In our last post, we gave you some general advice for what to eat to heal your wounds. You can read that post here. This post covers the specifics of what and how much you should eat of common food groups for optimal wound healing.
A seafood-based diet is recommended because of the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, also known as DHA. DHA is found in every cell (and cell membrane) in your body, and most of your brain is composed of it. DHA is essential to neurologic and cardiovascular health and critical for wound healing.
At the quantum biology level, DHA converts energy from incident light to cellular energy using the photoelectric effect. A detailed discussion is well beyond this book. DHA is best obtained from seafood. Eating food very low on the food chain will reduce concerns about toxins such as mercury. Other nutrients in the seafood will also help counteract some of the toxins. In order of best to worst, you should eat shellfish, crustaceans such as shrimp and crab and lobster, small fish such as sardines and anchovies, followed by larger cold-water fish such as salmon and halibut. Freshwater fish (trout, bass, catfish, etc.) do not count as seafood.
Seafood is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and in addition to DHA and other healthy omega-3 fats, it contains significant amounts of important trace minerals (such as zinc, selenium, etc.), vitamins, and anti-oxidants. Seafood is also high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Recent evidence shows that the human brain evolved largely due to diets rich in coastal shellfish and the DHA they provide, and a huge part of restoring your brain and thus body health is seafood consumption.
Adequate protein is critical to wound healing. Your skin, muscle, and connective tissue are largely built of proteins. Proteins are combinations of amino acids, and without adequate amino acids your body cannot rebuild missing or damaged tissue. Several studies have looked at the amount of protein necessary for optimal wound healing. Healing chronic wounds typically requires at least 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day (0.7 g/lb/day)—about a hundred grams of protein per day for most adults. If you are severely malnourished, have more than one wound, or greater than a stage 3 pressure ulcer, you should increase your protein intake to 2 g/kg/day. Although we do not specifically recommend you weigh and measure food, just remember that without adequate protein intake your wound will never heal, so focus on lots of protein-rich foods in your diet.
The best source of protein for those in need of healing is natural and unadulterated by hormones and antibiotics. A principle of the Paleo diet is to either eat wildcaught seafood or grass-fed meat. Although seafood is ideal, it is not always affordable or obtainable, but grass-fed meat (or wild game) is better than most other sources. Grass-fed meat is so important because it contains fewer toxins, pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals than conventional grain-fed beef. Grass-fed meat has a much higher DHA concentration than grain-fed meat. Although protein shakes and bars (which usually contain whey protein) can be used occasionally, they should not be staples of your diet. Study after study has shown that populations that live near a coastline with heavily seafood-based diets are the healthiest.
Grain has only been domesticated in the last ten thousand years or so. In fact, there is some data suggesting that tooth decay and obesity started to become prevalent when people settled down from being huntergatherers to the relative security of farming, raising, and eating grain. Many of our modern grains have been genetically modified, and most of you have probably read and heard about the epidemic of gluten sensitivity.
While not everyone is gluten sensitive, most are. Gluten and gliadin are proteins found in wheat and cause “leaky gut,” which allows toxins found in your gut to seep across the gut membrane and cause inflammation. If you are sick enough to have a chronic wound, then you need to do everything you can to avoid this problem, and staying away from grains and gluten is an important component of this. In addition, most corn in the United States is genetically modified. Just stay away from grains of all types.
A low glycemic index diet focuses on not eating starchy or sugary foods that cause your blood sugar to skyrocket quickly. This will help you control your blood sugar, improve your blood lipid panel (cholesterol and triglycerides), and help you to lose weight.
Eat lots of them. Nutrition and health start in the soil. Fiber-rich vegetables not only provide valuable nutrients your body needs but also provide nutrition to the microbes in your gut, which feed on fiber. Eat vegetables grown in healthy soil, not factory-farmed vegetables grown in nutrient-poor soils. Ideally you will replace sugary foods and grains with a significant amount of vegetables. Stringy vegetables like artichokes, celery, and asparagus are high in inulin (not insulin) that feed gut bacteria.
If you are diabetic or have any issues with blood sugar control, then you need to be very careful about fruit intake. Although fruit is generally healthy and contains lots of important vitamins, antioxidants, nutrients, and fiber, it also has a fair amount of sugar. The fruit you should focus on are berries as they have the lowest glycemic index, and always eat the fruit that is naturally in season in your area. In the winter, during low-light periods, you should avoid fruit altogether.
Buy organic produce. Many of the pesticides and herbicides (think Round-Up [glyphosate]) used in commercial farming are endocrine disruptors. They either mimic or block the action of critical hormones within your body. Your body is an incredibly complex system, and changing hormone actions or blocking them leads to molecular chaos and inflammation and reduces your chance of healing.
If you cannot afford to buy everything organic, make sure to check the Environmental Working Group’s website (www.ewg.org). They periodically test fruits and vegetables to determine which have the highest pesticide residues and publish a list called the “dirty dozen” which directs you to what twelve things you should buy organic.