Over years of collagen use, I noticed that my bike crash-scars and facial acne scars decreased in size and redness. It got me thinking, does collagen help heal scars that I thought were permanent?
I reached out to Andie Holman, known as the Scar Queen after she overcame her own skin and scar issues and set out to help others do the same.
With over thirty years’ experience in natural health, Andie’s written a fully comprehensive online course to guide others to a pain-free, fully active life after surgery. The Scar Course gives everything you need to know and do to get back to the life you love.
In my interview with Andie, she shares food and lifestyle changes we can all make to heal unwanted scars. ~ Celestia
Q: What is your background, experience and passion healing scars?
A: I had major surgery when I was 15 and I did not heal well. Through my own neglect and ignorance, I ended up with a massive infection that split open the scar, resulting in having to go back into hospital to get restitched. My recovery was long and painful, and I was left with gnarly scars. Later, when studying massage therapy in my early 20s, I learned about scar tissue but everyone I treated wanted sports massage, so it was tabled. Fast forward six years to working at London Bridge Hospital with cancer patients, most of whom had undergone very invasive surgery, and my talent with scars was revealed. My first scar patient was in a wheelchair because she couldn’t breathe. It turned out her mastectomy scars had clamped down her ribcage. After an hour of massage, she was out of the wheelchair and the surgeons started referring other patients to me for scar work. It became my specialty and turned around the lives of many people. The Scar Course is based on the protocol I used at London Bridge Hospital for over a decade. I helped patients prepare for surgery and take care of their scars afterwards so they wouldn’t experience pain and restricted mobility.
Q: What do our bodies need to nourish and heal scars?
A: Healing a great scar relies on several things. It depends on how healthy you are going into surgery, as well as how much you take care of yourself afterwards. Ideally, in a perfect world, people would prepare for surgery, starting six weeks before, by increasing the nutrient profile of the diet and starting prehabilitation – that’s seeing PT and strengthening the body prior to surgery. Countries that have a national health program do this as protocol as prehab is shown to dramatically improve the outcome of surgery. Diet, of course, is critically important, as is exercise. Anything you can do to strengthen immunity before surgery is a plus. That usually involves supplementation – unless you like eating sauerkraut for breakfast!
When I work with clients, I give them a full explanation of what supplements to use and more importantly why they want to take them. All supplement suggestions are aimed towards rapid healing and supporting the process their body is going through when making a scar. The Scar Course covers different phases of healing depending on how their recovery is going, and clients are given a Supplements Sheet for each phase.
Andie Holman, Scar Queen
Q: What Food/Medications/Lifestyle do you recommend to help heal scars?
A: Healing requires a tremendous amount of energy from the body, and the best thing we can do for ourselves is to eat highly nutritious foods. I mean, that’s great all the time but it’s especially important when recovering from surgery or an accident. We are talking real food here, meaning as close to its natural state as possible. The old saying, “you are what you eat” is our mantra after surgery. Your body needs a lot of nutritional support after surgery. When recovering, you need double the amount of protein you normally do, and you want to eat a lot, a lot, a lot of vegetables and fruit. These are the powerhouses of nutrition and cannot be skimped if you want to heal well. Another critical aspect is to get the right balance of fats in the diet to reduce inflammation and support the building of the scar. There are a couple of things to avoid as well – too much sugar, which stiffens cell walls, as well as heavily processed foods. These often contain trans-fats, which impede healing, as well as unpronounceable chemicals that just add a burden to a body already working flat out.
In the course, I give clients plenty of ways to sneak vegetables into your favorite recipes without sacrificing flavor. One of the simplest ways to increase your veggie intake and increase your nutrient levels is to make smoothies, here’s one of my favorites.
I use these fruits and vegetables frozen for convenience and for the high nutrient retention of frozen produce. Pineapple, high in bromelain, is added for its anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing, and wound-healing properties. Blueberries are high in antioxidants which the body needs after surgery - especially vitamin C, which helps rebuild collagen and heal soft tissue. There are three cups of Supergreens in this smoothie, so you'll be dramatically boosting your levels of vitamins A, Bs, C, E and K - all of which help with inflammation, repairing skin cells, supporting new cell growth, boosting immunity, and accelerating wound healing in general. Don't forget greens are high in fiber, antioxidants, iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium as well as phytonutrients and chlorophyll. You need the extra fiber if you're on painkillers as your gut will slow down. I add collagen powder for its positive effects on wound healing after surgery. Now, you can add other fruits and veggies to this smoothie but this is the base and it’s delicious on its own.
This simple recipe gives you three and a half servings of fruits and veggies and makes two large mason jars of smoothie. It will be quite thick and tend to separate, so use a stainless-steel straw to stir and sip. If you want it runnier, just add more water.
And let’s not forget exercise! Regardless of your surgery, you need to move your body to activate the Lymphatic system which is intimately connected to your immune system. I have private videos for students, giving exercises you can do immediately after surgery with the help of a friend. Then, as you get stronger, we add in the Love Your Lymph Moves to encourage the removal of waste from your tissues. Once your scar is stable, we add in rebounding, or bouncing on a mini trampoline. This is one of the best exercises after recovery as it is gentle on the body but provides a terrific boost to immunity. In the course I also teach you what to put on your scar, when to start, and how to massage it with different techniques, all with the aim of keeping it smooth and flexible for life.
Q: Are there any emotional and/or energetic improvements or changes when healing scars?
A: Yes, absolutely. When we’re stressed out, our bodies are flooded with cortisol. Too much cortisol stalls our healing as the body thinks you’re being chased by a dragon and can’t really be asked to deal with your scar. So, we want to use calming exercises while we heal such as meditation, breathwork, and visualizations to reduce stress as much as possible. Studies of meditation have shown it to be an incredible instrument of healing. So, we want to harness our minds and direct that energy towards healing. The course includes studio recorded visualizations to start you on your way.
Q: Is there any scientific research or applications of marine collagen - or just collagen - in healing scars?
A: I did a lot of research for The Scar Course. I wanted to offer as many different supportive supplements as I could so that people could heal well and heal fast. Collagen came up aces in the research, and in particular marine collagen. In one systematic review of marine collagen and wound healing, the primary force of collagen in wound healing is that it stimulates cell production, which is exactly what’s happening when we’re building a scar. Collagen based treatment resulted in a higher deposition of granulation tissue – this is what fills in our wounds and creates a scar. So, collagen speds up healing. (1)
Another study speaks of collagen being “a glue for tissue repair.” The scientists found that collagen supports dynamic connective tissue remodeling events, such as wound healing, where they act to remodel and restore the tissue architecture. (2) Collagen acts as building blocks for our scars. In fact, based on the significant role collagen plays in wound healing, they’re making collagen-based wound dressings now to promote healing! (3)
Another review of the research found that in addition to assisting wound healing, marine collagen increased skin elasticity, hydration, and collagen density. (4) These are all fantastic components of a great scar. We want our end scar to be flexible and strong, and collagen delivers these results.
Just one more! Scientists studied using marine collagen from fish skin on wound healing. They found accelerated healing due to the collagen controlling inflammation and increasing wound angiogenesis, which is a fancy word for the development of new blood vessels that support the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the scar. (5)
So, you can see, marine collagen is making great strides in the scientific world due to its positive effect on wound healing. In The Scar Course I recommend that people recovering from surgery take marine collagen to enhance rapid scar formation. Obviously, we want the source of the collagen to be clean and pure, and I know of the great work you’re doing at Cofo to guarantee just that.
Learn more about The Scar Course and how you can heal beautifully after surgery.