, as it dramatically decreases immune function (by affecting phagocyte activity) and slows healing.
- Protein is needed for repairing wounds. Our protein needs increase twofold during this time.
- Recovering from surgery or an injury is a time of convalescence. Suitable foods include chicken soup, beef, bean and vegetable soup, brown rice, miso soup and steamed fish. The recovery diet should always be governed by the patient's appetite: a hearty one is a good sign.
Herbs and Supplements
- See Sniffle
- Arnica is the First Aid homoeopathic remedy. Take a few drops as soon as possible after the injury or surgery. Arnica increases the rate of healing exponentially, sometimes dodging a bruise altogether.
- Rescue Remedy (the Bach flower combination remedy) calms the psychological shock of an injury. Take before surgery or straight after the injury to soothe the nerves.
- Take at least 4 g of vitamin C daily. Vitamin C is a boon to the immune system. It is required in larger amounts by the adrenal glands for all emotional and physical stress, especially after an injury or post-surgery.
- Zinc is necessary for wound healing. Take a tablet daily, after an injury, and leading up to and post-surgery.
- Support the immune system with a course of echinacea, after injury and pre- and post-surgery.
- Take a strong vitamin B complex to help the body cope with stress of the injury.
- Vitamin E is magic for scars. After the wound has closed (and is dry) rub in the contents of a vitamin E capsule or vitamin E cream every day.
- Aloe vera gel will help to heal and dry a healing wound, graze, burn or ulcer.
- Calendula tea or tincture is antiseptic and dries wounds.
- Comfrey (common names are 'knitbone' and 'bruise wort') is a natural when it comes to wound healing as it contains allantoin, a substance capable of rapid cell regeneration. To close wounds and enhance healing, apply comfrey cream or poultice. To make this, chop several young leaves, cover with boiling water and leave to cool. Squeeze out moisture, then sandwich leaves between a piece of gauze and the wound.
- Lavender oil applied straight onto the skin helps to heal burns.
- Paw paw ointment is good for wound healing.
- Antibiotics are often prescribed post-operatively as insurance against bacterial infection. Unfortunately useful as well as dangerous bacteria are wiped out in the process. It is wise to take an acidophilus supplement for a few weeks post-surgery if taking antibiotic therapy.
- Anaesthetics must be eliminated from the body. Since the liver is our primary organ of detoxification, give it all the support you can with herbs such as St Mary's thistle and dandelion root after the operation for several weeks.
- Herbal tisanes containing Echinacea will help your immune system, while those containing Siberian ginseng and licorice help your body deal with the physical stress of injury.
- The first priority is to stop any bleeding. Elevate the injured part and put a compress on and above the wound, closest to the heart. Clean the wound then apply cold water or an ice compress to halt further inflammation.
- Recent scars are sensitive to sunlight; leave sunbaking for another day.
At a glance
- Good food
- Protein foods.
- Food to avoid
- Remedies to begin
- Vitamins C and E, zinc, arnica, comfrey.
- Wounds and scars are evidence we are mortal; they are badges of honour.