Bitter Food, Sweeter Life

Bitter Food, Sweeter Life

In today’s world of sweet, sour, savory, and salty flavours, the bitter taste is rarely seen on the plate in western cultures. However, recent discoveries suggest that incorporating bitter foods and herbs into our diet can significantly improve hormonal health and digestion, which would be very helpful during menopause. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of bitter foods, their impact on our health, and how to incorporate them into our daily lives.

The Bitter Truth

Understanding the role of Bitter Taste Receptors traditionally, it was believed that bitters stimulated digestion by interacting with receptors on the tongue, which then sent signals to the brain and digestive organs. Recent research has identified around 30 bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) and has also discovered that these receptors are not restricted to the mouth but are also present in the gastrointestinal tract. This new understanding of bitter receptors changes our perception of how bitter herbs work and suggests that tasting them is not essential for their digestive benefits.

wound healing phases

Bitter Benefits

Understanding the role of Bitter Taste Receptors traditionally, it was believed that bitters stimulated digestion by interacting with receptors on the tongue, which then sent signals to the brain and digestive organs. Recent research has identified around 30 bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) and has also discovered that these receptors are not restricted to the mouth but are also present in the gastrointestinal tract. This new understanding of bitter receptors changes our perception of how bitter herbs work and suggests that tasting them is not essential for their digestive benefits.

Protein for wound healing
omega-3 for wound healing

Bitter Greens

The addition of leafy bitterness to your diet by simply adding bitter leaves and vegetables into your meals can improve digestion and hormonal health. Examples of bitter leaves include dandelion greens, arugula or rocket, endive, and radicchio. Try adding these greens to your salads, sautéing them with garlic and olive oil, or blending them into a green smoothie.

Bitter Herbs

Incorporating bitter herbs into your daily routine can be as simple as enjoying a cup of digestive herbal tea. These teas often feature a blend of bitter herbs that work synergistically to improve digestion and overall health. Here are some popular herbal blends and formulas that you can try to experience the benefits of bitter herbs:

Traditional Digestive Tea Blend

Gentian root, Wormwood, Fennel seeds, Peppermint leaves, Chamomile flowers

This classic blend combines the digestive benefits of bitter herbs like gentian and wormwood with the soothing and calming properties of fennel, peppermint, and chamomile. The result is a tea that not only enhances digestion but also relaxes the gastrointestinal tract, reducing discomfort and bloating.

Scandinavian Bitter Tea Blend

Dandelion root, Burdock root, Licorice root, Calendula flowers, Orange peel

This Scandinavian-inspired blend offers a milder bitter taste with the addition of licorice root and orange peel. Dandelion and burdock roots provide gentle bitter properties, while calendula flowers offer anti-inflammatory benefits to help soothe the digestive system.

Liver Support Tea Blend

Milk thistle seeds, Artichoke leaves, Boldo leaves, Ginger root, Lemon balm

This liver-supportive blend features artichoke leaves and boldo leaves, both of which have bitter compounds that stimulate bile production and aid in detoxification. Milk thistle seeds provide further liver support, while ginger and lemon balm add flavor and digestive benefits to the mix.

Ayurvedic Digestive Tea Blend

Cumin seeds, Coriander seeds, Fennel seeds, Cardamom pods, Ginger root

Inspired by the ancient Indian system of Ayurveda, this warming blend incorporates aromatic spices with gentle bitter and digestive properties. Cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds all support digestion, while cardamom and ginger add a spicy kick and additional digestive benefits.

Bitter Greens Tea Blend

Nettle leaves, Dandelion leaves, Raspberry leaves, Peppermint leaves, Lemon verbena

For a green tea experience that provides a range of beneficial bitter compounds, try this blend of nettle, dandelion, and raspberry leaves. Peppermint and lemon verbena add a refreshing touch to this nourishing and healthful tea.

Remember to consult with a healthcare professional or a naturopath before incorporating any new herbs into your routine, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking medications. Enjoying a cup of bitter herbal tea daily can be a great way to include these powerful herbs in your diet and support hormonal health and digestion during menopause or perimenopause.

 Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long history of using bitter herbs and herbal formulas to support digestion and overall health. These formulas are often composed of various herbs that work together to address a wide range of digestive issues. Here are some popular TCM herbal formulas that incorporate bitter herbs for digestive support:

Bao He Wan

  • Hawthorn fruit (Shan Zha)
  • Massa fermentata (Shen Qu)
  • Radish seed (Lai Fu Zi)
  • Tangerine peel (Chen Pi)
  • Forsythia fruit (Lian Qiao)
  • Pinellia rhizome (Ban Xia)
  • Poria (Fu Ling)

Bao He Wan is a classic TCM formula for indigestion, bloating, and acid reflux. This formula combines bitter herbs like hawthorn fruit and forsythia fruit with other herbs known to support digestion and reduce excess stomach acid.

Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

  • Codonopsis root (Dang Shen)
  • Atractylodes rhizome (Bai Zhu)
  • Poria (Fu Ling)
  • Licorice root (Gan Cao)
  • Tangerine peel (Chen Pi)
  • Pinellia rhizome (Ban Xia)
  • Aucklandia root (Mu Xiang)
  • Amomum fruit (Sha Ren)

Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang is a modified version of the classic Liu Jun Zi Tang formula, with the addition of bitter herbs aucklandia root and amomum fruit. This formula is used to treat poor appetite, bloating, and diarrhea caused by weak digestive function and is particularly suitable for those with a weak spleen and stomach in TCM terms.

Huang Lian Shang Qing Wan 

  • Coptis rhizome (Huang Lian)
  • Scutellaria root (Huang Qin)
  • Forsythia fruit (Lian Qiao)
  • Gardenia fruit (Zhi Zi)
  • Mint (Bo He)
  • Licorice root (Gan Cao)

Huang Lian Shang Qing Wan is a powerful formula that contains several bitter herbs like coptis rhizome, scutellaria root, and forsythia fruit. This formula is used to clear heat and dampness in TCM terms, which can manifest as digestive issues, such as acid reflux, gastritis, or ulcers.

Remember to consult with a TCM practitioner, healthcare professional, or a naturopath before incorporating any new herbs or herbal formulas into your routine, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking medications. Including TCM herbal formulas in your daily routine can provide an additional layer of support for hormonal health and digestion during menopause.

Bitter Recipe Inspiration

Embrace bitter flavours in Your kitchen, including bitter foods into your diet can be as simple as adding a handful of bitter greens to your salad or experimenting with bitter herbs in your cooking. Here are some recipe ideas to get you started.

Dandelion green salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and a lemon vinaigrette

Bitter green smoothie with kale, arugula, cucumber, and green apple

Roasted radicchio and endive with balsamic glaze

Wormwood tea or gentian-infused digestive cocktail

Arugula and Fennel Salad

Combine fresh arugula, thinly sliced fennel, and toasted walnuts with a simple lemon vinaigrette for a refreshing and bitter green salad.

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

Sauté dandelion greens with garlic and olive oil, then finish with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar for a nutritious and bitter side dish.

Bitter Melon Stir-Fry

Stir-fry thinly sliced bitter melon with your choice of protein, vegetables, and a savory sauce for a flavourful and healthy meal.

Radicchio and Pear Salad

Toss chopped radicchio with sliced pears, goat cheese, and toasted pecans, then dress with a balsamic vinaigrette for a delicious, bitter salad.

Endive and Smoked Salmon canape

Fill Belgian endive leaves with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and capers for a tasty and elegant appetizer featuring a hint of bitterness.

Broccoli Rabe with Chili and Garlic

Sauté broccoli rabe with garlic, red chili flakes, and olive oil for a spicy, bitter, and delicious side dish.

Bitter Greens Soup

Prepare a nourishing soup with a mix of bitter greens, such as kale, collard greens, and mustard greens, along with onions, garlic, and vegetable broth.

Grilled Chicory with Balsamic Glaze

Grill halved chicory heads and drizzle with a balsamic glaze for a deliciously bitter and slightly sweet side dish.

Bitter Chocolate Smoothie

Blend raw cacao powder, banana, almond milk, and a touch of honey for a bitter chocolate smoothie packed with antioxidants and nutrients.

Artichoke and Spinach Dip

Combine steamed artichoke hearts, spinach, cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese for a delicious and creamy dip featuring the bitter taste of artichokes.

 

Experiment with these recipe ideas to include more bitter foods in your diet and enjoy the potential health benefits they provide. Don’t be afraid to get creative and incorporate bitter ingredients into your favourite dishes! For more recipe ideas and cooking classes which always include some bitter foods, check out The Cooking Naturopath for some inspiration.

To further enhance your menopausal journey, consider joining our Menopause Makeover program, a holistic approach to managing menopause symptoms that includes personalised guidance, support, and additional resources tailored to your needs.

Together, we can help you transition through menopause with greater ease and confidence. Contact us today to get started on your health and vital life.

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

Menopause Makeover – 8 week program

Check out my blog post on Healthy recipes to support you in menopause.

If you’d like more information on how I can support you during menopause, I’d love to work with you.

Contact me

5 Top Food Tips for Menopause

5 Top Food Tips for Menopause

As women reach the menopausal stage, hormonal changes can lead to a wide array of symptoms, including hot flushes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. Making dietary adjustments can significantly impact hormonal health and alleviate these symptoms. In this blog, we’ll explore five foods that can improve hormonal health during menopause – legumes, flaxseed, soy, and the importance of consuming less caffeine and alcohol.

Legumes: A Hormone Balancing Powerhouse

Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans, are packed with essential nutrients, including protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. They are a great source of phytoestrogens, plant-based compounds that mimic estrogen in the body, which can help balance hormonal levels during menopause. Additionally, their high fibre content can aid in maintaining a healthy weight and stabilizing blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of insulin resistance.

To include legumes in your diet, try adding them to salads, soups, stews, or as a side dish. You can also experiment with different types of legumes to keep your meals interesting and flavourful.

wound healing phases

Flaxseed: A Nutrient-Rich Seed for Menopause

Flaxseeds are small but mighty when it comes to hormonal health. They are rich in lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that can help balance estrogen levels in the body. Flaxseeds are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation and support overall hormonal health.

You can easily add flaxseeds into your diet by adding them ground to smoothies, yoghurt, oatmeal, or baked goods. Ensure to use ground flaxseed rather than whole, as it is easier for your body to absorb the nutrients.

Protein for wound healing
omega-3 for wound healing

Soy – A Menopause Friendly Food

Soy is a well-known source of isoflavones, another type of phytoestrogen that can help alleviate menopausal symptoms. Soy-based foods, such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soy milk, can provide relief from hot flushes and support hormonal health.

To include soy in your diet, try adding tofu to stir-fries, salads, or sandwiches. You can also enjoy edamame as a snack or use soy milk in smoothies and recipes as a dairy alternative.

Caffeine Reduction – Minimising Menopause Woes

While coffee and caffeinated beverages may provide a much-needed energy boost, they can also exacerbate menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances. Reducing your caffeine intake can help balance your hormones and ease menopause-related discomfort.

To cut back on caffeine, consider swapping your regular coffee for decaffeinated coffee or herbal teas, such as chamomile or peppermint, which can promote relaxation and sleep.

Alcohol Moderation – A Key to Hormonal Harmony

Alcohol can have a negative impact on hormonal health during menopause, as it may worsen symptoms like hot flushes and mood swings. It’s essential to moderate your alcohol intake to maintain balanced hormone levels and overall wellbeing.

To reduce alcohol consumption, try opting for non-alcoholic beverages, such as sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, herbal teas, or mocktails made with fresh fruit and herbs. If you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation and opt for low-alcohol options like spritzers or light beers.

Improving your hormonal health during menopause doesn’t have to be complicated. By incorporating nutrient-dense foods like legumes, flaxseed, and soy, and reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, you can create a balanced and supportive diet for this stage.

To further enhance your menopausal journey, consider joining our Menopause Makeover program, a holistic approach to managing menopause symptoms that includes personalised guidance, support, and additional resources tailored to your needs.

Together, we can help you transition through menopause with greater ease and confidence. Contact us today to get started on your Menopause Makeover journey and embrace a healthier, happier future.

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

Menopause Makeover – 8 week program

Check out my blog post on Healthy recipes to support you in menopause.

If you’d like more information on how I can support you during menopause, I’d love to work with you.

Contact me

Menopause Bone Health – 101

Menopause Bone Health – 101

Menopause is a time of significant hormonal changes for women. As estrogen levels decline, the risk of osteoporosis and bone loss increases. Taking care of your bone health during and after menopause is crucial for maintaining overall well-being. In this article, we will explore ten tips for promoting healthy bones, covering essential nutrients, lifestyle adjustments, and the importance of consulting with a naturopathic practitioner for personalised guidance and high-quality bone support supplements.

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Tips for Healthy Bones after Menopause

Focus on bone-building foods and nutrients in your daily diet

A diet rich in bone-building nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K, is essential for maintaining strong bones. Include foods like dairy products, leafy greens, fish, nuts, seeds, and fortified cereals in your diet to support optimal bone health.

While calcium is a vital nutrient for bone health, there are other essential nutrients such as boron, vitamin K, zinc, magnesium, and manganese that play significant roles in bone formation, maintenance, and overall health. To ensure that you’re getting a wide range of these nutrients, it’s essential to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Boron: This trace mineral is necessary for the proper metabolism of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Foods rich in boron include avocados, apples, pears, peaches, grapes, almonds, and legumes.

Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential for bone mineralization and helps maintain bone density. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, and Swiss chard are excellent sources of vitamin K. Other sources include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and fermented foods like natto and sauerkraut.

Zinc: This mineral plays a crucial role in bone formation and the immune system. Foods high in zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.

Magnesium: Magnesium is vital for calcium absorption and bone formation. Foods rich in magnesium include leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and bananas.

Manganese: This trace element is essential for the formation of bone and cartilage. Rich sources of manganese include whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and legumes.

To ensure you’re getting all of these essential bone-building nutrients, aim for a colorful and diverse diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. By incorporating these nutrient-dense foods into your daily meals, you’ll not only promote healthy bones but also support overall well-being during and after menopause. Remember that a balanced diet, combined with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle, is the best way to maintain strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.

wound healing phases

Shedding Light on Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another crucial nutrient for bone health during and after menopause. It plays a vital role in calcium absorption and helps maintain proper calcium levels in the blood. Without adequate vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Here, we’ll discuss how vitamin D is converted into its active form, its requirements for absorption, and the various sources from which you can obtain it.

Vitamin D Conversion: Vitamin D is available in two main forms: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Both forms are inactive and must be converted into their active forms in the body. The conversion process begins in the liver, where vitamin D is converted into calcidiol (25-hydroxyvitamin D), the primary circulating form of vitamin D. Calcidiol is then further converted into calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D) in the kidneys, which is the active form of vitamin D that plays a crucial role in calcium homeostasis and bone health.

Vitamin D Absorption: For optimal absorption, vitamin D needs to be consumed with fat-containing foods, as it is a fat-soluble vitamin. Additionally, maintaining proper levels of magnesium and maintaining a healthy gut can also help enhance the absorption of vitamin D.

Vitamin D Sources: There are several ways to obtain vitamin D, including sunlight, diet, and supplements.

Sunlight: Sun exposure is the most natural way to produce vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, it synthesizes vitamin D3. Aim for 10 to 30 minutes of sun exposure on your face, arms, and legs at least two to three times per week. However, factors like skin tone, age, sunscreen use, and geographical location can affect your body’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight.

Dietary Sources: Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, but some options include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), fish liver oils, egg yolks, and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals.

Supplements: If you’re unable to obtain enough vitamin D from sunlight and food, supplements can be a helpful option. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare practitioner or naturopath before starting a supplement regimen, as they can provide personalized recommendations based on your specific needs.

In conclusion, maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is crucial for bone health during and after menopause. By focusing on sunlight exposure, incorporating vitamin D-rich foods into your diet, and considering supplementation if necessary, you can support the health of your bones and overall well-being

Protein for wound healing
omega-3 for wound healing

Calcium – The Cornerstone of Health Bones

Choosing the Right Calcium Supplement: A Guide for Menopausal Women (Expanded)

When it comes to bone health during and after menopause, calcium plays a critical role. But with so many calcium supplements on the market, how can you choose the best one for your needs? In this section, we’ll delve into the various forms of calcium, discuss the importance of cofactors, and compare the efficacy of different calcium supplements for menopausal women, including hydroxyapatite.

Different forms of calcium:

Calcium supplements come in several forms, including calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium lactate, calcium gluconate, and calcium hydroxyapatite. Each form has its own benefits and drawbacks:

  • Calcium carbonate: This is the most common and least expensive form of calcium supplement. It contains the highest percentage of elemental calcium but requires stomach acid for proper absorption. It is best taken with a meal to ensure optimal absorption.
  • Calcium citrate: This form of calcium is easier to absorb and is a good option for people with low stomach acid levels or digestive issues. It can be taken with or without food.
  • Calcium lactate and calcium gluconate: These forms of calcium are less concentrated but are also easier to absorb. They are good options for people who cannot tolerate calcium carbonate or calcium citrate.
  • Calcium hydroxyapatite: This form of calcium is derived from the mineralized bone matrix and contains calcium in a form similar to that found in our bones. It is highly bioavailable and is often combined with other bone-supporting nutrients, such as phosphorus, collagen, and trace minerals. This form of calcium is particularly beneficial for menopausal women, as it closely mimics the natural composition of bone tissue.

The importance of cofactors:

Cofactors are essential for the proper absorption and utilization of calcium. The most important cofactors for calcium include vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K2, and boron. These nutrients work together to ensure that calcium is effectively absorbed and directed to the bones, rather than being deposited in other tissues or organs.

Comparing the efficacy of different calcium supplements:

When it comes to the efficacy of calcium supplements for menopausal women, research suggests that calcium citrate and calcium hydroxyapatite may be better options than calcium carbonate. Studies have shown that calcium citrate and hydroxyapatite are more easily absorbed and utilized by the body, particularly in older adults or those with compromised digestion. Moreover, calcium citrate and hydroxyapatite are less likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects, such as constipation, compared to calcium carbonate.

In conclusion, when selecting a calcium supplement, consider factors like absorption, tolerability, and the presence of essential cofactors. For menopausal women, calcium citrate or calcium hydroxyapatite with added vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K2, and boron may be the most effective options for supporting bone health. As always, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or a naturopathic practitioner before starting any new supplement regimen.

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

Maintaining an Alkaline Diet for Optimal Bone Health

An alkaline diet focuses on consuming foods that have a more alkaline effect on the body, which can help to maintain a healthy pH balance and promote optimal bone health. Here, we’ll discuss which foods to include, which foods and drinks to avoid, and any precautions you should consider when adopting an alkaline diet.

Foods to include:

An alkaline diet emphasizes the consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. These foods are generally high in alkaline minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which help neutralize acidity in the body. Some examples of alkaline foods are:

  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
  • Root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots
  • Fresh fruits, especially berries, apples, pears, and bananas
  • Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds
  • Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans
  • Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats

Foods and drinks to avoid:

An alkaline diet encourages minimizing the consumption of foods and beverages that can create an acidic environment in the body. Some examples of acidic foods and drinks include:

  • Processed and refined foods like white bread, pastries, and sugary snacks
  • Animal proteins like red meat, poultry, and dairy products
  • Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and black tea
  • Alcohol, particularly in excess
  • Soft drinks and sugary beverages
  • Foods high in added sugars and artificial sweeteners

Precautions and considerations:

While an alkaline diet can be beneficial for overall health and bone maintenance, it’s essential to keep a few precautions in mind:

  • Balance is key: Don’t eliminate all acidic foods entirely, as they may still provide essential nutrients. Instead, aim for a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups.
  • Individual needs: Everyone’s nutritional needs are unique, and it’s crucial to tailor your diet to meet your specific requirements. Consult with a healthcare professional or a naturopathic practitioner before making significant changes to your diet.
  • Beware of extremes: Some proponents of the alkaline diet advocate for a highly restrictive eating plan that may not be sustainable or provide adequate nutrition. It’s essential to find a balanced approach that supports your overall health and wellbeing.

In conclusion, maintaining an alkaline diet can be an effective strategy to promote optimal bone health during and after menopause. By incorporating a variety of alkaline-forming foods, minimizing acidic food and drink intake, and adopting a balanced approach, you can support your body’s natural pH balance and help protect your bones. Always consult with a healthcare professional or a naturopathic practitioner before making significant changes to your diet.

Oxalate-Calcium interaction

Including oxalate-containing foods in the diet without impacting calcium absorption:

While it’s essential to be aware of the oxalate-calcium interaction, it’s also crucial to recognize that many oxalate-containing foods are nutrient-dense and can be part of a healthy diet. To include these foods without significantly affecting calcium absorption, consider the following tips:

  • Balance and moderation: Aim to consume oxalate-containing foods in moderation, without completely eliminating them from your diet. Rotate these foods with other non-oxalate-containing fruits and vegetables to ensure a balanced intake of essential nutrients.

  • Pair with calcium-rich foods: Consuming oxalate-containing foods alongside calcium-rich foods may help to reduce the impact of oxalates on calcium absorption. For example, you could enjoy a spinach salad with a calcium-rich food like cheese, yogurt, or tofu.

  • Timing of consumption: Space out your consumption of oxalate-containing foods and calcium-rich foods. By allowing some time between consuming oxalate-rich foods and calcium-rich foods, you may minimize their interaction and promote better calcium absorption.

  • Cooking methods: Some studies suggest that cooking methods like boiling can help reduce the oxalate content of certain foods. Boiling oxalate-containing vegetables, such as spinach or beet greens, can help decrease the oxalate content and improve calcium absorption.

  • Individual tolerance: It’s important to note that individual tolerance to oxalates can vary, and some people may be more sensitive to their effects on calcium absorption. Consult with a healthcare professional or a naturopathic practitioner to determine the best approach for your specific needs.

In summary, while oxalate-containing foods can impact calcium absorption, they also provide essential nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet when consumed mindfully. By balancing your intake of oxalate-rich foods with calcium-rich foods, using appropriate cooking methods, and considering the timing of consumption, you can support optimal calcium absorption and bone health during and after menopause. Always consult with a healthcare professional or a naturopathic practitioner before making significant changes to your diet.

In conclusion, taking care of your bone health during and after menopause is vital for maintaining a high quality of life and preventing future complications. By implementing the tips discussed in this blog post, you can actively work towards stronger, healthier bones. If you’re looking for more personalized guidance and support on this journey, consider joining our Menopause Makeover program, specifically designed to help women navigate this important stage of life. To learn more about the program or to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced naturopathic practitioners, please give us a call or reach out via our website. We’re here to help you embrace the changes and thrive during menopause and beyond.

Check out my blog post on Healthy recipes to support you in menopause.

If you’d like more information on how I can support you during menopause, I’d love to work with you.Contact me

Protein for wound healing
omega-3 for wound healing

Nutrition for Wound Healing

Nutrition for Wound Healing

Wound healing is something I’m often asked about in clinic, most often for upcoming surgical wounds, but the science on wound healing equally applies to traumatic wounds, infective wounds and ulcers. In my time working as a registered nurse in the community I dressed hundreds of wounds, most often chronic vascular ulcers which were painful and debilitating for my clients. Unfortunately, some of these vascular ulcers never fully healed before breaking down again. In these clinical situations, I was limited in how much I could advise patients on nutritional factors influencing their wound healing as it was outside the scope of practice for an RN, but if I was ever asked by the client, I offered simple dietary suggestions that could support their wounds to heal, but in truth I knew a lot more about wound healing than I could offer in that context.

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

We first learnt of the influence of Vitamin C on wound healing when during the age of discovery sailors noticed old wounds breaking down during long voyages with poor rations. Scurvy threatened the continuation of such voyages until Captain James Cook started carrying lemons on board to prevent further crew losses. Since these early days our knowledge of the nutritional and dietary influences on wound healing has grown exponentially, so let’s examine what we know from the body of evidence. 

The Phases of Normal Wound Healing

A wound is recognised as the disruption in the physical continuity of functional tissues, with normal wound healing beginning immediately after injury. The process consists of four sequential and overlapping phases: haemostasis, inflammation, proliferative and remodelling. The process is often not linear and can persist for years depending on a diverse array of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. In the first stage haemostasis, the wound is being closed by clotting, followed closely by the inflammatory response which further controls bleeding and prevents infection with immune fluid engorgement at the wound site. On day 3 the proliferative phase begins with the rebuilding of new tissue made up of collagen and extracellular matrix. Revascularisation takes place to oxygenate the new tissue, then epithelial cells resurface. Then the final stage is the maturation or remodelling stage beginning 21 days after injury, where collagen is remodelled to fully close the wound. Left over cells are removed or programmed for cell death, with cross linking of collagen in this phase strengthened the wound and reducing scar thickness. As I said earlier, this process is not linear in complex wounds and can and does take much longer for complete healing.

wound healing phases

Generally, it is important to eat a wide variety of foods from each food group, ensuring you get at least 7 to 10 vegetables per day and a couple of pieces of fruit. Choose your fruit and vegetables according to the seasons, which generally means the ones that are cheaper at the supermarket, or alternatively buy from local growers at markets, so you know you are eating fresh and foods in season. Along with seasonal fruits and vegetables, add in at least 5 serves of fish per week, vegetarian proteins such at tofu, tempeh, legumes, nuts and seeds, and some lean meats if you like. To wash this all down we need at least 2 litres of filtered water per day to keep our bodies hydrated. But let’s drill down into the nutritional specifics for wound healing, which can be applied across a broad range of wounds.

Energy – Carbohydrates

During wound healing we need more energy for collagen production for the structural integrity of the wound. Carbohydrates and good fats are the best way to provide this energy source. Eat whole grain cereals like muesli, grainy breads, legumes, nuts and seeds, good oils like olive oil and avocado. This will boost your supply of energy and prevent fatigue during the healing process.

Protein

The protein requirements during wound healing almost doubles to 2.0 gms/Kg/day, which for an average person of 75 kg, means a protein intake of 150 gms of protein in a day. Refer to table for protein content of foods to help you work out how much you need to eat to supply your protein content during wound healing.

The specific amino acids arginine and cysteine play an important role in synthesising connective tissue, whilst arginine has a significant influence on collagen accumulation and immune response in healing. Glutamine has long been thought to play an important role in healing wounds, yet the specific mode of action needs further clarification. What we do know absolutely is that patients with inadequate protein intake will have slow wound healing and poorer wound outcomes.

Protein for wound healing
omega-3 for wound healing

Vitamins A and C

Vitamin A stimulates the inflammatory response, epithelialisation and is a co-factor for collagen synthesis. Whilst Vitamin C promotes collagen and the synthesis of new blood vessels in wound healing.
Vitamin A food sources: green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, dairy, fish, orange and yellow fruit and vegetables, beef liver, fish oils.

Vitamin C food sources: fruit – citrus, kiwi, strawberry, tomato, capsicum, cruciferous vegetables, white potato

Minerals

Copper plays an important role by regulating activity of proteins involved in the wound repair process. Food sources of copper – Been liver, oysters, crab, salmon, dark chocolate, cashes, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chickpeas, millet, whole what pasta, potatoes, and spinach.

Zinc promotes collagen production, immune function and is a factor in over 100 catalytic reactions involved in tissue regeneration. Food sources of zinc – shellfish, oysters, crab, lobster, beef, poultry, pork, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains.

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

Iron is essential for red blood cell production, hence delivery of oxygen to the wound, for regeneration. Food sources of iron are divided into heme iron (from animals) and non-hem iron (plant based). Heme-iron – oysters, clams, mussels, beef or chicken liver, organ meats, canned sardines, beef, poultry, canned tune. Non-heme iron – fortified cereals, beans, dark chocolate, lentils, spinach, potatoes with skin on, nuts and seeds, and enriched rice or bread.

In conclusion, I’ll draw your attention to suggestions I made up front about eating a healthy diet. If you focus on eating a broad range of fruit and vegetables every day, whilst including legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains and good oils and plenty of good quality protein you’ll be well on the way to giving yourself the best chance to heal any wound you may have. Wounds of the heart may take some extra support, but these guidelines would also help. Look out for the wounds of the heart blog coming soon.

Check out my blog post on Healthy smoothie recipes to support wound healing.