If you are a caregiver and the person you are caring for has a wound they will have extra nutritional (dietary) needs, which includes an increased need for protein, vitamins, and minerals. Good nutrition is the initial building block of wound healing.
Think about nutritional needs and foods to heal wounds like rebuilding the wall of a house that has been damaged by fire.
Good nutrition is the initial building block of wound healing.
Think of protein as the bricks (skin and tissue), and vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates as the mortar that helps hold it all together and makes the wall strong again.
It is important to point out that when someone has had an open wound that has since healed, it takes up to two years for the tissues to become strong again, and even then it is only 80 percent of its original strength, making that area slightly weaker and more prone to injury.
Generally, when healing a wound, extra proteins are required, and the vitamins and minerals that have been identified to be the most beneficial are A, C, E, and Zinc. If the person you are caring for has diabetes, it is important that they have good blood glucose control as well, as this is essential to healing the wound.
Foods containing protein and the suggested vitamins and minerals needed for wound healing include:
- Protein: Meat, fish, eggs, beans, milk, yoghurt (particularly Greek), tofu, and soy protein products
- Vitamin A: Carrots, orange- and dark green leafy vegetables, fortified dairy products, cereals, and liver
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and tomato juice
- Zinc: Fortified cereals, seafood, and red meat
Canada’s food guide is an excellent resource to help you plan balanced meals.
Keep in mind that it’s important to include an item from the meat and alternatives group from Canada’s Food Guide at every meal. Below is a sample meal plan for increasing the protein and caloric intake of a person who weighs 150 lbs (68 kg). Use this as a guide and adjust to suit the needs of the person in your care who has a wound.
- 2 slices of rye toast (you may substitute with orange juice, broccoli, or cereal)
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 cup milk
- ½ can tuna (approximately 90 grams) on a pita with lettuce and tomato
- 1.5 cup yogourt
- 3 chocolate chip cookies
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 baked potato with margarine
- Coleslaw with light dressing
- ½ cup cooked carrots
- ½ cup applesauce
In addition to ensuring that meals contain the best balance of nutrients to heal wounds, there are other factors that can affect food intake:
- Can the person reach their food/feed themselves or do they need help?
- Do they wear dentures to help with chewing the food, and if so do they fit properly without causing pain or falling out?
- Does the food need to be of a certain consistency e.g. soft, pureed etc.?
Here are some general nutritional guidelines to consider when preparing meals that promote wound healing for the person in your care:
- Offer well-balanced meals from a variety of foods
- Include adequate protein to maintain good immune function and lean body mass
- Look for nutritious foods that maintain the weight of the person in your care within a healthy range. Because every person has different nutritional needs, aim for keeping the weight of the person in relation to their height, not an “ideal” body mass index (BMI) number
- Include vitamin and mineral-rich foods to keep healthy
- Don’t forget fibre and fluid
- Food safety is important!
- EAT WELL AND LIVE WELL
Pressure ulcers and nutrition
Pressure injuries, more commonly known as pressure ulcers, or bed sores, develop because of injury to the skin and tissues caused by pressure, friction, or shear (damage caused to tissues when the bone moves one way but the skin does not).
Malnutrition has been identified as one factor in the development of pressure ulcers.
Improving energy and protein intake through the use of oral nutritional supplements (additional 250 kcal per day) is associated with reducing the risk for chair-bound or bedridden seniors, who are the most vulnerable for developing pressure ulcers.
A Registered Dietitian can provide a valuable, individualized assessment to identify the nutritional status of the person you are caring for, and recommend any additional dietary requirements to support wound healing and overall good health. A doctor can also refer the person you are caring for to a Registered Dietitian.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.