Wound Healing

Wound Healing: What Works/What Doesn’t

Richard Knutson, MD, an orthopedic surgeon, was treating patients in the traction room at the hospital in Greenville, Mississippi. He was concerned because a number of them had serious bedsores, or pressure ulcers, which commonly develop in immobilized patients. Bedsores are slow to heal and easily infected, and these patients had failed to respond to the usual wound care treatments, which included topical and IV antibiotics.

A nurse mentioned to Dr. Knutson that she had grown up on a farm, and when their cattle got nicks from barbed wire or other cuts or abrasions, her father filled a bucket with sugar, headed out to the fields, and threw sugar over the injured areas. He would repeat this every day until the wounds healed, which was usually within a week. The nurse suggested trying this on their patients, and Dr. Knutson agreed. So she packed sugar into the wounds, covered them with bandages, and left for the weekend.

When they returned on Monday, the foul odor that had emanated from the infected bedsores was gone, the wounds were beginning to close, and, in short order, they all healed completely. Dr. Knutson started using sugar dressings as natural treatments for wounds of all kinds: pressure, diabetic, and venous ulcers, burns, even gunshots and animal bites. He published a paper in 1981 detailing his technique and exceptionally high success rates and, over his long career, documented positive outcomes on close to 7,000 wounds treated with sugar.

Ignored by the Wound Care Industry

You’d think this safe, inexpensive therapy would have been widely adopted, but physicians completely ignored it. Wound care is a $25 billion business, and there’s no place for natural treatments for wounds like sugar dressings that cost pennies a day and can even be done by patients in their own homes.

Instead, these folks are required to make repeat trips to wound care centers for cleaning, debriding (removing infected and dead tissue), and dressing. If you ask about sugar, you’ll likely be informed that it’s “unscientific.” Truth be told, there is scant evidence in the medical literature as to what conventional dressings and therapies work best for wound healing. Therefore, most treatment choices are based on physician opinion rather than science. And who’s going to choose sugar over all the high-tech, highly promoted wound healing options out there?

As a result, conventional chronic wound care is painful, slow, expensive, and often ineffective. A third of patients with venous ulcers, which develop on the lower legs due to problems with the veins, have four or more recurrences. Diabetic ulcers, which eventually occur in a quarter of diabetes patients, take a horrific toll in disability and lead to an amputation every seven minutes—about 73,000 per year. Bedsores that develop right under doctors’ noses in hospitals kill 60,000 patients every year.

Sugar and Oxygen: Wound-Care Wonders

Unlike the large majority of physicians, I did not ignore Dr. Knutson’s article. As soon as I read it, I called him to discuss it. He was pleased but surprised, as I was the only doctor to contact him. He was even more surprised when I told him I was going to use sugar dressings to treat all my patients with stubborn wounds. For more than 30 years, I have done just that—with absolutely astounding success.

Here’s how it works. When sugar is packed in a wound, it creates a hyperosmotic environment that kills all bacteria—including antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”—just as saltwater kills freshwater fish. Sugar also draws moisture from inside the wound, reduces inflammation, and provides a covering that prevents scabbing and minimizes scarring. In addition, it attracts macrophages and other immune cells, which cleanse the wound and remove dead tissue, eliminating the need for painful debridement.

Most patients do fine with sugar dressings alone, but we offer another therapy for serious wound healing: hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). When patients breathe 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized chamber, oxygen concentrations in the body skyrocket. This massive influx of oxygen is toxic to anaerobic bacteria, which are particularly abundant in chronic wounds. HBOT also mobilizes stem cells and other growth factors that accelerate healing. Equally important, it stimulates angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels). Chronic wounds generally have a very poor blood supply, which cuts off access to oxygen, nutrients, immune cells, and growth factors required for repair and regeneration. By restoring circulation, HBOT shifts the natural wound healing process into high gear.

“I Still Have It!”

Sugar dressings and HBOT are, in my opinion, the most effective natural treatments for wounds available. But wound care is only part of the picture. Chronic wounds rarely occur in healthy people. At Whitaker Wellness, we also treat the health challenges that make patients vulnerable to these wounds, such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, and neuropathy, as well as nutritional deficiencies, obesity, and other factors that impede healing. Only by improving these underlying conditions can the insidious cycle that plagues so many patients be stopped once and for all.

I want to close with a story I hope you’ll remember if you or a loved one ever has to deal with a chronic wound that defies treatment or—heaven forbid—are told, “Sorry, we’ve done all we can. We have no choice but to amputate.”

J.K. is a Whitaker Wellness patient who, after months of unsuccessful wound care for an infected diabetic ulcer, was scheduled for a below-the-knee amputation. He actually checked himself out of the hospital against medical advice to come to the clinic in a “last hope” effort to save his leg. “Within a few days, I could see the sores were starting to get better and the swelling had gone down. At first the leg was almost all black. Then it started to get pinkish. It was just amazing how it continued to feel so much better. I wouldn’t be walking today if it weren’t for you. I’ve often thought about sending a card to the doctor who wanted to amputate, with a picture of my leg, saying, “I still have it!” And he still had it 20-plus years later.

My Recommendations for Wound Healing

If you have diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or other risk factors for chronic wounds, pay close attention to “minor” lesions and treat them aggressively and early.

To learn more about sugar dressings and hyperbaric oxygen therapy as natural treatments for wounds, call 866-944-8253 or fill out this form to see if you’re a good candidate for Whitaker Wellness’s treatment protocols for wound healing.

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