No matter how wonderful your doctor, you play the starring role in your health.
I’ve just had a minor op, which ended up giving me major recovery time that was neither anticipated, nor expected.
Thinking about it, I feel it could have been avoided, or minimised at the very least.
So I did some digging. And I wanted to share some of these discoveries – and the wisdom of hindsight – with you.
Depending on the type of op you’re having, you can’t go wrong with starting on a course of vitamin C and zinc for a week or two before you go under the knife.
Vitamin C’s wound healing properties are well-documented in scientific publications.
Zinc is essential for the many things involved with wound healing, including scar formation.
I started on a course as soon as I was told the op was happening, a good week before going under the knife.
I also ate as healthily as I could – loading up with salads, fruit and vegetables. Eating all the right types of foods.
Although I was seen by doctors on their rounds every day, I wasn’t given any nutritional or dietary advice whatsoever, despite the fact that my GIT (or digestive system) was the op site.
This included the pharmacist who came to explain the importance of taking my supercharged oral antibiotics every 8 hours for 7 days. He also omitted to state the importance of taking them before food so that they didn’t damage my intestines.
Perhaps this was a contributing factor as to why I had to stay an extra two days longer than planned in hospital.
My blood pressure was in my boots. I was still in quite a bit of pain. The nausea was overwhelming and I could hardly touch food.
I often took the antibiotics on an empty stomach – my appetite was on furlough.
And mealtimes and medication times were very distant relations.
I have lost four of my family members to cancer, Over the years, I have gathered and researched as much information as I can about immunity, diet and wellness.
And the hero that emerged in all of this was ancient Hippocrates with his maxim:
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
I think Nature is amazing and offers most of what we humans could possibly need to survive – and thrive.
This time, I’d somehow dropped the ball. Perhaps because I wasn’t feeling great at all.
I think anaesthetic gives you a bigger hit with age, or perhaps you just take longer to bounce back than you did from having your tonsils out at age six.
Perhaps your digestive system takes a while to fire itself up again. Part of having an anaesthetic involves being paralysed with muscle relaxants.
If you had to unfold, unfurl and flatten out your entire digestive system, it will supposedly cover the surface of an entire tennis court. So it’s a lot bigger and more important than perhaps we give it credit for.
In fact, your digestive system accounts for 80% of your immune system.
That’s pretty vital
What should you do, post op?
After surgery, it’s better to have smaller, more frequent meals; no matter where the surgery site is.
Anaesthetics and antibiotics can wreak havoc on your digestive system.
It’s absolutely essential to replace the loss of the ‘good guys’ like lactobacillus acidophillus – the healthy bacteria that live in your gut and play a vital role in digestion and immunity.
The best ways of doing this are:
- Having natural yoghurt with live cultures
- Taking probiotic supplements
- Eating kimchi, sauerkraut and sourdough bread
- Drinking kombucha or kefir, fermented drinks that replenish the necessary family of bacteria called Lactobacillales.
- Adding gelatine (or its vegan alternative, agar agar) to your diet, especially in soups and stews. Gelatine is rich in collagen and protein and is known to heal and seal the colon.
- Bone broth is an excellent source of gelatine; ideally, start with one cup a day a reduce as your health improves.
Wherever possible, always choose the freshest products you can get; opt for grass-fed or organic options if you can afford them.
Be sure to add:
These healthful foods are great additions to your post-op recovery:
Green, leafy vegs – especially kale and spinach for fibre and vitamins
Berries – every kind, every colour – high in vitamin c and antioxidants
Water – flavour if you need to or drink as black herbal tea
Chicken and fish – vital protein building blocks
Nuts, seeds and avos – for essential magnesium
Try to avoid:
- High sugar foods with added sugar. They give you a quick sugar rush, followed by an even quicker crash. And the ‘bad guys’ bacteria just looooove sugar.
- Processed and fast foods, including microwave meals and tinned foods. They may be easy and convenient, but they have little nutritional value, delay your healing and, even worse, can leave you constipated.
- Alcohol – for a good week or two, at least. It thins the blood and delays healing. Especially if you’re on painkillers, It can create a toxic cocktail.
Pain sends the best intentions flying out the window. Manage your pain well and you’ll be better equipped to heal.
Take your prescribed pain meds regularly for at least a week or two post-operatively. Once you’re IN pain, the meds take longer and have to work harder to relieve your pain.
Rest as much as you can. Listen to your body. Have that sleep. Who cares if your bio clock is up to pot the first week or two? You’ll get back into your rhythm soon enough.
Your body has work to do. Healing happens best when you’re at rest.
That said, don’t forget to keep moving. Bed rest has more complications than benefits.
Try sitting up in an armchair for an hour or two each day. Walk about the house slowly and regularly. Don’t overdo it, but keep moving slowly and steadily whenever you can.
Even if you’re in bed, squeeze your muscles tightly and then relax them.
Keep your blood flowing.
Your best physician is you
That’s the ultimate conclusion I came to:
No matter how good or well-meaning your surgeon, your anaesthetist, your GP or your entire medical team – your health is ultimately in your hands.
They are ‘medically-brained’, schooled in the art of treatments, procedures, medications, operations.
No one can be everything. And they are unfortunately not also hands-on nutritionists, dieticians, wellness therapists.
So you be the best physician. You be the chef.
And feeling good is your choice..