Wound Healing: What Works and What Doesn’t

Wound healing. What works and what doesn't.

There are a number of things that can slow the wound healing process after surgery.

The worst thing that can happen is for the wound to get infected.  In general, surgery centers take great care to prevent that from happening.  For example, I was told to shower with Hibiclens, an antiseptic, antimicrobial skin cleanser, for two days prior to the surgery for my knee.  I was also not allowed to use any moisturizers, lotions or creams, no makeup and no deodorant the morning of surgery. All in the interest of preventing infection and promotion of wound healing.

There are some things that can slow wound healing that we may not have control over, such as our age, diabetes, or obesity.  But there are other things that we can control, such as alcohol intake, smoking and the use of medications such as NSAIDs, all of which have been shown to increase our risk of infection. Interesting that NSAIDS, which are recommended as a pain killer post-surgery, can increase the risk of infection by slowing down the healing process.
Finally, there are some old wives’ tales that we need to be aware of such as the benefits of Vaseline for wounds.  This is so common.  It is often one of the recommendations for removing the Prineo, a sticky covering placed over the wound, taking the place of stitches.

No to Vaseline!

Do you know what Vaseline is? It’s petroleum jelly. It is made from petroleum! You know, crude oil, fossil fuel? I’m not a fan. It can really gum up the works, as it does not breathe well so I steer clear of it.
There are so many things that work better when it comes to moisturizing a wound while actually fighting infection, such as coconut oil, or raw honey added to grass-fed ghee, which is what I used with great success. The honey is a powerful antibacterial and the grass-fed ghee is a marvelous moisturizer. I made a little batch of it and use it at the end of the day and overnight. I cover it with the clean gauze legging they gave me after surgery.

Keeping the wound clean is important. The first thing you want to do is read and follow your surgeon’s instructions (unless s/he recommends Vaseline) to the letter. Make sure that you use a gentle soap if your surgeon says it is ok to shower. I have this wonderful organic facial cleanser, that is very moisturizing, and I used that on the wound, once the Prineo came off. Also be sure to use sterile gauze or bandages to replace any old ones. Finally, they give you a compression hose to keep the swelling down and also an Ace wrap. Be sure to keep those clean as well.

Nutrition is Key

There are a number of foods that will speed the healing process just as there are some that will slow it down. Let’s start with the good ones. My favorites are Collagen Powder and/or Bone Broth. I make a smoothie that is loaded with collagen and a number of other macro and micronutrients that are definitely going to speed the healing process. View the recipe I also make my own bone broth. View video on making your own bone broth

For me it is all about the clean eating, which is never more important than when you are trying to heal your body. The best thing you can do to rebuild tissue and support bone is get good protein. It has to come from wild-caught fish or 100% grass-fed animals.

Next are the essential fatty acids found in wild-caught fish again as well as walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds. And finally, we cannot forget leafy green veggies like spinach, kale, and broccoli, all three of which are high in vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting.
Finally, I make a potion of the following to ward off infection in general:

I drink this at night before I go to bed, as the Manuka honey helps me sleep, lowers blood sugar and fights off infection. How about that? More importantly, the oil of oregano is one of the most powerful antibiotics on earth.  There is data suggesting that it can cure SARS (cousin to COVID-19.)

There are also foods to stay away from, sugar being the most important.  It promotes inflammation and that is the last thing you need when you are trying to heal.  Same with hydrogenated oils which are generally bad for you, but especially if you are recovering from surgery.

In a nutshell this means staying away from processed foods which contain both sugar and hydrogenated oils in spades.  Yes, I know, you are in pain and you want to treat yourself, but have a bowl of Bing cherries or some watermelon, so much better for you.

How to Avoid Scarring

In terms of the wound itself and avoiding scarring, raw Manuka honey is once again your best friend.  It is an excellent antibacterial, so it cleans the wound and decreases the likelihood of infection. But it has also been shown to reduce scarring and speed healing.

Another old wives’ tale is that wounds need air. People often think that this means letting them dry out.  Wrong!  What they really need is moisture.  This is a great time to use essential oils like rosemary and tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, to apply directly to the wound 2 or 3 times /day. As I mentioned above, I am getting great results with the Manuka honey and ghee. But for even more protection, try this recipe:

Mix ingredients together and spread over wound and cover with a dressing or sterile bandage.

Vitamins That Help

Vitamin C
There are a couple of vitamins that are critical to wound healing. One of the most important is vitamin C. For one thing it helps to manufacture collagen, which as I mentioned above is critical to healing damaged skin tissue and blood vessels. Vitamin C is actually critical to all phases of the wound healing process. There are many foods high in vitamin C including citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers and tomatoes.

I am a huge believer in getting vitamin C from two sources, Kakadu Plum and Camu Camu. Kakadu plums have the highest recorded natural amount of vitamin C of any food in the world. In fact, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of the fruit provide well over 3,000% of your daily needs. In comparison, the same serving of oranges contains 59.1% of the DV. Likewise, the same amount of blueberries just 10.8%.

Kakadu Plums come from Australia and are best eaten in jams made from the fruit as the fruit itself is very tart. The vitamin C content of the fruit drops rapidly after picking so the fruits are usually frozen for transport and sale. I purchase a freeze-dried Kakadu Plum powder that comes from Australia, which I add to my smoothies. I am still trying to get the plums themselves but have not been able to find a distributor for the U.S.

Camu Camu is another good source of vitamin C that you can get at Whole Foods.

Vitamin K
Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that can also play an important role in the healing process. For one thing it is one of the main vitamins involved in bone mineralization and blood coagulation. I also supplement with a vitamin K2-7 that also contains zinc, another critical micronutrient for healing. I get mine from “ Just Thrive” which makes a very high-quality product.

Zinc promotes immune function as well as skin healing. There are many zinc-rich foods including my favorite, lamb, but also grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds and cashews. You can also supplement with zinc.
As always seek emergency medical care or contact your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Increased redness or swelling
  • Pain that worsens as time goes on
  • Skin around the wound feels warm
  • Unpleasant odor when cleaning the wound
  • Unusual or increased drainage
  • Fever or chills

I have used all of these things to help along my healing journey and am having great success! Wishing you the same!

If you need to take a closer look at your nutrition and ability to heal contact Norton Wellness Institute at 513-205-6543 and take the first step to a healthier life TODAY! 

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Materials contained on this site are made available solely for educational purposes and as part of an effort to raise general awareness of the psychological treatments available to individuals with health issues. These materials are not intended to be, and are not a substitute for, direct professional medical or psychological care based on your individual condition and circumstances.  Dr. J. Renae Norton does not diagnose or treat medical conditions. While this site may contain descriptions of pharmacological, psychiatric and psychological treatments, such descriptions and any related materials should not be used to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified mental health care provider.  You are advised to consult your medical health provider about your personal questions or concerns.