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When you injure yourself, what do you do to prevent infection and promote healing?
If you’re like most people, you probably wash your injury, apply a topical antibacterial and cover it up to keep it clean. And these are all good practices for addressing a wound externally.
But the most important part of wound healing takes place behind the scenes, when your immune system springs into action to protect you from dangerous bacteria and repair damaged tissue.
That means, you can slather on all the antibiotic ointment that you want, but if your immune system’s not operating at its best, the healing process is going to be slow and painful.
So you need to promote wound healing from the inside out. But just how do you do that?
Well, a recent study from the U.S. Army Institute of Environmental Medicine found that there are a few steps you can take to make the healing process as speedy and painless as possible…
What’s better — nutrition or sleep?
In a recent study, researchers from the U.S. Army Institute of Environmental Medicine wanted to examine the impact of sleep and nutrition on wound healing, so they divided wounded study participants into a few different groups…
One group slept two hours a night for three nights, got the recommended amount of protein daily, and drank a placebo drink twice a day.
Another group slept two hours a night for three nights, ate extra protein daily and drank a nutritional supplement beverage twice a day.
And the third group slept normally for three nights but didn’t do anything special nutrition-wise.
Researchers wanted to see what was more important to wound healing—nutrition or sleep. And they got their answer…
People in both sleep-deprived groups took nearly a full day longer to heal than people who slept less but added an extra nutritional boost to their diet. So sleep trumps nutrition if you want to help your body heal. Nutrition did still have a positive impact on wound healing though…
Researchers noticed that people who drank the nutritional drink had more pro-inflammatory cytokines at the site of their wound. Since cytokines are released by immune cells during wound recovery, the fact that there were more around was a good sign. Of course, this positive immune reaction wasn’t enough to override the negative effects of not sleeping enough.
But think about it this way…
When you’re injured, it’s not necessarily an either-or situation. Ideally, you can get enough sleep and boost your intake of foods that speed up the healing process, so you can reap the benefits of both.
Eat and sleep well when you’re injured
The moral of the story is, when you hurt yourself or you’re recovering from surgery, never slack off on your sleep. And if you can, get your fair share of immune-boosting nutrients too.
Previous studies show that vitamin C, omega-3 and certain amino acids can slash inflammation and speed up healing time. The nutritional drink in this latest study included those ingredients plus arginine, glutamine, zinc sulfate and vitamin D3.
Need other tips for better healing? Well, you can:
- Harness the antibacterial power of Manuka honey.
- Test out the anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin cream.
- Apply some bentonite clay to banish antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
- Break a sweat regularly, because your sweat glands help heal wounds.
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- Wound Healing and the Immune System — Harvard University. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- Getting enough sleep may help skin wounds heal faster — MedicalXpress. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- J. Smith, et al. “Impact of sleep restriction on local immune response and skin barrier restoration with and without ‘multi-nutrient’ nutrition intervention.” — Journal of Applied Physiology, 2017.