Natural Ways to Speed Surgery Recovery

Supportive practices for post-surgery recovery
A nurse pushing a woman in a wheelchair down a hospital hallway.
© Can Stock Photo / Kzenon

Hospitals aren’t known for the quality of nutrition they deliver on those plastic trays or the supplementary support a whole person needs for healing. You can improve your outcome by preparing for surgery with nutrients that strengthen your body and by remembering that post-surgery is also a time to nourish yourself. Those important first hours and days after surgery can be managed with a little planning that will support your recovery and get you on your feet sooner.

Heal the body

The insult to your body, though well-intentioned, will eventually repair but many factors can interfere with your recovery rate. Observing some simple practices can greatly improve not only your healing speed and efficacy, but the very success of the surgery itself.

More water

In the United States (though not as much in Canada), often the first sip of fluid offered upon awakening is clear soda. This is not going to help you heal because it lacks nutrients, adds another burden for your liver to detoxify, and sugar promotes inflammation. Ask the loved one accompanying you to bring you a better choice such as unsweetened coconut water (which also provides electrolytes), alkalinized water which may help reduce acidity and restore the body’s pH level, or at least 100%, low-glycemic, not-from-concentrate fruit juice to get some easy-to-digest nutrients with your hydration. You can also add powdered forms of vitamin C or homeopathic pellets to your water.

Dietary nutrients

Hospital food is industrialized and notoriously lacks nutrients. If your stay is a long one involving meals, choose the healthiest options available on the menu—salad, unsweetened yogurt, or fresh fruits—and ask your loved ones to supplement the offerings.
Adequate protein intake will be especially important for providing the building blocks your body needs to put itself back together. Add a non-artificially flavoured protein powder to juice, yogurt, or other food. Ask your medical team if you can snack on nuts, seeds, or protein-dense food bars. You can consider protein drinks and shakes but read the ingredient label and avoid the ones with corn syrup and other processed and artificial ingredients. Once you are at home, focus on white fish, eggs, and poultry as protein sources which can be easier to digest than red meat. Lentils, beans and rice are also good choices. Chew well and consider a digestive enzyme if you are having problems absorbing nutrients from your foods.

Supplements

Your goal now is to heal without an infection, abnormal swelling, or excessive pain, and supplements can help this process. If you are permitted to eat regular food, you should be able to resume your multivitamin, minerals, probiotics, and fish oil regimen as well.
Vitamin E is very helpful in preventing clot formation. Eat avocados, nuts, and seeds, or take 400 IU as mixed complex. Consult your physician first, especially if you take any other medication.

Also consider taking glutamine (an amino acid) in protein powders or capsules, collagen, and consuming bone broth to decrease inflammation, improve healing, and help heal the gut from antibiotics.

Rest

Your body can’t heal if you don’t rest! Sleep is when our body does its “house-keeping” and you will need more than your usual amount to restore and rebuild. Honor this time and resist the urge to go back to work or school sooner than suggested, as it will only hinder your progress.

Attend rehab as your medical team has suggested but listen to your body—some days you may just need to stay in your jammies and heal on your bed or couch.

Your hard-working adrenals, which regulate your stress, are in overdrive after any surgery! Chill out so they can restore faster too. Otherwise, chronic fatigue and soreness can linger much longer than you want it too.

Cut your extraneous commitments and let your social circle know you’ll be taking a break.
Recruit help from friends and family before your surgery. Arrange to have the neighbor take your kid to school for a few days and see about having the grocery store deliver to you.

Bank meals in the freezer beforehand and don’t force yourself back to your usual household routine any sooner than necessary.

Keep the healing area as elevated as possible while you rest. Use hot and cold packs to increase circulation, bring in nutrients, and wash away toxins by encouraging new blood to flow to the area.

Pain management

Postoperative pain can be destructive by increasing the cellular stress response. The autonomic and somatic reflexes are diminished, resulting in protein breakdown, sticky blood which can clot, and a suppressed immune system. Low oxygen from shallow breathing and poor passage of fluid through the circulatory system can slow down the repair that tissue is undergoing and constrict blood vessels which also hinders healing. Though there are side-effects associated with pain medication, these can usually be managed more easily than pain itself, so take medication as prescribed so that pain doesn’t interfere with healing.

Easing pain with homeopathics

If your prescription period has elapsed and you could still use a little support, there are herbal and homeopathic remedies that can see you through the final stages of healing, including essential oil patches and topicals. By using homeopathic remedies, you might even be able to decrease as-needed pain medication and boost healing as these do not interact with any medication or other pharmaceuticals.

The best homeopathics to start with are Arnica 200C and Staphysagria 200C. Take three pellets of Arnica under your tongue (don’t touch them) right after the surgery to help with pain and then about two hours later, take three pellets of Staphysagria to help with blood clotting and tissue strength. Continue every few hours for a day or two then decrease to two or three times per day as needed. You can also take five pellets of each remedy, add to water, shake well and then sip as needed for pain control, 30 minutes apart from food or drinks. These can be discontinued anytime and should be stopped entirely a month after surgery. If problems linger, consult your homeopathic specialist for a more specific remedy.

Heal the mind

Surgery is not just an assault on your body, but your mind, spirit, and psyche too. Take advantage of the idle time by listening to meditative music, reading that book you’ve been meaning to, or partaking in gentle healing activities like reiki or acupuncture. Reduce recovery stress by engaging in meditation or alternative practices (like these ones) that produce similar beneficial effects on the brain.

Give yourself a pat on the back for taking charge of your health and look forward to the improvement that your surgery will bring. Following these suggestions will make those improvements that much better, and many of them can contribute to the continued maintenance of your health, so make rest, hydration, and a diet rich in nutrients a lifelong habit!

Sign up for our e-newsletter!