A dear friend is having surgery today, and as I began to think about how I could assist with her recovery, I decided to share some tips. Over 40 million people go under the knife every year in the U.S. This is an astounding number. While good health and preventative care can keep you out of the hospital, many surgeries are unavoidable. Here are some pointers to help prep and surgery recovery. Share this with those you love.
Begin a few weeks out with surgery prep. While there is no need to alter your daily routine drastically (starting with a sudden change of lifestyle can stress your system), there are a few measures you can take to make the procedure easier on your body and to foster healing. Start with diet: get good, high quality proteins, the base of tissue repair. Consume about half of your body weight (in grams) of protein daily. If you weigh 140, get 70 – 80 grams. A palm-sized portion is about 15-20 grams. High quality proteins are wild fish (not farmed), organic poultry, and especially red meat (bison, beef) and lamb, which are high in zinc and iron, essential for healing. Raw dairy, if you are not allergic, is very rich in immunoglobulins to help boost your immune system. Whey protein added to smoothies can be a good substitute.
Take a multi-vitamin daily. If you are a still-menstruating female, take one with iron (about 18mg is standard). It is critical to get the antioxidants: vitamins A, C, E, zinc, and selenium. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium, and the above red meats are good for zinc. Pumpkin seeds are the highest vegetarian source of zinc. I generally recommend avoiding extra fish oil supplements, as they can thin blood before surgery.
Take a good quality probiotic to strengthen your immune system. The majority of your immune system (almost 80 percent) lives in your gut, so healthy gut flora = strong immunity. Avoid excess refined sugar and alcohol. Drink green tea, which has immune-boosting properties.
Certain herbs can help tonify your system. The adaptogenic herbs–astragalus, the ginsengs, schizandra, and rhodiola–can help build strength. AVOID the blood thinning herbs: gingko biloba and red clover especially. Aspirin is a blood thinner as well.
Prepare your mind with yoga and meditation or deep breathing. Visualize health and healing. This can be invaluable to help you mentally.
Holistic Recovery after Surgery
After surgery, you probably won’t have much appetite. Teas can be great, especially mint and ginger tea to settle the stomach and soothe nausea. They are rich in minerals and calm the nervous system. A good bone broth is invaluable for post-surgical recovery. The gelatin and minerals really help build tissue. Bone broth is incredibly healing, and I recommend this over everything else if you only do one thing. “Good broth will resurrect the dead,” says a South American proverb. Easy to make this for a friend, too. Find marrow bones especially and beef or lamb bones from your butcher, and save egg shells for calcium. Put everything in a pot along with carrots, onions, parsley, and celery and cover with filtered water. Add some vinegar to help extract the minerals, and simmer lightly for a few hours. Strain and serve. Do not buy broth from the store–much of it has MSG and other chemicals added, or it is simply not as high quality as what you make at home.
Continue to eat soft and liquid foods to avoid stressing your system. Bone and mineral broths are good, as are rice breads, bananas, and yogurt or kefir if you tolerate dairy. Take it easy on yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Continue on with a multi and make sure you are getting vitamin C for recovery and zinc for tissue repair and healing. Vitamin E applied topically can help scar repair.
Several months after the surgery, when you are feeling back to normal, consider a mild detox to help your body release the anaesthetic and pain killers.
These tips help with accident recovery, broken bones, or injury. Remember: your health is your best asset. Take good care.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.