Natural Healing After Surgery

Natural tricks to speed healing after a surgery.

| January/February 2003

When emergency surgery rudely interrupted my life last year, I sailed through the procedure. The recovery process, however, was a different story. A veteran of two Caesarean sections, I figured I knew the score when it came to bouncing back from surgery. But, unlike my past operations, this time it took a full six weeks from the moment I woke up in the recovery room until the time I was finally able to resume my former life.

When your life is turned upside-down by major surgery, it can take weeks, even months, to fully recover. Fortunately, there are a host of natural ways to get you back on your feet fast.

Nutrition now!

Surgery taxes the body’s organs and tissues—the more invasive the procedure, the greater its demand on the body. No matter how healthy your pre-surgery diet was, what and how you eat after surgery directly affects the healing process.

According to Elson M. Haas, M.D., founder and director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, California, one’s diet immediately after surgery should be lighter than normal. Many hospitals offer the standard fare—from beef stew to enchiladas—for a patient’s first meal after surgery, but a postsurgical body, just beginning its journey toward recovery, is often unable to properly digest fatty or processed food. It’s wise to request a liquid or soft diet initially. Unfortunately, in most modern hospitals, that means low-nutrient foods such as bouillon, gelatin, coffee, and colas. Better options, says Haas, are protein or nutrient powders, vegetable and meat broths, fresh juices, light soups, and pureed fruits and vegetables. If your hospital is unable to provide these alternatives, Haas recommends having family and friends bring you healthy contraband.

What if you’re just not hungry? It’s a common complaint among patients after surgery and can result in involuntary weight loss and delayed healing. To perk up your appetite, try sipping some lemon balm tea several times a day. In Germany, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is licensed as a standard medicinal tea to stimulate the appetite. Better yet, it is a natural sedative that can help you get the rest you need.

If you suffer from postoperative nausea—a condition that can be triggered by anesthesia—reach for a cup of ginger tea. Clinical trials have found that ginger (Zingiber officinale) is effective and safe for calming a queasy stomach. In fact, a systematic review of six studies by the University of Exeter in England found that ginger was superior to a placebo, and two of the studies reported the herb was just as effective as metoclopramide, a common anti-nausea drug.

2/3/2015 5:48:31 AM

Dr Haas rocks! I have huge respect for his work. The advice about the effects of surgery on immunity should be more widely publicised. Apart from a healthy diet (so vital at any time but even more important when an operation is pending), I always recommend to my patients that they take a good multivitamin/mineral, extra Vitamin C, the herb echinacea, and - to help reduce the risk of gut dysbiosis so often caused by antibiotics - take the best probiotic supplement they can afford. Do this at least 2 weeks pre-op and six weeks post-op. Kathryn Marsden Nutritionist

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