Healing From Surgery Natures Way.
First A Big Disclaimer:
In this article, my intention is to help you weather surgery as successfully as my patients who have had to or chosen to undergo surgery have come out doing well. My patients on the following protocol have healed remarkably fast and well. However, the Food and Drug Administration, acting as a trade association and totalitarian strong arm of the drug industry, doesn’t particularly like any freedom of speech that is used to impart information about the helpfulness of natural products. And they don’t like very specific recommendations. So for their sake, I am forced to say that you do not have to follow any of these recommendations, that you should take all specific products and recommended doses with a grain of salt – not that it would improve the taste – and that even though I am a licensed physician, I am not supposed to diagnose and treat by way of the internet. With the last part I am in thorough agreement. There is of course no substitute for going to consult in person with your local naturopathic physician. The largest directory of naturopathic doctors in the United States is this one: www.naturopathic.org.
Although none of us go into it with enthusiasm, sometimes surgery is just unavoidable. Regardless of what part of the body will be operated on, you can approach your upcoming surgery with some natural strategies for preparing yourself both before surgery, as well as a stronger, faster recuperation afterward. This is particularly important for older people because of more delicate health and slow, difficult recuperation. But young people also can really go down hard from a surgery, and bounce back quickly with some of the strategies below, or take your chances with an otherwise laborious and slow recovery.
First, you will want to head into surgery with the strongest immune system possible. This is because microbes will have access to otherwise normally deep, protected tissues. And this is despite the absolute best and state-of-the-art sterilization procedures and techniques in contemporary surgical practice. Even with the best and best-intentioned precautions, there is some risk of infection resulting from any surgical access to deep and vulnerable areas of the body.
Before Surgery You Should Build Up Your Immune System With:
- Vitamin C: Try to get not just Vitamin C tablets, but the packets of fizzing Vitamin C mixed in water such as Electrolyte Stamina or Emergen-C. Drink these right away after mixing with water so they don’t oxidize before they benefit you. A packet should be taken three times a day. If these are not available look for a mineral-protected Vitamin C or an Ester-C or C or something with bioflavonoids, which will offer some protection against oxidation of the Vitamin C. The equivalent of 3000 mg a day is a good dose to aim for with adults, okay for kids too, and best in divided doses, because Vitamin C is water-soluble and doesn’t hang around too long in the body at this dosing level.
- Vitamin A: This is trickier to obtain in sufficient quantity to be helpful, but is massively helpful when you can get it. The problem is that vitamin A can be toxic to a fetus. This is why young ladies on the Retin-A prescription for acne are also given an Rx simultaneously for oral contraceptives, whether they are sexually active or not. Aside from all moral and political implications, vitamin A should definitely not be taken in large doses without this awareness of its abortive potential and the necessary dose precautions. For this reason, you are not going to find huge doses of Vitamin A in a health food store. A pregnant woman should not take more than 30,000 units a day for more than three days, and some rare pregnancies can tolerate even less. You have to consult your personal physician on this. But anyone else, any non-pregnant person can easily take 100,000 units per day for several days and get a significant boost to immune function. Beyond that dose for that time, anyone is subject to possible liver toxicity from build-up of this fat-soluble vitamin. It should be noted that there are individuals who have taken 1,000,000 (one million) units of Vitamin A for several years without any problem. Just make sure that you are also getting a variety of nutrients along with Vitamin A. Also, please be aware that beta-carotene is not the equivalent of Vitamin A. Actually, mixed carotenoids, (alpha, beta, gamma) are better for converting to Vitamin A. A physician can provide you with higher doses of Vitamin A than in a health food store. To find a naturopathic physician in your area please visit www.naturopathic.org.
- Sleep: Sleep is an often forgotten component of good immune health. Try to allow enough time for sleep or at least equivalent time of bed rest during the several days prior to surgery.
Eliminating stress is crucial to good immune function. You may have noticed how often you or others have come down with a cold after a particularly stressful period. It is important to be able to separate external stressors (anything or any person driving you crazy) from your internal response to stress. The first we only have a certain amount of control over, and the second can be affected quite strongly. Two excellent books for this are: Deepak Chopra, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, an old but good book, as well as one of his newer books, Power, Grace and Freedom. Both of these are great guides for releasing the stress that you feel. Another fascinating and more scientifically oriented approach to the same subject is Robert Sapolsky’s excellent book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Sapolosky explains how and why we feel stressed, then shows the physical effects of that stress on the body.
After surgery you have a massive wound that you need to repair. Surgeons are often great, even heroic and life-saving at what they do. But after they sew you up they usually offer nothing to help you heal.
Here is what you need to help rebuild the cut edges of your internal and external wounds:
- Arnica or Arnica Montana: This is a homeopathic remedy available at almost any health food store. Take 4 pillules under the tongue as soon as you are able to after surgery, then about three more times over the next 36 hours (more often if desired or in pain during the first two days). Arnica, like any homeopathic remedy, does not act directly on your body’s needs so much as it alerts the hypothalamus in your brain that there is a problem, in this case a big wound and that healing has to begin right now. Homeopathy works completely differently than any conventional system of medicine. For an explanation of how it works, please see my discussion of it here.
- Glutamine powder: This is sold in all health food stores and there are many different brands. Any one will do, but ignore the instructions on the jar. You will need to take 1 rounded tablespoon in water, 2-3 times per day for two weeks. Don’t worry about the taste. It’s bland, but somewhat chalky in texture. Then, if you’re feeling 70-80% better in a couple weeks, reduce the dose to half that for another month. This will rebuild and re-knit your tissues faster than anything. This dosing is a general recommendation for the average person having most any kind of surgery. See your naturopathic physician for more specific dosing in your case. Please don’t confuse glutamine with gluten, monosodium glutamate or glucose. It is none of those things. Glutamine is one of the most common amino acids in proteins, meaning that you already consume it everyday in healthy foods. But you have a huge repair job to do now, and you would have to eat mountains of food to get enough glutamine. So it will help you a lot more and be more efficient to get the Glutamine (also called L-glutamine) powder at the health food store. Don’t get the capsules; you would have to swallow dozens.
- “Muscle Milk”: A product by the Cytosport Company that provides a way to rebuild torn muscles. Muscle fiber is almost always damaged by the surgeon’s scalpel, cut across or even with its grain, and needing repair, even more than an athlete’s muscles need repair. Although Muscle Milk is marketed to athletes, you need it more as you have more repair to accomplish. Muscle milk works by putting elements in the bloodstream that are similar to human mother’s milk and muscle breakdown products, which nourish and keep muscle from further breaking down. The body likes “homeostasis,” which means constant levels of its biochemicals, so this products works quite well in that regard. This is not a paid endorsement by the way. I don’t do that, for the simple reason that most of the nutraceutical (nutritional supplement) companies have a lot of okay products and then a smaller number of really outstanding helpful products, so I want to be free to recommend the ones that seem to work best regardless of which company they are from, rather than recommend the whole product line of the companies who want me to sign some kind of exclusivity contract.
- N Acetyl Cysteine: This is an amino acid, meaning it is a building block of a protein, and you have consumed it before, mostly in chicken. You will see it in any health food store as NAC or N-Acetyl Cysteine, and in 500 or 600 mg tablets or capsules. You should take two to four of those a day, with more dosing guidelines from your doctor of course, for about a week after surgery. Its role is to thin bile, which makes it easier for bile to do its job of rinsing your liver of stored toxins. This will help get the anesthesia and other pharmaceuticals out of your body. NAC is a wonderful detox for any of us living in a polluted environment, which is just about everybody. No need to stop after one week.
- Bromelain: Last but not least, you don’t want to over-react to the surgery with a build-up of scar tissue. Some of us are keloid formers and scar tissue formers, more so than others. Bromelain is a common enzyme that you have eaten in pineapple, and is in supplement form in the health food store. Another helpful item in this regard is the herb Gotu kola, especially if you have a known tendency to form keloids.
Best wishes for an easy surgery and a comfortable recovery!