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  • Writer's pictureAmy Slater

Nutrition For Soft tissue Recovery

The ideal scenario is that you go into surgery with low inflammation, a balanced microbiome, and a healthy immune system. Five months before I went into surgery, I ran functional labs on myself to test my cortisol rhythm, hormone health, digestion, ran food sensitivity panel, and gut health. Based on the functional lab results, I was able to build a protocol to put my body into balance and optimize tissue health before surgery. I also built a protocol for the post-op period to make sure that the nutrients I am consuming work towards rebuilding the damaged soft tissue.

As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition practitioner, I work with individuals to build a better base and identify healing opportunities!! Feel free to reach out for more information at

Nutrition is a huge variable in the recovery period, but don’t wait until you are in recovery to begin a good nutrition practice. Start mapping out your nutrition plan and building healthy habits, at least two months before surgery, ideally 6 months. If you have the luxury of planning your surgery, your efforts to improve your diet will be richly rewarded!

Diet has a huge factor in the healing process and has a direct impact on your recovery rate and can even minimize scarring. By following a very specific diet, both before and after the procedure, patients can reduce swelling and inflammation while ensuring optimal healing of the incision.

On the other hand, bad eating habits can worsen inflammation, decrease collagen synthesis, which is needed for scar and skin formation, slow down your body’s immune activity, and decrease the strength of connective tissues.

The first step every person needs to take is to avoid processed foods, especially carbohydrates like bread, rice, and cereal, as these are known to promote inflammation. Processed sugar and refined vegetable oils also fuel inflammation and interfere with collagen synthesis.

Essentially, your diet should consist of fresh, natural products. Focus on eating real foods. Food that came from the earth rather than a box or man-made. Cooking from scratch will prepare your body and is the key to success. Anything else that comes from a box, can or container should be avoided.

Throughout the day you should then minimize carbohydrates like bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes, and instead, rely on an abundance of non-starchy vegetables as your predominant source of carbs. Think of sweet potatoes, winter squashes, carrots, and beets.

Many fresh fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, which is critical for new collagen synthesis and effective wound healing. If there is any deficiency in vitamin C, it can delay the healing process significantly. Think of richly colored fruits like kiwi, cherries, and citrus for high nutrient value! Fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles are also very high in bioavailable vitamin C!

Omega 3-rich food sources include fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna, along with Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Olive oil is another anti-inflammatory fat that you can use in salad dressings or for cooking purposes.

Don’t forget about nutrient-rich organ meat, nuts, and seeds all are high in zinc, which is important for wound healing and collagen synthesis!

Let’s talk about wound healing–time to dig into some science!!

The body progresses through 4 phases of wound healing:

1) Hemostasis (immediate wounding period) involving platelets and growth factors 2) Acute inflammation (day 1 to day 4) during which macrophages, leukocytes, and mast cells are active 3) Proliferation (day 2 to day 21) where fibroblasts, myofibroblasts, and endothelial cells grow new tissue 4) Remodeling (day 21 to 2 years), where the wound heals and acquires 80% of original strength.

Medications and wound healing!

The medications most likely to impair wound healing during the acute or second phase of wound healing and damage skin integrity include antibiotics, anticonvulsants, angiogenesis inhibitors, steroids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Let’s talk about the key nutrients!

Researchers who have explored the complex dynamics of tissue repair have identified several nutritional cofactors involved in tissue regeneration, including vitamins A and C, zinc, arginine, glutamine, and Glucosamine.


Vitamin A benefits the wound by enhancing the early inflammatory phase, including increasing the number of monocytes and macrophages at the wound site, modulating collagenase activity, supporting epithelial cell differentiation, and improving localization and stimulation of the immune response. Vitamin A may increase both collagen cross-linkage and wound-breaking strength.

Recommend vitamin A supplementation of 25,000 IU daily before and after elective surgery. Sources of Vitamin A are beef liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, black-eyed peas, broccoli, and sweet red peppers!

These are organ meat meatballs with pumpkin seed flour and fresh tomato sauce with red bell pepper.


Vitamin C is an essential cofactor for the synthesis of collagen, proteoglycans, and other organic components of the intracellular matrix of tissues such as bones, skin, capillary walls, and other connective tissues. Vitamin C deficiency causes abnormal collagen fibers and alterations of the intracellular matrix that manifests as cutaneous lesions, poor adhesion of endothelium cells, and decreased tensile strength of fibrous tissue.

Recommend supplementing 1-2 g ascorbic acid daily from wound onset until healing is complete. Vitamin C-rich foods include broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, orange juice, papaya, red, green, or yellow pepper, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.


Approximately 300 enzymes require zinc for their activities. Zinc is an essential trace mineral for DNA synthesis, cell division, and protein synthesis, 45 all necessary processes for tissue regeneration and repair.

Zinc demands are thought to be the highest from the time of wounding throughout the early inflammatory phase. Zinc levels increased from wounding and peaked on the fifth day – at a time of high inflammation, granulation tissue formation, and epidermal cell proliferation. Zinc concentrations returned to normal by the seventh day, when inflammation had regressed.

Zinc supplementation of 15-30 mg daily is recommended perioperatively to prevent the unmasking of marginal deficiencies. Zinc-rich foods include meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, and eggs.


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