In the case of a serious injury or illness, wound healing needs to be amped up with lots of nutritional and metabolic support. Over the years, amino acids have emerged as a great way to aid the four stages of wound healing. But, why are they important? And, what do they do to help the wound healing process? To understand the role of amino acids in wound healing, you must first understand the four phases of wound healing.
What Happens During the Four Stages of Wound Healing?
There are four distinct phases or stages to wound healing. Each stage requires full processing in order to proceed to the next phase. When phases become stagnant that means the wound is chronic. Let’s talk about the four stages of wound healing.
Phase #1 Hemostasis
Hemostasis is the first stage of wound healing. This begins as soon as a cut, scrape, or contusion occurs, as your body’s first line of defense. The goal of hemostasis is to get the wound to stop bleeding. To make this happen, the body’s blood vessels narrow, allowing for a reduction in blood flow. Blood platelets start to clump together during this time, allowing the blood vessel wall to reform. Also during this time, an enzyme called “thrombin” gets produced. Thrombin is necessary because it activates the formation of a protein fibrin mesh, an essential component in your blood’s ability to clot. Once you’ve clotted, the inflammatory process starts.
Phase #2 Inflammation
The inflammatory phase is part two of wound healing and occurs in order to help regulate healing and guard against infection. During this process your body naturally removes debris, bacteria, and pathogens. Redness and swelling are created by your body’s natural inflammatory agents, including white blood cells, enzymes, and other nutrients and growth factors. During this process you may also feel a bit of pain. Under normal circumstances, this process should last under a week. If a wound continues the inflammatory process for longer than a week, it may have an impact on wound healing. That’s because sustained inflammation is counterproductive. You don’t want your wound to get stuck in the inflammatory phase.
Phase #3 Proliferation
The proliferative phase is phase three of wound healing. During this period, tissue growth occurs. The wound is filled and covered with brand new tissue, made from enzymes, collagen, and an extracellular matrix, which is formed out of new connective tissue cells called fibroblasts. During this phase the wound margins will constrict towards the center of the wound. This is done as new blood vessels and skin tissue, called granulation tissue, are developed. Healthy, new tissue can be identified by its “new” appearance: pink or reddish skin that gives off a shiny appearance.
Phase #4 Maturation
Maturation is the fourth and final phase of wound healing. It usually starts at the 21 day mark, however, some wounds progress differently. The maturation phase is also known as the remodeling phase. During this period, the collagen inside and around the wound changes, becoming thicker. Also during this phase, the collagen begins to line up with the existing tension lines. In some circumstances, the maturation phase can last a very long time. If anything happens to disrupt wound healing, the wound can’t successfully close and, therefore, the wound gets stuck. Inadequate wound healing can occur for a variety of reasons, including poor nutrition and advanced age.
What Factors Slow Wound Healing?
There are many factors that can delay or slow wound healing. Here are some of the most common reasons for slowed or paused wound healing.
- Overall health
- Specific medications that slow healing or delay clotting
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of water-intake
- Insufficient tissue oxygenation
- Hormonal health
- Other comorbidities
- Lack of exercise
- Poor mental health
Amino Acids and Wound Repair
How fast can a wound heal? Well, that depends on how fast the body builds protein and collagen. While the synthesis of any protein is important, the most crucial protein in wound repair is collagen. That’s because collagen is the primary ingredient found in the connective tissue that rebuilds a wound. It’s made up of approximately 90% nonessential amino acids, which are naturally produced by the body. So, what happens if you take more amino acids? Will additional amino acids produce more collagen? The truth is, yes and no. While there are tons of vitamins and supplements you can take to increase amino acids, they’re likely not going to have that much of an effect on your skin’s ability to produce collagen. But, here’s the catch: taking an amino acid supplement MAY be able to help already-wounded skin. That’s because amino acid intake can help stimulate protein synthesis in wounded skin, stimulating collagen production and speeding up wound repair.
So, How Do Essential Amino Acids Promote the Production of Collagen in Wounds?
Let’s recap what we learned above. While amino acid-intake is most likely not enough to stimulate collagen protein building, it may help your body during the wound repair process. Scientists believe amino acid supplements are effective in wound healing because they help regulate during all stages of wound healing, but especially during the inflammatory phase. That’s because essential amino acids decrease the number of inflammatory cells that need to be used during wound healing. By saving on inflammatory cells, the body makes additional fibroblasts, which produce collagen during the proliferative stage, thus producing a stronger wound because of the quicker and denser formation of collagen fibers.
To sum it up, you may want to take a balanced essential amino acid supplement blend. This type of supplement can help during the wound healing process in two ways. It can help your body protect against an overactive immune response and it can also increase the amount and quality of new collagen produced by your body.
Contact Wound Care OC for wound treatment in Orange County, CA
Dr. Faried Banimahd is a board-certified physician specializing in emergency medicine, wound care, and pain management. Our team will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan that meets your needs and unique conditions. Our clinic includes highly trained and experienced physicians, registered nurses, and certified medical staff who work together to provide you with the highest standards of wound care treatments.