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Nutrition: Critical for Wound Healing and Diabetic Ulcers

Nutrition: Critical for Wound Healing and Diabetic Ulcers
June 16, 2020 Christopher Woo

By Gail Morris

A diabetic foot ulcer can limit your mobility for weeks or months. Chronic high blood sugar ultimately
triggers poor circulation (vascular insufficiency) or nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy). Most often
ulcers show up under the big toe or the balls of your feet.

When you have nerve damage you may not know you’re injured. Losing your protective sensation can
be hazardous. High blood sugar levels can also slow the healing process and increase the potential for
infection. These are just some of the reasons why good nutrition that controls your blood sugar is critical
to healing.

How Do You Treat a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

Since it’s not unusual for a foot ulcer to develop without being noticed, daily skin checks are an
important routine to get into. If you have a neuropathic ulcer, take great care to protect it from further
injury. Be sure to choose the correct shoes, do not wear sandals and do daily skin checks to ensure you
see any further injury.

Whether you have a vascular or neuropathic ulcer, your doctor will remove the dead tissue, clean it and
apply a dressing. You may be taught how to change the dressing and will learn how to identify an
infection.

Nutrition is Crucial to Healing a Diabetic Foot Ulcer

One thing you do not want to ignore is your diet and nutrition! Poor nutrition makes it nearly impossible
for your ulcer to heal and may compromise your overall health. If you’re carrying a few extra pounds,
you might be malnourished.

Your doctor may do blood tests to evaluate biomarkers that indicate if you’re low in protein and other
nutrients. This happens when the food you eat does not feed your cells, but instead builds fat.

Protein
Your body needs adequate amounts of protein to support the growth of granulation tissue. These are
the cells your body produces as a wound heals. Your protein needs increase when you have an ulcer to
support wound healing and replace any protein lost from leaking fluid in the wound.

Vitamins
You may not think of water as a nutrient, but your hydration level does affect how well your wound will
heal. Try to drink enough so your urine is a light straw color. The amount may be different each day
since whole foods have water that can affect your hydration. The best way to measure your hydration is
by the color of your urine.

Vitamin C contributes to the growth of new tissue, but citrus fruits high in vitamin C are also high in
sugar. Instead, consider bell peppers, broccoli, snow peas, kale and strawberries.

Zinc is a nutrient that aids in the development of strong skin and cell membranes. It also supports your
immune system. You can find zinc in beef, chicken, pork, lentils and oatmeal.

Vitamin A, also called retinol, helps control inflammation. Your skin is a retinoid responsive tissue that
needs vitamin A for adequate healing. You can find vitamin A in vegetables with deep color like sweet
potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, spinach, red bell peppers and broccoli.

Tips to Creating a Healthy Lifestyle in the Kitchen

Food is important to your wound healing game plan. If your food choices are not optimal, it also affects
your immune function, the development of collagen and the strength of your wound healing. Use these
simple tips to help support your wound healing and improve your overall health

  • Fill your refrigerator with whole foods from the outside aisle of the grocery store.
  • Steer clear of processed foods and snacks that are often packed with sugar and salt.
  • Cook your food from scratch. This doesn’t have to be time consuming. Many high-quality meals
    can be made in 30 minutes or less.
  • Consider making enough for leftovers for the refrigerator or freezer so you aren’t tempted to
    grab processed food when you’re hungry.
  • Check your weight twice each week. If you and your doctor decide you should lose weight, do so
    slowly and by eating whole, nutritious foods to support wound healing.
  • Take a high-quality multivitamin to help fill in the gaps from your diet.

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