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Last updated April 7, 2017 (originally published August 8, 2013)

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors and
Registered Nurses and other members of our Editorial Board.]

Cuts and scrapes are a part of everyday life and it’s normal to
suffer a minor wound from time to time - it’s why we keep the
Band Aids in the medicine cabinet. You may also have to wait as
a wound heals from surgery or a more serious accident. But
you could be waiting longer than you expect for healing to
complete, and you start to worry. Is it normal for a wound to
take so long to heal? Quick and easy wound healing depends
on a number of different factors. Did you know that your
weight, your stress levels, what you eat, and even your alcohol
intake affect how fast a wound heals?

What Are The Stages of Wound Healing?

Straight after you cut your finger or scrape your knee, the
inflammatory phase of wound healing begins. The blood
vessels contract, forming a clot. The blood vessels then dilate
to allow antibodies, enzymes and nutrients to reach the site of
the injury. You feel pain and the area looks swollen and red.
Next comes the proliferation stage where the wound “rebuilds”
itself with new tissue and you see the wound healing by the
pinky-red color of the new skin. The final phase is maturation,
where the wound closes and you can stop worrying about it.
Different factors affect how quickly these stages pass, and
whether you encounter problems in the healing process.

Why Won’t My Wound Heal?

Wounds don’t always change swiftly from bloody to perfect
pink with no scar to tell they were there. Many factors affect
how well a wound heals.

Medical conditions such as diabetes, arterial disease, congestive
heart failure and vein disease slow the healing process, in part
because they slow the circulation.

Think about what you eat – lack of protein cuts the availability
of cell regenerating “building blocks”, vitamin C deficiency
affects the production of collagen, and zinc deficiency slows
down the healing process.

Obesity increases the risk of wound problems, and consuming a
lot of alcohol increases the incidence of infection and impairs
healing, according to a 2009 study from University of
Massachusetts Medical School – an important consideration
seeing as over half of all ER trauma cases involve alcohol
exposure (1993, Harborview Injury Prevention and Research
Center, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle).

Your age affects your healing capacities – cell replication is
slower and your skin’s resistance to injury decreases as you
get older. And older men are more likely to suffer delayed
wound healing than older women, according to a 2007 study
by the Faculty of Life Sciences, Michael Smith Building,
Manchester, UK which points to the role of sex hormones and
the significant effect they have on the healing process.

Stress and anxiety affect the healing of both acute and chronic
wounds. Drugs also affect how fast your wound heals,
including anti-inflammatory drugs and chemotherapeutic drugs.
There’s the evidence that plenty of factors affect how quickly
your wound heals, and you should be able to tell if you have
problems due to one or two of them. The best approach to
minor wounds is to keep it simple – clean the wound, don’t
touch it, keep it clean, and keep it exposed to the air.

Antibacterial creams and healing gels may not help as much as
you think, and could cause problems by reducing the amount of
air that reaches the wound. If your wound is deep or you think
it is failing to heal, see a physician or nurse.

Let's say that again. Doctors and nurses should be your only
source of advice on treating deep wounds or wounds that are
slow to heal.  But the science of wound healing is evolving.

For that reason, it might help you to take a look at the
information we’ve collected below about wound healing from
recent scientific studies.

Bad Circulation Slows Wound Healing

Poor circulation and conditions that involve bad circulation, like
peripheral artery disease and
diabetes, result in slower wound
healing, according to experts.

Blood is responsible for transporting nutrients to damaged cells
needed to repair them and for removing waste. When the flow
of blood around the body is sluggish, it results in tissue
breakdown and delayed healing.

A 2008 study from the University of Rochester Medical Center
explains how the force involved in a contraction of muscles
increases blood flow to the muscle, which in turn signals the
blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow and healing.
(Read more about the
natural remedies for poor circulation.)

Cut Stress to Help Wounds Heal Faster

Stress doesn’t just make you snappy and feel bad – stress has
a profound impact on the working of the human body and on
your health.

Stress even makes wounds heal more slowly. Many studies,
such as 2007 research from the University of Manchester, UK,
say that stress and wound healing are intricately connected.

A 1998 study from The Ohio State University, Columbus
showed stress negatively affects immune function. The study
looked at how stress impacted on the speed of wound healing
in dental students under the pressure of major term
examinations. Wounds healed much more slowly when the
subjects were under psychological stress.

Diabetes Prevents Wounds from Healing Properly

If you suffer from diabetes you need to be especially careful
when you injure yourself or suffer a wound.

Diabetes increases the risk of non-healing wounds, especially
non-healing diabetic foot ulcers which occur in 15 percent of
diabetes sufferers, according to 2007 research from Columbia
University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

With diabetes, the inflammatory stage of wound healing is
often prolonged because the level of oxygen radicals is
increased, and oxidative stress is also made worse by
hyperglycemia (2004, University of Michigan). (Read more
foods that help to keep blood sugar levels steady.)

Try Honey for Faster Wound Healing

Try a sweet solution to the problem of healing. Applying honey
or concentrated sugar paste to a wound might help speed
healing and prevent infection, according to recent studies.

Honey may be powerful in wound healing due to its high sugar
content – sugar kills microorganisms – or because it contains
other important, and as yet un-researched, trace substances.

In fact, on the fields on World War I when antiseptics ran out,
wounds were sometimes dressed with honey to kill bacteria.

A 2005 study from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Ilesa,
Nigeria found honey-treated wounds showed quicker healing
and the length of hospital stay was significantly shorter in
patients with honey-treated wounds than those treated with a
more conventional wound preparation.

[Editor's note:

Other studies have confirmed honey's healing powers. A 1997
study from India from Dr Vaishampayan Memorial Medical
College in Maharashtra, India discovered that applying raw
honey to wounds promoted 84% healing (evidenced by
epithelialization) in 7 days and 100% healing in 21 days. Honey
worked much better than the pharmaceutical drug, silver
sulfadiazine, which only achieved 72% healing in 7 days and
84% healing in three weeks.

What the study did not cover is whether honey, in combination
with the pharmaceutical drug, would have been even more
effective than either of the treatments alone. We await more
studies on this strategy.

Honey is not a star in all studies, however - a 2009 study from
the Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust,
Liverpool, UK concluded that more research into different kinds
of honey was needed before ruling in favor of the clinical
benefits of honey in wound care. (Read more about
health benefits of honey.)

Gotu Kola and its Wound-Healing Properties

Gotu kola is a creeping plant found in tropical and subtropical
areas that is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. Gotu kola is
believed to have wound-healing properties and could help
prevent keloid scars, according to research. A 1999 study from
the Pharmacology Division, Central Drug Research Institute,
Lucknow, India found extract of gotu kola promoted significant
wound healing in normal wounds as well as delayed-healing

Aloe Vera Helps Wounds Heal?

Gel from the aloe vera plant has a reputation for soothing skin
conditions but does it help your wound heal faster? A 1998
study from Central Leather Research Institute, Adyar, Madras,
India discovered that aloe vera increased the collagen content
of tissue as it healed and improved healing results in rats who
suffered skin wounds.

However, other studies such as a 1991 study from Los Angeles
County-University of Southern California Medical Center found
no significant benefit in using the gel on wounds to promote
healing – in fact, aloe vera delayed the healing process in this

Comfrey Assists in Wound Healing

In a 2007 study from the Faculty of Medicine, Charles
University in Prague scientists tested two concentrations of
comfrey creams for treating fresh abrasion wounds in 278
people. Smoothing on 10 percent comfrey cream resulted in a
significantly faster-healing wound than using 1 percent
comfrey cream after two to three days of application.

However, as our team of
Doctors and Registered Nurses note,
comfrey is associated with side effects
that could seriously
harm your health including liver disease – don’t use comfrey
for more than four to six weeks in a year, and for no more than
10 days in a row and only under the supervision of your doctor.

Help Wounds Heal with Amino Acids

Applying the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and threonine as a
cream could help your wound heal more effectively, according
to a 1985 study by Harvey SG, Gibson JR, and Burke CA. The
small trial on 22 patients with leg ulcers showed the
combination cream was significantly better at relieving pain and
promoting healing than the placebo cream.

Age and Exercise Affect Wound Healing

We’ve learnt that age plays a part in wound healing – you are
more likely to suffer a slow-healing wound, or problems with
healing, when you are older. But there are some things you can
do to promote healing in your senior years, including taking
part in exercise.

Exercise improves wound healing in older adults, according to a
2008 study from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
The study looked at young and old mice and the effect of
treadmill exercise on skin wounds. The results suggested that
exercise speeded up the process of wound healing in older
mice, possibly as the result of an anti-inflammatory response
triggered by exercise.

Lower Your Weight for Better Wound Healing

As well as an increased risk of heart problems, cancer, stroke
and other serious health conditions, obesity places you at
greater risk of impaired wound healing. Various studies
including a 2004 study from Wilford Hall Medical Center,
Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio show obese individuals
face more problems from skin wound infection, broken wounds
and pressure ulcers. Obese surgical patients are at particular
risk of infection due to increased tension on the wound edges,
swelling, and the decreased delivery of antibiotics to the site of
the wound.

If you are obese, or just overweight, there are some simple
tools that can start you on your path to better health.

One of the best tools for changing your weight is to change
just one thing in your diet ---add more dark, leafy

Slowly, as you begin to feel better, you will have more energy
walk or do other kinds of low-impact exercise.

Eating more green vegetables will add fiber and nutrients to
your diet, both of which will make you feel full longer and cut
down on cravings.
And of course as a bonus, your wounds will
heal faster.

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Fries and other white starches
raise your blood sugar as much as
sugar itself.