July 28, 2014
I recently cut my finger. It was deep and I had trouble stopping the bleeding. So, I began to wonder about the body's ability to heal. Guess what? New blog topic…
We often take the body's ability to heal for granted. In the course of 70+ years, billions of physical functions go right and it's only the rare event the body can't repair. Without the healing process our bodies would not be able to endure all the damage we expose them to throughout our lifetime. A simple paper cut could be deadly. Larger wounds often need outside medical attention to stop the bleeding or prevent infection. Modern medicine can set the body up to heal a major issue, but it's ultimately the body at the cellular level that actually does it.
The Healing Process
Wound healing is normal biological process that includes four precise phases: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling. For a wound to heal successfully all four phases must occur in sequence although these steps crossfade into each other.
The skin, the largest organ in our bodies, acts as a protective barrier from the outside environment. Two layers of the skin, the epidermis and dermis, contain blood vessels that transport blood throughout the body. This protective barrier is broken after an injury, exposing blood vessels and causing bleeding. Instinctively the body attempts to stop the bleeding. This first stage of the healing process is known as hemostasis. Chemicals are released by muscle tissue around the damage to constrict the damaged blood vessels. This reduces the amount of blood flow to the area limiting blood loss.
Tissue that makes up the skin underneath is made up of proteins called collagen. After an injury, platelets interact with collagen and cause the blood to coagulate forming a scab that temporarily seals the break in the blood vessel. As the bleeding is controlled, the body begins the inflammatory phase of healing that is often associated with pain.
About two or three days after the wound occurs, fibroblasts begin to enter the wound site. These are cells that secrete substances to make connective tissue, among other things. This marks the onset of the proliferative phase.
Over the next few days, white blood cells continue to digest bacteria and dead tissue cells. Once bleeding has subsided and the wound is free from infection, the rebuilding of cells begins and fibroblasts continue creating new collagen to the wound.
The final stage of wound healing is where the myofibroblasts pull the wound edges together. Over time, more collagen is deposited to protect the wound from reopening, creating scar tissue. Our bodies contain a tight running organization of cells necessary to rebuild damaged tissue.
Does the body go through a similar process when it is healing from a surgical wound?
Yes it does and taking care of a surgical wound is similar to taking care of cuts and scrapes. You'll probably have to protect the incision with a bandage for a few days and change the dressing daily. Follow your doctor's instructions for caring for your stitches or staples. You'll also want to keep the area dry and report any increase in bleeding or redness to your doctor. Proper hydration, rest and nutrition can help to boost your immune system so your body can resist infection better.
Foods That Help During the Healing
Some foods (let's call them immune boosters) help the healing process along like berries and leafy greens. Tumeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and has antibiotic properties. Vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin A are especially important in preventing infections.
Minerals also known as the building blocks of health are essential to providing benefits for fighting disease and infection. Here is a list of seven important macrominerals your body needs everyday.
Calcium (sesame seeds, broccoli)
Chloride (sea salt)
Magnesium (dark chocolate, almonds)
Phosphorus (meats, eggs)
Sodium (sea salt)
Sulphur (garlic, lemon)
We will have numerous injuries throughout our lifetime, many so small we aren't even aware of them. Taking care of our body each day will help with any recovery it may have to face even if it is a simple cut on the finger.