Getting your nutrition right is crucial if you want to prevent scarring from surgery. Certain foods have the potential to improve wound healing and the strength of your tissue. Other foods can impede your skin repairing and prolong your recovery.
Serious wounds incurred during surgery increase your body’s energy, protein, vitamin and mineral requirements. These extra resources are needed as your body begins the process of repairing damage tissue and diverts the nutrients to the site. Stress hormones are created and your metabolism speeds up during this process, known as the catabolic phase.
During this stage, new granulation tissue is formed. For it to be healthy and strong, the blood vessels require an adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen. The last phase of the wound healing process, maturation, occurs once the wound has closed completely and can continue over a two-year period.
New dermal tissue is strengthened and functional fibroblasts replace those that are failing. The cellular activity required to clean up the wound and prevent infection declines over time and the number of blood vessels regress and decrease.
Foods you should avoid to prevent scarring from surgery
If your nutrition is inadequate, the phases in wound healing are impaired. The time it takes for the wound to heal increases and the scar formation will be compromised.
Sugar and skin health aren’t a great combination. While it’s well known sugar is a likely cause of breakouts especially in adulthood, it’s effects go much deeper. Sugar can degrade your collagen and elastin.
Collage and elastin make up a fibrous network that provides your skin with structural stiffness and elasticity. Scar tissue shows a decreased failure resistance, which suggests there is less collagen in the tissue and the number of collagen fibres is reduced. By consuming sugar you’re risking the degradation of collagen and elastin, both of which are key to keeping your skin soft, springy and supple.
- Nitrate-Rich Foods
The health of blood vessels reaching to the site of the wound is vital in the healing process as these are the main supply nutrients and oxygen required for repair. Excess nitrates in your diet can lead to damage of these vessels impairing the wound healing process.
Nitrates are a family of chemical preservatives and found in foods such as processed meats like bacon, salami, hot dogs. Eating too much of their nitrate-rich foods can cause atherosclerosis, where fatty plaque forms within your blood vessels. This obstructs the blood flow reducing your healing time and compromising the formation of your scars. It can also lead to stroke, heart attack and bleeding disorders.
Alcohol directly affects the absorption of nutrients required to repair your skin following a surgery wound. It does this by inhibiting the breakdown of nutrients and damaging the cells that line the stomach and intestines. These nutrients won’t be transported in the blood to the site of your wound.
The digestion of proteins to amino acids which are required for collagen synthesis is impaired. This can affect the strength of your wound and the structure of your scar. Vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins, vital in skin healing and cell maintenance, are often deficient in those who drink a moderate-high amount of alcohol. In addition, the absorption of minerals, in particular zinc which is vital in the production of collagen, is decreased.
While caffeine is known for its strong antioxidant properties, it has the potential to hinder your skin’s healing process. Excessive caffeine intake can not only effect nutrient absorption, it can also compromise your skin’s integrity by dehydrating your body. Dehydration causes the skin to reduce elasticity and become fragile and susceptible to breaking down.
It also can limit the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the wound by reducing the blood volume. This causes tissue perfusion where the tissues at capillary level are undernourished. Cellular proliferation, adhesion and migration are restricted and the time for the wound to heal is increased substantially.
Foods you should eat to improve wound healing and scar formation
Scars can be a great source of emotional anguish. While scar formation will differ from patient to patient, ensuring you nourish your body with all the right nutrients will improve your wound healing. Consuming these nutrients will also help promote overall health too.
For your scars to heal well after surgery, they’ll require these nutrients:
You’ll want to increase your protein immediately after surgery to aid the healing process. Protein is broken down to amino acids, two of which are very important for your wound repair: L-Arginine and Glutamine. These amino acids will help form collagen, vital for the strength of your skin.
- B vitamins
B vitamins are essential to speeding up the healing of your wound by increasing protein synthesis and enabling more repair cells to the site. B1 and B5 are particularly important for promoting skin health by strengthening scar tissue and increasing the number of fibroblasts that help secrete collagen. You can find B-vitamins in foods such as eggs, poultry, fish, green vegetables and legumes.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants for wound healing as it increases the wound strength and aids the production of collagen. It is also vital for the development of new blood vessels that will transport the nutrients to your wound. You’ll find vitamin C in leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits.
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A is another vital antioxidant for the health of your skin post-surgery. This vitamin aids in the inflammatory response and can help prevent infection of the wound. As your wound is healing and the scar is forming, vitamin A is crucial for stimulating the growth of new blood vessels and the production of connective tissue. Dark leafy green vegetables, fish and eggs are all great sources of vitamin A. Supplementation of vitamin A is met with caution as toxicity can occur.
One of the most important minerals you could consume to improve scar formation is zinc. Zinc aids in the synthesis of protein and the development of collagen. Zinc has the potential to reduce your healing time from surgery by up to 43 percent and deficiencies in the trace mineral has been associated with delayed healing and reduced wound strength. Great sources of zinc include meat, fish, poultry and eggs.
Optimising your nutrition is the most important measure you can take to prevent major scarring post-surgery. Ensuring you consume additional amounts of the beneficial foods and reduce your intake of those foods that will impede wound healing will speed up the repair process, leaving you with better results.