Wolverine Healing – Supplements, Strategies, and Future Science for Faster Healing and Regeneration

By on June 26, 2018

It doesn’t matter how big and strong you are, if you get injured, you’re going to be left vulnerable. This is something that gym goers know all too well if they’ve ever been forced to take weeks off of their training.

Death of Optimus Prime

The saddest moment in movie history…

That’s why recovery and the body’s ability to repair itself after injury or illness are among the most important aspects of our biology when it comes to maximizing performance. And also just not feeling like shit. Our bodies are constantly being degraded over time, but when everything’s working properly, that only creates the opportunity for them to come back better and more resilient than before. As Nietzsche would say: that which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.

That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger

So how can you support this vital process and ensure that you are coming back stronger? How can you rejuvenate and restore your body quickly and efficiently, in order to be able to perform at your very best, every day? How can you develop Wolverine healing (or Deadpool healing) so that nothing can keep you from getting back up stronger?

Deadpool healing

I did some seriously deep research on this one but please keep in mind that I am not a doctor. This is just some cool stuff that I found – it’s up to you to do more research. So, let’s dive and see what options there are.

How the Body Heals Itself

If we want to understand how to develop Wolverine healing, then it would help to first understand how that process works currently.

Wolverine healing factor

When we injure ourselves then, the body responds with a ‘wound healing cascade’ that has four stages:

  • Clot formation
  • Inflammation
  • Proliferation
  • Maturation

The clot formation stage is intended to stop bleeding and also prevent infection from bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Interestingly, the fight or flight response which is triggered immediately following an injury, will help to increase the viscosity of the blood precisely and contract the blood vessels to aid with the formation of clots as necessary. A clot – also known as a thrombus – is formed by blood coagulation and made from platelets and red blood cells to form a plug, along with a mesh of fibrin protein.

Clotting is then followed by a ‘neutrophil invasion’ within minutes following a trauma and which lasts 24-48  hours. These are white blood cells created in the bone marrow which of course have the job of preventing and reversing infections. Neutrophils also cause damage to host tissue however and this is thought to be one of the reasons that they are short-lived.

Faster healing nutrophil invasion

Inflammation continues beyond this point however, with the role of infection-fighting being overtaken by longer-lasting macrophages and other agents. These cells are also what trigger the release of growth hormone – encouraging fibroblasts to travel to the area along with epithelial cells and endothelial cells to begin forming new capillaries and support enhanced blood flow.

Fibroblasts provide the ‘basement membrane’ or ‘collagenous network’ – the extracellular matrix and collagen that serves like a scaffolding and is needed to heal wounds and form new cells. These are the most common cells in the connective tissue of most animals.

Wolverine

Happy birthday!!

Next is proliferation. During this stage an ‘immature granulation tissue’ is born – consisting of new connective tissue and microscopic blood vessels. This appears on top of the skin, produced by the fibroblasts. This tissue forms starting at the edge of the injury and then travels inward toward the centre and begins to form large amounts of type III collagen. Its creation is dependent on the fibroblasts receiving a sufficient amount of oxygen and nutrients via the blood vessels. Meanwhile, cells necessary for regeneration and capillary growth will divide and copy themselves via mitosis.

As this tissue matures during the maturation phase, the fibroblasts will slow their production of collagen, become more spindly in appearance, and produce the stronger type I collagen rather than the weaker (but easier to produce) type III. Some will become myofibroblasts, which contain the same actin found in smooth tissue – this helps to contract and shrink the size of the open wound.

Deadpool Borken Hands

Finally, any new blood vessels that are no longer needed will be removed via apoptosis (cell death). The entire process can take an entire year in some cases.

Healing can take different forms in other parts of the body. For instance, the kidney is capable of regenerating itself primarily via cell division (mitosis), as long as there are some healthy epithelial cells (cells that make up outer tissue) capable of dividing, and a basement membrane of collagen to guide the process.

Supporting Healing

There are a few things we can take from this.

The first, is that inflammation in itself is not a bad thing. In fact, it is now widely thought that using NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce the pain of DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness – the muscle pain felt after an intense workout) might actually impair hypertrophy and muscle growth. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that inflammation leads to the production of growth hormone. Macrophages don’t only produce growth hormone, they also help to break down and dissolve damaged cells such as muscle fibers. They appear in the higher numbers around 24 hours after a workout and then dissipate after 48 hours. Just like DOMS… After this, come ‘non-phagocytic macrophages’ which release IGF-1 and trigger muscle growth. Cytokines – protein molecules associated with inflammation – also help to decrease the production of the muscle-inhibitory molecule myostatin. When you take an aspirin for those sore biceps, you might actually be blunting one of the most important signallers of growth!

Contrast therapy

Likewise, icing inflammation may also inhibit the healing of wounds. It sounds pretty counter-intuitive and goes against much of what we have been taught… but there is a lot of evidence to suggest that this might be the case. Icing may not only slow the recovery of wounds, but also actually limit the extent of the eventual recovery (study) – though these findings are not universally supported (study). Elevating the injured limb is advisable to clear away unneeded fluids and compression is also considered okay. But icing may well be doing more harm than good.

Instead, the best way to encourage healing is to support blood flow to the affected area. And there are numerous ways we can do this – that we’ll be getting to later.

Now you might be wondering about contrast therapy. This involves subjecting a recovering athlete to both hot and cold in an alternating fashion. The idea is that the hot water will cause vasodilation – widening the blood vessels to allow more blood to flow to the affected area – while the cold water will increase vasoconstriction. At the same time, this will also cause the lymph vessels to expand and contract, helping to ‘pump’ stagnant fluid away from the area. This is potentially beneficial seeing as the lymph system does not have a pump mechanism of its own. That said, there is also a possibility that this treatment might inadvertently reduce the good type of inflammation too, and more research is needed before we can definitely put this in the ‘win’ column (study).

Arnie sauna

A sauna might in fact be more useful than an ice bath on the whole, seeing as it will help you relax and de-stress (see below) and aid bloodflow to the affected area. The same goes for massage.

Immunonutrition

Understanding the healing process allows us to consider hacks and potential future technologies to enhance it.

For instance, we might ask ourselves what can improve bloodflow to the injury site, given that we now know this to be very important for recovery. One answer it turns out might be the once-popular preworkout supplement l-arginine. L-arginine is a vasodilator meaning that it opens up the blood vessels to enhance bloodflow. By raising nitric oxide, it might also increase the number of satellite cells that can be used during hypertrophy and other forms of tissue repair (study).

But any vasodilator – such as epicatechin – will also have these benefits. So, most interesting of all, is that it seems that l-arginine is also able to increase the amount of collagen that collects around the wound (report). This is effective for both cutaneous wounds and fractures (study). For all these reasons, it seems that arginine supplementation may be useful during recovery from numerous injuries (study).

Arginine supplementation is most effective when taken at 2% of energy, and only when ‘energy and protein requirements are met’. It should go without saying that protein and carbs in general are beneficial for healing. Arginine is also most effective when supplemented for a time prior to the injury (study). So if you’ve been using a pre-workout for a while, then you might have already developed a littel Wolverine healing! It may not be advisable for cases with active sepsis. That said, l-citrulline may be even more effective in wound healing as a precursor to arginine that is significantly more bioavailable.

The use of amino acids and other nutrients in order to enhance recovery falls under the heading of ‘immunonutrition’. This is a somewhat controversial though very interesting field, with other popular supplements being vitamin C (which plays an important role in the production of collagen) and omega 3 fatty acid – which is just the dog’s bollocks in general as nutrients go. In one study, it was found that mice given vitamin C showed improved wound contraction time, improved collagen deposition, and increased fibroblast numbers (study). Another study showed that vitamin C supplementation could aid in the healing of pressure sores in human participants (study). Vitamin C plays a vital role in collagen synthesis, so its usefulness shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Omega 3 fatty acid

The role of omega 3 fatty acid – pretty much my favourite all round nutrient (everyone has a favourite nutrient right?) – is still one that is interestingly up for debate. Omega 3 is lauded in particular for its ability to lower chronic inflammation. It does this by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. While lowering inflammation might be beneficial in normal waking life, it could actually have a detrimental effect during wound healing – seeing as we now know the importance of that response. Indeed, this is corroborated by a number of studies (study). But with that said, other studies suggest that omega 3 may be useful in shortening recovery times and lowering risk of infection (study, study). In particular, combining arginine supplementation with omega 3 appears to be beneficial to wound healing across multiple studies (study).

It is possible that omega 3 is beneficial to some aspects of wound healing (epithelization for instance) but detrimental to others (collagen deposition). One option is to take a combination of omega 3 and arginine together for the first couple of days following injury and then to reduce omega 3 intake for the latter period. It may be that omega 3 somehow makes the healing process more efficient, thereby reducing swelling for the right reasons. However, more research needs to be carried out before official directions can be ascertained.

You might be able to conjure up a ‘healing stack’ of sorts

Other nutrients that have been demonstrated to support healing include vitamin A, zinc, vitamin K, antioxidants, amino acids. Boron may be useful in bone repair. And anything that raises testosterone and growth hormone will help to place you in a more anabolic state for enhanced tissue recovery.

Lifestyle Changes

With that in mind, you might be able to conjure up a ‘healing stack’ of sorts to achieve that Wolverine healing. You also know not to necessarily reach for the ice pack right away.

But what else might help? Well, one other important factor is likely to be sleep. While some studies have failed to demonstrate a vital role for sleep in healing (study, study), more recent findings have called that into doubt.

It also stands to reason that sleep would help with healing: after all, sleep is the most ‘anabolic state’ during which time we see huge spikes in growth hormone. During sleep, we also see an increase in cell division (study, study). In another recent study, it appeared that sleep was actually more important than nutrition for recovery (study). Super sleep = super healing.

General rest and avoidance of psychological stress is also probably a good idea. Psychological stress increases the production of cortisol and other stress hormones which can blunt the repair process (study). For instance, if you were to injure yourself while preparing for a stressful exam, you would likely find that the wound was slower to heal than it otherwise might be. Countless studies show a link between self-reported stress and delayed healing (study) and this is also true for muscle repair (study).

Goku healing

Stress it appears can actually impair the initial inflammatory response and reduce the production of cytokines  (study, study) – which presumably is an evolutionary mechanism intended to allow us to escape a dangerous situation before inflammation limits movement. The role of stress then is to plug your wound and provide you with enough energy to get out of danger. Cortisol even increases myostatin production – which breaks down muscle tissue to use for fuel. It also increases susceptibility to infection, prevents cell infiltration at the wound site and more (study). Once safe then, it is entering a more relaxed state that will help the body to focus more on recovery.

All this also explains why pain itself and the fear of permanent damage can both actually slow down healing. Apparently, believing that pain will become chronic actually increases the likelihood that it will (study).

Rocky injured

Resting is also a good idea for a whole host of different reasons when it comes to recovery. Apart from anything else, it will prevent re-injury and the formation of compensatory movement patterns. It’s why I take a whole week off of training now once every month or so. I made a whole video recently on the importance of recovery in training, so be sure to check that out.

Future Possibilities

Hopefully you now have a fairly good idea of how to support your body’s natural healing processes and perhaps some things to avoid. But if you really want Wolverine-esque healing, then you’re going to need some real

We know the importance of the extracellular matrix and might consider using a more potent exogenous form of this component. This is exactly what some scientists have been doing: using extracellular matrices derived from highly regenerative pig-bladders in order to help heal a wide range of severe wounds. These pig guts provide the scaffolding necessary for tissue repair (study) and were rare in the fact that they were able to retain their basement membrane when removed.

Cell limb regeneration

Anyone got some pig guts I could use?

In the nearer future, we may be able to look forward to things like BPC 157. This is a peptide containing 15 amino acids which is derived from human gastric juices. It was originally synthesized to help treat inflammatory bowel syndrome and gastric ulcers but has since been shown to be useful in regenerating bones, muscles, ligaments, and more (study, study). BPC 157 appears to help by increasing angiogenesis – the formation of new blood vessels. It also appears to promote growth hormone production. Currently it is not thought to have any side effects. But while the substance is already being used by some bodybuilders, keep in mind that most studies so far have used rats and that it is still undergoing human trials. Not only that, but it involves purchasing drugs from an unregulated online source – which is always inherently risky. It is also most effective when administered intramuscularly or subcutaneously, meaning it requires a syringe. Do your own research, proceed with caution, and at your own risk. Don’t come crying to me if you turn into the Lizard.

Kurt Connors

This is actually only one of several such miracle peptides. Another is TB 500, which this time is the synthetic version of TB4 (thymosin beta 4) which is naturally produced in the thymus gland. It is able to up-regulate such cell-building proteins as actin, which aids with cell multiplication and migration, along with wound sealing.

In the future and with more study, these drugs may be available over the counter or on prescription.

Another area that may lead to superhuman healing – or better yet regeneration – in future is gene doping. This more transhuman approach currently focuses on a number of specific genes, including LIN28. LIN28 is a gene that is active in the womb but dormant during adulthood in most mammals. When the gene is turned back on in mice, they develop the ability to heal puncture wounds in record time and even regrow lost toes (study) – though it did also cause the mice to grow unusually large and hairy. The gene appears to work by regulating the self-renewal of stem cells and accelerating the metabolic rate. Drugs may be able to mimic these effects without the need for gene modification in future.

Likewise, when the gene P21 is turned off it appears to enable appendage regeneration in mice, and healing without scarring (study). And of course there are countless other fascinating areas being looked into right now too – including the WNT signalling pathway used in fracture repair and embryonic development (study), stem cell treatments, and more. Scientists are also looking at a strain of mice called MRL mice that have the ability to repair a range of wounds and even regenerate larger portions of missing limbs.

Don’t come crying to me if you turn into the Lizard

What’s interesting about all this is that it appears that humans actually already have the dormant ability to regenerate limbs and heal wounds and many of the same pathways are responsible for growth and repair in the womb. The question you might ask at this point then is: why does it turn off? The answer may simply be that in the wild, the sheer amount of energy required to regenerate a limb wouldn’t be worth the ultimate gain. That is to say that attempting to regrow a limb might have been a death sentence for prehistoric man, thus the natural selection saw that we lost the ability.

Wolverine mouse

Today we live in much safer and more plentiful times. And so it’s likely only a matter of time until new treatments become available, or even until future transhumans are granted the permanent ability to regenerate lost limbs – giving us all Wolverine healing!

Transhuman healing

And then we can all be a whole lot more reckless… Which is a good thing…?

 

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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