By Melissa Bailey, Director of Education
We keep seeing more studies that relate nutrition (or lack thereof) to chronic wounds. Today, let’s quickly unpack one specific nutrient that makes a huge difference in the healing rates of chronic wounds: proteins!
Proteins are large molecules made up of smaller units called amino acids. Combined in various ways, amino acids help your muscles move and help cells talk and reproduce. Here are just a few of the ways that our bodies depend on proteins to function well:
-Help build and repair tissue like collagen and elastin
-Our immune system relies on protein to make antibodies
-The protein hemoglobin transports oxygen through the blood
-The protein ferritin helps with iron storage in the liver
In addition to all of that, when it comes to chronic wounds, proteins play an important role in the healing process. As a wound develops, various immune system cells flood the site, attacking any bacteria and working hard to heal the injured area. Each of these immune system cells is primarily made up of proteins. Your body needs all of these cells to begin and move beyond the much-needed inflammatory phase of wound healing.
Chronic wounds are stuck in the healing process. For a myriad of reasons, they simply are not getting better. Remember those immune system cells that should be working hard to heal your wound? If they are not receiving protein, they can’t do their job.
Chronic wounds have large nutritional needs. If too much time goes by and the wound is not healing, the body will turn inward to its own protein stores. It is not natural for the body to eat up stored protein as these are designed for protection, not consumption. When this happens, the body shifts its focus to self-preservation, halting the entire healing process.
For a chronic wound to heal, there must be adequate supplies of protein from which your body can draw. Some patients can get enough protein through their diet while others should consider nutritional supplements. If you are concerned that your protein levels are affecting your wound, talk to your doctor.
If you need to make adjustments to your diet, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following sources for protein:
-Meats, poultry, fish
-Legumes (dry beans and peas)
-Nuts and seeds
-Low-fat milk and low-fat milk products
-Grains, and certain fruits and vegetables
When it comes to healing, protein is a great support for your wound. Try and keep your refrigerator and pantry stocked with protein supplies to ensure your wound receives the nutritional help that it needs.