Optimizing Nutrition to Promote Wound Healing in Seniors
We have all experienced a scratch, tear, cut or other type of wound. Some individuals are better equipped than others at healing these wounds.
Serious wounds, including decubitus ulcers or pressure sores, may require medical intervention and nutrition support. If your senior is recovering from a wound, increased nutrient needs may be warranted to promote healing. A balanced meal plan that includes a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods containing carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals is vital to wound healing.
Why Are Seniors Different In Their Recovery?
Research shows that seniors heal slower than younger adults and children, even for small injuries. There are several reasons why wound healing and recovery are more complicated in older adults.
Seniors have a delayed inflammatory response which causes slow expansion of the blood vessels to allow white blood cells to reach a wound.
Conditions such as diabetes, which are common among seniors, slow down healing. Diabetic neuropathy causes loss of sensation, ultimately delaying the inflammatory response. Elevated blood sugar levels narrow blood vessels, causing poor blood circulation to the wound.
Aging skin is less elastic, forms collagen at a lower rate, and has a thin, flat layer, which exposes it to higher injury. Additionally, the cells in the body age and take longer to multiply to promote healing.
Why Is Nutrition Important To Your Recovery?
Nutrition is essential to recovery because it promotes tissue formation, strengthens existing systems, reduces inflammation, improves mental clarity and emotional state, and provides energy.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “under-nutrition can make it harder for your body to heal and recover from illness.” Over-nutrition can also make it more difficult on the healing and recovery process. Achieving a healthy weight and healthy balance of food and fluid intake is optimal to ensure a sound recovery for your senior.
Creating a Healthy Balance for Healing
Not all foods are created equal. Understanding the role of different nutrients in the recovery process will assist in developing a meal plan that meets your senior’s healing needs.
The following are several nutrients to consider.
- Fluids: Keep hydration in check by consuming adequate amounts of water and unsweetened beverages.
- Carbohydrates: Simple and complex carbohydrates provide you with calories that are used as the body’s primary fuel source. Carbohydrate-rich foods provide energy. Calories derived from carbohydrates may help our body better utilize the protein we consume which may further assist with recovery. Complex carbohydrates pack in more nutrients than simple carbohydrates. Choose your carbohydrates wisely!
- Protein: Protein helps build and repair skin, muscle, and other body tissues. Include a protein source with each meal and snack. High-quality protein sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans as well as low fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Vitamin C: While all nutrients are important during the healing and recovery process, some wounds may require a higher intake of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C is considered a superstar when it comes to skin health and wound healing. Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits, strawberries, spinach, potatoes, broccoli, kiwi, and bell peppers.
- Zinc: This essential mineral supports a number of functions in the human body and may play a role in the wound healing process. Best zinc sources include meat, fish, poultry, and dairy foods. It can also be found in whole-grain breads and cereals.
“Choosing foods containing a wide variety of nutrients will help you get the most out of every bite! Korbuly adds that a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can develop a nutritional plan of care tailored to your senior’s healing and recovery,”
— Cheryl Korbuly, RDN/LD and Vice President of Nutrition Services for StoneGate Senior Living, LLC.
How Can We Help
We promote health and wellness for seniors by supporting their nutrition and providing safe spaces for recovery. Our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists can assist in developing an individualized meal plan to assist with your recovery. Contact us today and find out how we can help your senior recover from an illness or injury.