Your body responds to an injury or wound by forming scar tissue. During the healing process, cells called fibroblasts secrete the protein collagen to repair and replace damaged skin tissue. Once this framework is in place, blood vessels congregate to the site of the injury so that new skin and nerve cells can form, followed by hair pigment, oil and sweat glands. Certain vitamins are essential to collagen formation and can speed up the healing process, reduce infection and strengthen scar tissue.
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Strengthen Scar Tissue
Vitamin A stimulates collagen synthesis and increases the strength of scar tissue so that it doesn't tear. Prescribed steroids for a wound or infection prevent inflammation and wound healing, but vitamin A can stop that from occurring. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends speaking to your physician before taking a vitamin A supplement, especially if you're scheduled for surgery. Vitamin A is found in eggs, fish liver oils and dairy products. You can also manufacture vitamin A through the beta-carotene in dark, green leafy vegetables and yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C is essential for the growth and mending of tissue throughout your body. It’s required to manufacture collagen, repair wounds and make scar tissue. The disease scurvy, a result of vitamin C deficiency, has symptoms related to weakened collagen, such as poor wound healing and bruising easily. Adults need between 75 and 90 milligrams of this vitamin a day. It’s prevalent in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli and potatoes.
A deficiency in the B-complex vitamins can hinder your ability to heal from injury or surgery because these nutrients link collagen and deliver oxygen and nutrients to the site of injury. The University of Maryland Medical Center specifically indicates that thiamine and pantothenic acid, or vitamins B-1 and B-5, can heal wounds and promote skin health. Pantothenic acid supplementation and application of pantothenic ointment may speed the healing process, strengthen scar tissue and boost the number of fibroblasts required to secrete collagen, but more research on human subjects is needed to confirm these effects. B vitamins are found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, sweet potatoes, legumes, peas, red meat, poultry, fish, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals and dairy products.
Use Vitamin E With Caution
Your body relies on vitamin E to maintain healthy skin. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble, antioxidant vitamin. It reduces inflammation and offers you protection from the sun. There are a variety of over-the-counter topical treatments containing vitamin E for scars, but speak to your physician before trying them. A 2009 paper in American Family Physician stated there is minimal research showing vitamin E can help scar tissue. It may actually reduce the strength of scar tissue and cause contact dermatitis.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Southern Illinois University School of Medicine: Connective Tissue Study Guide
- University of Miami Miller School of Medicine: Skin and Wound Healing
- Selected Readings in Plastic Surgery: Wounds and Scars
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Wounds
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin A (Retinol)
- Medline Plus: Vitamin C
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- University of Nottingham: Nutrition in Wound Healing
- Linus Pauling Institute: Pantothenic Acid
- International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research: Studies on Wound Healing
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin E
- American Family Physician: Management of Keloids and Hypertrophic Scars