Understanding The Link Between Nutrition And Wound Healing

By John E. Hahn, DPM, ND

In our profession, we do not receive extensive training in medical nutrition and its link to wound healing and the prevention of infections. Most podiatric and medical school curriculums devote only a limited amount of time to nutritional instruction for their students. Granted, podiatrists are aware of the nutritional requirements for the diabetic patients. Preoperatively, we usually work alongside an internist or primary care physician to help these patients balance their insulin and glucose levels during and after the foot surgeries.
However, aside from treating patients who are diabetic, morbidly obese or alcoholics, not much thought is given to a patient’s dietary habits as they relate to wound healing.

The field of medical nutrition is growing significantly each year and the general public is becoming more aware of the importance of foods and food supplements in maintaining health and preventing disease. There are daily reports in both print and electronic media on health issues and the relationship to foods, beverages and supplements. Podiatrists need to take a proactive role in learning about the field of nutrition as it relates not only to wound healing but to other diseases which affect the lower extremities and feet. Diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, peripheral neuropathy, psoriasis and eczema all have nutritional ramifications.
In fact, plantar fasciitis has recently been linked to obesity. Patients whose body mass index (BMI) is over 25 have an increased incidence of foot and heel pain.1 Augmenting the traditional podiatric therapies for plantar fasciitis and heel pain with nutritional counseling for obese patients will give a value-added service. Helping these patients reduce their weight can subsequently reduce weightbearing stress and plantar fascia pain.

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