Although there is no magic bullet when it comes to wound healing after surgery or sports injury, there are certain types of foods that may aid in the recovery process. It is a good idea to focus on whole foods as much as possible, avoiding processed foods, as whole foods contain the most readily available vitamins or amino acids your body needs for a speedy recovery.
Amino acids appear to help wounds heal faster. These can be found in foods such as chicken, egg whites, fish, brown rice, healthy nuts like walnuts and almonds or sunflower seeds.
Some studies also indicate that boosting vitamin C in your diet as well as increasing your zinc levels can be helpful. Strawberries are not only tasty but full of vitamin C. Strawberries have the added benefit of being rich in fiber and full of antioxidants. Most citrus fruits are also great sources of vitamin C, which you can get by drinking orange juice or eating an orange or grapefruit. Although not always readily available, papayas are another great way to maximize your vitamin C intake. By putting some papaya into your morning smoothie or protein shake, you will meet your daily requirements of this vitamin.
Eating a fortified breakfast cereals is a good way to get zinc, but you can find it in foods like oysters, which have one of the highest zinc levels found in any food. Taking a zinc supplement is another option, but you don’t normally want to take it excessively as it can disrupt the absorption of copper and iron. Check with your doctor if you plan to take a supplement to aid in wound healing. For healthy individuals, 15 mg of zinc daily is often the prescribed amount.
The other amino acid that has been shown to speed wound healing is glutamine. In a study out of Harvard, glutamine was shown to shorten wound healing by about four days. Foods rich in glutamine include beef, chicken, and all types of fish. Animal based dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs contain glutamine with ricotta and cottage cheese being two of the best sources. If you’re vegetarian, you can get glutamine in beans and lentils. Glutamine may also be taken as a supplement, but it is important to check with your own doctor to find the level that is right for you.
By following a healthy diet filled with lean fish and meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, you should be able to get back in the game in almost no time.
What’s your favorite way to boost Vitamin C intake?
Dr. Steven L. Ringler is recognized nationally and internationally as a prominent plastic surgeon, leader, innovator and teacher of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and hair restoration. He is the author of peer-reviewed journal studies and a presenter at national and international plastic surgery meetings. He is also a professor of surgery at Michigan State University and has been the Director of the Plastic Surgery Residency Program for 12 years. He has also served as President of the Michigan Academy of Plastic Surgeons.