Wound Healing Support Through Nutrition

Wound Healing Support Through Nutrition

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Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer may negatively impact nutritional status which can slow down the wound healing process. See how nutrition can help you combat this slowdown in order to continue recovery.

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APR. 23, 20214 MIN. READ

Each person  is unique, so it makes sense that the wound healing rate would vary from one person to another. But for nutritionally at-risk individuals, especially those with underlying health issues such as cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions, the wound healing process after injuries and surgeries may not proceed as expected.  

If this sounds like you, don't panic. “With the right nutrition, you can support your recovery and overall healing process”, says Jeff Nelson, associate research fellow at Abbott. We sat down with him to discuss some health conditions that can affect wound healing and why nutrition should be part of your care plan. 


"Nutrients are the building blocks of any recovery," Nelson said. "Without them, your body is like a car stuck in the snow: The tires keep spinning. The car burns fuel. But it can't move forward." Without proper nutrition, the healing process stalls and the door swings open to potential complications.

Apart from making it difficult for the body to heal surgical wounds, malnutrition can also trigger muscle breakdown. This occurs when your body doesn't get enough of the right nutrients, including protein. "Muscle is the body's reservoir of amino acids for tissue synthesis, survival of organs, regular respiratory function and other body processes," he explained. "If you aren't getting all of the amino acids you need from food, the body begins pulling from and degrading muscle stores."

Cardiovascular Disease

In some types of cardiovascular disease, the heart may weaken, or the vascular system itself may suffer from plaque buildup and blockages. The result? Poor blood flow that can make it harder for oxygen and nutrients to reach wounds and aid in repair.

"Blood flow is essential to wound healing, as it carries all of the necessary building blocks for repair to the site," Nelson noted. The effects of reduced blood flow are most notable in the extremities, including the arms, legs, hands and feet. Nutrients, such as the amino acid Arginine supports blood flow. 

Nutrients are the building blocks of any recovery, without them, your body is like a car stuck in the snow. The tires keep spinning. The car burns fuel. But it can't move forward.

Jeff Nelson, PhD, senior research scientist, Abbott


Diabetes-related nerve damage can lead to cellular dysfunction that can impair wound recovery. Nerve damage also introduces the risk of foot ulcers: open sores or wounds that may require hospitalization.  According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, about 15% of people with diabetes will experience foot ulcers.

"At this stage, due to the reduced peripheral circulation that can accompany diabetes, it can be difficult for wounds to heal," Nelson explained. "And high blood sugar levels can increase the risk of infections in ulcers and other wounds."


People with cancer can be more susceptible to open wounds and sores, due to depleted nutrient levels. Both cancer itself and its treatments can compromise the health and strength of skin and reduce its ability to heal. Around 95% of people who undergo radiation treatment will experience subsequent skin injuries or reactions, known as radiation dermatitis.

Meanwhile, up to 74%1 of those with cancer may experience some degree of cachexia, a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by the loss of lean body mass. That loss, Nelson said, is often accompanied by impaired wound healing: "The issue for people with cancer is not just the cancer itself, but the impact of the treatments they receive like chemotherapy and radiation, which often leads to a decrease in appetite. And simply put, if you are not eating, you’re not getting the nutrients you need to help with the wound-healing process."

How Nutrition Can Help

Eating a diet that's rich in whole foods and provides adequate calories and nutrients is one way you can improve your nutrition status and ability to heal from surgical wounds. However, sometimes the normal diet is not enough.  When you're also managing a chronic condition that can even further impair nutrition status and healing, a therapeutic nutrition drink like Juven® can help.

Juven provides a balance of key ingredients that go above and beyond basic nutrition to help support wound healing.

  • Arginine promotes blood flow and builds proteins. [3]
  • Glutamine supports the immune system and promotes new tissue. [4,5]
  • HMB slows protein breakdown and enhances tissue growth.
  • Collagen protein helps stimulate internal collagen production[6,7]
  • Micronutrients like zinc, vitamins C, E and B12 are also important in the wound healing process.[8]


1. Williams JZ, et al. Ann Surg. 2002;236(3):369-375. 
2. May PE, et al. Am J Surg. 2002;183:471-479. 
3. Wilson GJ, et al. Nutr Metab. 2008;5:1. 
4. Nissen SL, et al. J Nutr Biochem. 1997;8(6):300-311. 
5. Stechmiller JK, et al. Nutr Clin Pract. 2005;20(1):52-61. 
6. Preli RB, et al. Atherosclerosis. 2002;162(1):1-15. 
7. Andrews FJ, et al. Br J Nutr. 2002;87(suppl 1):S3-S8. 
8. Sugihara F, et al. Jpn Pharmacol Ther. 2015;43(9):1323-1328. 
9. Lee SK, et al. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2006;19(2):92-96.

Juven has been shown to support wound healing in numerous populations for over 15 years.
Use Juven under medical supervision as part of a complete, balanced diet.

Nutrition for Surgery Prep | Abbott Nutrition

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In the U.S., the number of surgical procedures is increasing, with more than 30 million performed annually according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No matter what kind of surgery you may be having, preparing for one can raise a lot of questions and concerns.

One of the most often asked questions is — to eat or not to eat? There was a long-held belief that patients should fast before surgery. Luckily, complete fasting before surgery may not always be a requirement. Today, scientific evidence and surgical guidelines recognize the benefits of perioperative nutrition. In fact, preparing for surgery is much like training for a marathon, taking a major physical and mental toll. That's why many believe that it's crucial to prepare by giving your body the strength and energy it needs to handle the stress of the operation and recovery. 

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Eating Before and After Surgery | Abbott Nutrition

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If you are about to undergo a surgery, such as a knee or hip replacement, running a marathon is likely the last thing on your mind. But having a major operation has a lot in common with running a marathon.

During both, your body requires a lot of energy due to the significant amount of stress it is put under. The stress that happens during surgery can lead to weight and muscle loss, inflammation, poor wound healing and complications like infections. Yet, more and more research shows that having certain nutrition in the weeks and days before and after surgery can help reduce these risks for a swifter recovery.

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Juven is specialized nutrition therapy to support wound healing.