While natural medicine focuses on healing the body through non-invasive methods, sometimes surgery is unavoidable. What you can control, however, is how you treat your body before surgery. Enhancing your nutrition, mental health, and immunity can have significant implications for your post-op health, including quicker healing times, reduced bruising, and lowered risk of post-surgery complications. In this article we’ll look at some ways to help your body prepare so that You’re at your healthiest on your surgery date.
Back to the basics, everyone! Impending surgery is a good incentive to do a reality check on your diet. Do you consume the recommended five to seven servings of fruit and five to ten servings of vegetables daily? Or do you pass on the lightly dressed salad and settle for a burger and fries? By providing your body with adequate nutrients, you’ll give it what it needs to be able to recover from surgery more quickly.
Prior to surgery, you should focus on front-loading certain key nutrients. Vitamin C helps with tissue and collagen repair and also helps prevent infection, so make sure you consume fruit rich in vitamin C (like oranges, apples, and berries). Some surgeons may also recommend additional vitamin C supplementation beginning several weeks before surgery.
Zinc is crucial for strong immunity, which is a factor in the healing process. It can be found in raw pumpkin seeds or organic organ meats; alternately, you can take a multivitamin or zinc supplement containing 15-30 mg zinc.
Protein is also a must for surgery patients. The ?building blocks? of protein?called amino acids?are used by the body to make new tissue and muscle, as well as repair damaged tissue. If You’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll be happy to know that plant-based proteins are just as effective; see this Health Matters article for ways to ensure that your plant-based diet contains adequate, whole proteins.
Another way to prepare your body for surgery is by supplementation with homeopathic medicine. Because homeopathics work on a minute-dose principle, they are routinely used in babies, children, and in situations where using other natural substances would be contra-indicated (ie., before scheduled surgery).
Arnica helps with pain relief and reduces the potential for bruising or swelling. The recommended dose is two to three pellets (200 ch.) taken under the tongue each day for one week before surgery.
Bellis perennis is a homeopathic remedy used to help prepare for surgery involving the trunk, like abdominal surgery or heart surgery; It’s not helpful for surgery involving other areas of the body, however (limbs, brain, etc.). The recommended dose is three pellets (200 ch), taken under the tongue each day for one week before surgery.
Finally, hypericum perforatum helps prevent nerve damage and associated nerve pain and trauma during surgery. The recommended dose is three pellets (200 ch.) taken under the tongue each day for one week before surgery.
Think mind-body connection
Yes, impending surgery can weigh on your mind. But there are ways to lessen this mental burden without supplementation (which is often contraindicated for surgery patients).
First, engage in meditation. Harvard University’s Mind-Body Institute has shown that five minutes of deep, conscious breathing has the ability to ?reset? your nervous system, letting the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system?which promotes feelings of relaxation and calms alpha wave production in the brain’take over. If anxiety over surgery is keeping you awake at night, try meditating for a few minutes; you’ll notice your sleep patterns beginning to change for the better.
Second, think practical; prepare for surgery by eliminating possible post-surgery stressors. Wrap up projects at work and inform your employer (or your clients, if You’re self-employed) of your surgeon’s recommendation for duration of recovery before returning to work. Get your time off in place now, and err on the side of caution so you don’t end up forcing your body to jump back before It’s ready. Depending on your health concerns and the estimated post-surgery recovery time frame, you may also want to get some pre-cooked meals in the freezer to ease your post-op burden. If you know you’ll be confined to bed rest?or are concerned that your activity level may be compromised?line up help; ask family members or friends to lend you a hand with meals, cooking, cleaning, babysitting, or whatever else you might need. Knowing you’ve got solid plans in place for adequate post-op care can help put your mind at rest.
Watch your supplements
One last caution: natural supplements are powerful, so make sure that you inform your surgeon of all vitamins, supplements, and formulas You’re taking?not just prescription pharmaceuticals. Some supplements or over-the-counter medicines might be contraindicated with drugs you’ll need to take post-surgery. Others might create complications during surgery or during the healing process. For example, supplements like omega-3 fish oil and turmeric (circumin) have a mild blood-thinning effect; even though they’re otherwise beneficial for health maintenance and disease prevention, you should discontinue their use about one week prior to your scheduled surgery to reduce any risk of complications. When in doubt, ask your surgeon and/or your natural health care provider. Hiding information of this nature can be detrimental to your health and recovery.
Impending surgery can be stressful, but preparing yourself physically, emotionally, and practically will increase the likelihood that it will all go well and that you will have what you need to bounce back more quickly after surgery. In the next installment of this two-part series, we’ll look at natural ways to help you heal better after your surgery has been completed.
Katie D’Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently practices in Ontario.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.