How to Heal Faster After Surgery: Post-Surgical Nutritional Therapy
When it comes to recovery from intense trauma to the body, like an auto accident or surgery, food can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Research shows that even one week of high stress can deplete your nutrient reserves over 65%, and that’s just a tough week at work!
Making sure your diet is helping you BUILD & HEAL & REPLENISH will not only shorten your recovery time, but it will help you feel better faster, and get you back to kicking butt at life.
When I work with clients going into or coming out of surgery, I like to explain that there are three priorities their nutritional protocol should address, and it’s all around supporting their body to do what it naturally wants to do, by giving it the raw materials it needs to do them:
The body needs to:
(1) Anti-inflame, (2) Replenish, & (3) Rebuild
The healing process in your body is a beautiful system of both inflammation and anti-inflammation. You need both of these processes in order to address damage and dysfunction in your body efficiently, but you need them in balance.
If you don’t have enough anti-inflammatory “power” to match the “clean-up” that needs to be happening in your body, the healing will slow or stagnate, tissues will not be rebuilt properly, and inflammation will continue to keep your immune system busy and running amok.
After a trauma like surgery, this becomes that much more crucial because your body needs so much more anti-inflammatory power, as there is so much more to heal than in everyday life.
This is the #1 priority for speedy and successful recovery!
◦ No processed foods or sugar, low or no processed carbohydrate (breads, pastas, rice, etc). High insulin (mostly caused by carbohydrate consumption) blocks the PG1 pathway for prostaglandin anti-inflammatory production (your ability to anti-inflame). High blood sugar and even a little sugar consumption is also stressful to the body and depletes nutrients all on its own. Let’s just cut that out for now.
◦ Hydration: Water! It is the most important nutrient to your body. Calculate how much you need:
▪ Bodyweight / 2 = bare minimum oz water. Add pinch of sea salt to help body utilize it.
▪ Diuretic oz * 1.5 = additional oz of water you need to drink
◦ Good digestive practices to ensure the break down and absorption of all these great nutrients!
▪ Lots of chewing, very little beverage during and 30 mins after eating, relaxed when eating, supplement a little digestive bitters or a Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in a little water right before a meal to stimulate stomach acid release.
◦ Add: Seafood at least 3 x a week, more if possible (Omega 3s)
◦ Add: Flaxseeds and/or chia seeds are decent omega 3 sources I add to my yogurt sometimes
◦ Lots of berries & dark green veggies (anti-oxidants)
◦ Cholesterol-rich foods (needed for healing & new cell creation as well as creation of good hormones) from good fat sources
◦ Consider removing nightshades which are inflammatory (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, & peppers)
◦ Eat nothing you are potentially sensitive to like dairy, nuts, gluten, etc. I would prefer no gluten consumption at all for anyone, as it causes intestinal permeability in EVERYONE on earth. Fact. Let’s keep the unnecessary immune response to a minimum!
• Nutrient Boost:
◦ Essential Fatty Acid supplements that supply both Omega 3s and Omega 6 GLA (fish oils and Borage or Evening Primrose Oil) - These make your anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
◦ Turmeric w/ black pepper - Shown to greatly reduce inflammation and even pain the same or better than most pain medications but naturally (I took it after my brain injury instead of pain meds and did great).
◦ Proteolytic enzymes: reduces recovery time and is anti-inflammatory (helps bones and tissues). Please double-check with your surgical team to make sure there aren’t sutures or scar tissue that needs to form first.
Trauma, healing, and stress to your body uses up a great deal of your nutrient stores. Some of these nutrients can take quite a while to replenish, and if your diet is not on-point and you aren’t supplementing, it can take even longer. It’s like only buying $5 of gas when you’re running on empty.
As listed above, a blood sugar control diet with high variety of vegetables and animal products will be your greatest asset, as it minimizes waste of nutrients handling the stress response from blood sugar spikes and drops. Make sure your digestive process is functioning well, so you can breakdown and uptake as many nutrients as possible. Below are the nutrients most commonly depleted by stress or trauma to the body, like surgery.
• Nutrient Boost:
◦ Magnesium (500-800 mg) (the anti-stress mineral - stress and trauma depletes this, as does a higher sugar/carb diet)
◦ Calcium (800 - 1200 mg) (Also quickly depleted by trauma and rebuilding)
◦ Vitamin C (4-6 g a day) - used up quickly in stress
◦ B vitamins, particularly riboflavin (B2) and pantothenic acid (B5)
Any time there is stress, strain, and trauma to the body, repair and rebuilding is needed. This is a healthy, positive process, but injury, intense physical activity, and especially surgery causes a lot of damage that needs to be repaired and a lot of rebuilding that needs to happen in a short period of time.
Below are the factors you should consider and supplements you may want to take to boost your body’s arsenal of material for the rebuilding process.
◦ Diet mentioned above!
◦ Short or long-cook broths at least a big cup a day of the broth or a soup made from it: This is filled with nutrients from the animal’s tissues that will feed the rebuilding of YOUR tissues. This is a must, as it is a delivery system that is 100% natural and easy for your body to absorb and use!
• Nutrient Boost:
◦ Hydration!!! 65-80% of cartilage and other tissue is water
◦ Collagen: pre-cursors necessary to make collagen synthesis:
▪ Amino acids
▪ Vitamin C
◦ Amino acids, particularly L-lysine and L-arginine for tissue rebuilding
◦ Zinc (increased use for stress, tissue healing, serious illness or injury, infections)
◦ Vitamin A (10,00-20,000 IU only used for 4-6 weeks, 5,000 IU otherwise daily)
◦ B vitamins, also above
◦ Vitamin C, also above - collagen tissue healing and immune system boost
◦ Calcium, also above
◦ Magnesium, also above
◦ Chromium (200 mcg), if you are deficient, will slow healing and increase arteriosclerosis and diabetes. US has highest incidence of deficiency due to depletion in our soils of chromium, thus depletion in our food source.
• Microbiome Boost after Antibiotic Use:
◦ Promote the health of good flora by eating the diet above. Little or no sugars please!!!
◦ Supplement a good probiotic with lots of NATIVE strains in it. The best I know of right now is Prescript Assist. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 a capsule for a few days and go up to 2 a day for a month, then down to 1 a day. Consider switching products after several months.
◦ Eat a wide variety of probiotic foods throughout the day, like whole fat plain yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut.
◦ Eat as many vegetables and as big of a VARIETY of vegetables as possible. This is the best way to feed and nourish your microbiome so it can do all the amazing things you want it to do like make vitamin B12, vitamin K, and signal anti-inflammation.
◦ Lifestyle factors: Go out in nature, get in the garden, spend time with dogs, and have regular sex with your partner (nutritionist’s orders!!) to regain a good variety of flora as well as some of the flora you had before. I know it sounds gross, but it’s the truth!