Updated: 10/7/23; Originally Published 2/8/23
Sometimes we find ourselves staring at surgery as the best option for fixing an injury. You have made your decision, found the best surgeon for you (you talked to 3 including one you had to travel for right?), and now need to get ready for your medical intervention so your body can repair and fully heal.
Ideally, all of the ideas in this post are part of your normal Wellness Lifestyle but you kick things up a notch or two or three in order to prepare for surgery. If your surgery is planned and you have 3-4 weeks or more in advance to add these ideas into your life, great! If you are on a shorter time scale (emergency!), then pick and choose what will have the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time and just focus there.
- Pre-Surgery Inflammation Reduction Strategies
- Add These 4 Things to Take Away Inflammation
- Stop These 3 Things to Lower Inflammation
- 10 Benefits of Pre-Surgery Exercise
- Dealing with Stress and Pain
- Is Your Nervous System Turning Off Healing?
- 10 Ways to Shift Into A Parasympathetic State for Maximum Healing
- Nutrition to Fuel Your Surgical Recovery
- Load Up on Richly Colored Organic Vegetables & Fruits
- Eat and Supplement Your Fat Soluble Vitamins
- Eat Protein to Repair Your Body
- Balance Your Minerals for Healing Power
- Eat and Drink for Connective Tissue Repair
Pre-Surgery Inflammation Reduction Strategies
Whenever you are injured or fighting an illness, your body is supposed to ramp up inflammation to stimulate healing. However, when your inflammation hangs around too long it starts to drain resources, damage the body, be generally annoying, and slow down future healing.
To prepare for surgery, you will benefit from some proactive steps to reduce any chronic inflammation that you have which would negatively impact your surgery itself or your ability to heal quickly and easily afterwards. Not all of the ideas below will be attractive to you, but they could all be helpful! Still, you are here to learn and you will pick and choose the ones that will have the largest impact for you.
Add These 4 Things to Take Away Inflammation
- Add Red/Infrared Light Therapy – Light Therapy with my Joovv system is the single most successful inflammation reducing action that my clients rave about. All you have to do is stand or sit nude in the reddish glow and let the light do its work.
- Add Medicinal Mushroom Extracts – Medicinal mushrooms or functional mushrooms are ones that have significant health benefits but not necessarily culinary delicacies. Chaga is choc full of inflammation reducing antioxidants and is also a fabulous blood thinner! Reishi is known as the longevity mushroom for its ability to support liver self-repair and immune capabilities. Turkey Tail support a healthy gut microbiome by offering prebiotics to keep your internal gut beasties happy. I have a preference for the double liquid extracts from LifeCykel that I also sell to my clients.
- Add Homeopathics – Homeopathics combine plant medicine with energy medicine to remind your body how to work better. When preparing for surgery, your focus will be on those remedies that help reduce unwanted inflammation. A reasonable guess as to your starting remedy might be Pekana’s INFLAMYAR pellets that lie under the tongue as they dissolve. There are more options of course and if you are my clients we can discuss them all!
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Make sure you are getting enough of these fatty acids that make up the membranes of your cells and mitochondria. A happy membrane is one that reduces inflammation and keeps the cell in a healing state. Adding in chia seeds to your yogurt, smoothies, pudding, and more or starting your day with Spirulina (a superfood algae) will boost your healthy fatty acids and give you a little boost in protein. My clients with an aversion to pills or with gut/digestion issues adore the Citrus Flavored Omega-3 Gel that they put into their Custom Supplement Subscriptions. My Omega-3 supplement of choice is Super Omega-3 Plus because of the additional anti-inflammatory ingredients.
Stop These 3 Things to Lower Inflammation
- Remove Sugar From Your Diet – I know this is harder to do than to type – especially when you start examining your fruit versus vegetable consumption. However, lowering your sugar intake takes a big load off the liver, reduces inflammation in your blood vessels, gut, and cells, and allows your body to focus on healing the parts of your body related to your upcoming surgery.
- Remove Alcohol – We all know that alcohol is a neurotoxin and challenges the liver (whose job it is to cleanse your blood of toxins). Why distract your body from the healing you have coming up? If you want to relax in the evening, have one of the many magnesium based drinks or make a sparkling beverage using one of the healthy juice shots from your Farmers Juice share.
- Remove Inflammatory Foods – You know which ones that are for your unique body! The ones that make you feel bloated, gassy, irritable, tired, racing heart, stuffy nose, or encourage poor sleep that night. Yes, you can look up lists of which foods are the most inflammatory in general, but I hope you also have (or create right now!) your own personal list of foods to avoid when you want to really focus on eating clean.
If you are in the La Plata, Maryland area and want to explore using my red/infrared light therapy tools or discussing further how you can reduce your inflammation pre-surgery, let’s talk!
10 Benefits of Pre-Surgery Exercise
Most doctors and physical therapists that are concerned for your overall wellness agree that an important step in preparing for surgery is to keep exercising as much body as you can without pain. Exercise is a beneficial stress to the body that prepares you for surgery (and helps you heal from it!) in many ways. When I am helping a client use exercise to prepare for surgery (called pre-hab exercise), they receive:
- Stimulation of blood flow and healing
- Creation of endorphins that block pain and improve mood
- Adjustments to each exercise so their body parts do not get cranky
- Balance to the nervous system – pain is stimulating, relaxation is healing
- Greater definition to their brain’s internal body map
- Increased strength and awareness of their deep stabilizer muscles
- Increased oxygenation of tissues all over the body – your stabilizer muscles in particular
- Safe opportunities to use their power muscles for whole body movements
- Experience recognizing messages from the body and sensations that are not actually pain
- New movement patterns to keep them from future injury and discomfort
If you would like to take advantage of my movement/body knowledge and injury related expertise, I’d be happy to work with you and your body when you are ready!
Dealing with Stress and Pain
Pain is absolutely a message from your body to your brain that you are not supposed to ignore. It is a sign that something is wrong! However the nerve pathways that signal pain to the brain can get overworked and become dominant. They carry messages faster than other sensory pathways. Pain is stressful which creates a cascade of changes throughout the body. Healing will only happen when you lower your stress and turn off your pain. Not through a pill! There are other, better ways!
Is Your Nervous System Turning Off Healing?
Stress hormones can have a big impact on your preparation and recovery from surgery. Increased cortisol will keep your sympathetic nervous system ramped up resulting in reduced healing when what you really want it to boost up your parasympathetic nervous system which promotes healing. How do you know which state you are in right now? I can offer one quick test and one that takes longer to receive the results.
- Stop and Breathe – Hover the tips of your fingers in front of your nostrils – one for each – and breath in and out. Which nostril has the highest flow? Right nostril indicates your sympathetic state or your yang energy. Left nostril indicates your parasympathetic state or your yin energy. Throughout the course of 24 hours, you are expected to bounce back and forth between these two states. If you are reliably hanging out with a bossy right nostril, you are more stressed than you thought! And spending less time in the parasympathetic state we call “Rest & Digest” or “Tend and Befriend”.
- Request a Hair Mineral Analysis – The operation of your nervous system depends on minerals. One of the most valuable findings (besides the Life and Death Ratio) from a Hair Mineral Analysis is the relationship between Calcium and Phosphorus called the Nervous System Ratio. This data tells you about the overall state of your nervous system over the last 6-8 weeks or more depending on the length of hair sent in to the lab and how fast your hair grows (thyroid hormones!).
10 Ways to Shift Into A Parasympathetic State for Maximum Healing
Healing requires your nervous system to be in a parasympathetic state. If you want faster healing, you will want to limit your time spent “stressed” to times when you are encouraging beneficial stress – like exercise! How can you get yourself into this much needed state of healing?
- Yoga – Yoga is well known for its ability to balance your nervous system and take away emotional, mental, and physical stress. It can be a great healing tool but it is not for everyone – especially if you are injured and do not know what to do with your body to take away the pain during a class. If you are my client, your yoga class will completely accessible and appropriate for you since I am well trained in dealing with injuries.
- Cry – Crying is a terrific cue that your parasympathetic nervous system is now more active than the sympathetic part. Well Done!
- Pilates – Pilates is less well known than yoga but is a fabulous tool for calming the nervous system, oxygenating your tissues, and building strength and stability from the inside out. You might have never thought about strength as starting with your brain and nervous system but it does!
- Laughter – Laughter truly is good for the soul and the nervous system. Have you ever noticed that at certain times you laugh so much that you cry and have a hard time stopping? Stress relief to the max! If you need a good laugh, come to one of my group Pilates classes. Laughter is an added benefit!
- Meditation – Meditation is about focusing your thinking on something particular and letting your brain do what is needs to most. Your brain regulates your entire body. Sometimes it just needs a few minutes to readjust its priorities in order to support healing. When you set the mental intention to heal as part of your meditation practice, you might be surprised at how much of a boost you get from just thinking! If you need some Guided Meditation Recordings to help prepare you for surgery and the healing afterwards, consider requesting your Personalized set of meditation recordings from me – custom selected and adjusted to meet your needs.
- Grounding – Grounding can be a simple as putting your feet directly onto the soft grass or beach sand and staying there for a few minutes. When you ground, you are electrically connecting to the Earth and borrowing electrons to help with calming your nervous system, bringing energy and healing to the body, and supporting detoxification on a cellular level. When those options are not open to you, you can purchase a grounding mat that helps bring those electrons to your feet when you are sitting at your desk working or to your back while you are sleeping!
- Fascial Release – Your fascial system is a sensory network that talks to your nervous system – sometimes without your brain being involved. Did you know it is possible to have an exercise class whose whole purpose is to make your connective tissue, nervous system and brain happy again? There is! My fascial release class is called Zen Through Fascia. Try one and you will want more.
- Epsom Salts Bath – Whether you soak only your feet or immerse your entire body, Epsom Salts provide both magnesium and sulfate that please your nervous system and support healing. I have found that not all brands are equal, so if you try one and it seems to do nothing, feel free to ask me for my favorite brand of Epsom Salts!
- Aromatherapy – The wonderful thing about aromatherapy and essential oils is that seconds after you smell something, the scent goes to your brain and you get an emotional response. When you choose essential oils that are completely natural, plant based, and therapeutic in quality, the emotional and nervous system response is amazing and can last for days. One of my services is to create a custom blend of essential oils for you based on a smell-feeling chart we make together.
- Sexual Arousal – This should be no surprise! Sexual Arousal is very calming for both men and women even though some sort of stimulation (maybe just the right sexy words!) is typically involved. Go ahead – try it. No expectations. No goal. I’ll be here when you get back!
Nutrition to Fuel Your Surgical Recovery
You do not want to make drastic changes to your diet if you are already injured and preparing for surgery, but you can and should make daily food choices that support your goals of sailing through surgery and recovery to be 100% again. Your main focus on the nutrition front will be 2 fold: 1) getting as many nutrient dense foods into your day as you can and 2) supporting terrific gut health.
Load Up on Richly Colored Organic Vegetables & Fruits
Richly colored organic vegetables and fruits contain many bioflavanoids and anti-oxidants that will grow your ability to heal. If you are local to Charles County, Maryland you are lucky enough to be able to get your veges from Next Step Produce and pick them up here at Zen and Vitality! I advocate eating seasonally as much as possible, but when preparing for surgery and an increased need to heal, you might need to dip into the non-local sources more than usual in order to get enough. One of my non-local sources is our monthly group order of cold-pressed organic vege juices from Farmers Juice.
Eat and Supplement Your Fat Soluble Vitamins
The fat soluble vitamins are all important for your immune function and the distribution of nature’s bandage – calcium – throughout the body. They must be present in the body in balanced amounts in order for everything to work well. All too often we supplement one (e.g. Vitamin D) without checking in our levels of the others. For many people it is a simple act to shift to eating more avocados (Vitamin E), more eggs and grassfed butter (Vitamin A), and incorporating greens into every meal (Vitamin K). Others of us need a balanced supplement to boost everything up together. My favorite is UltraVitamin from Quicksilver Scientific which is available to my clients either by itself or as part of their Custom Supplement Subscription.
Eat Protein to Repair Your Body
Protein in foods gets broken down into its constituent amino acids which then help create new body parts! No you will not grow a third arm, but you do need to repair the damage which is instigating the surgery and the additional damage that surgery will create. Excellent protein sources are meats, eggs, fish, nuts, chia seeds, algae, and dairy. Foods rich in protein tend to feel heavy in your belly if you are not digesting protein well. Luckily there are also protein options that are easy on the digestion – amino pills or powders that can be made into a drink or a pudding. My favorite is BodyHealth’s PerfectAmino.
Balance Your Minerals for Healing Power
Minerals are often overlooked but they power your body by enabling the various processes to happen at all. Which ones do you need? All of them! Some in large amounts and others in small (trace) amounts.
A great way to get started is to add BEAM Minerals (fulvic and humic minerals) to your day. Their liquid form tastes good in a shot glass and blends into your morning mold-free coffee, tea, or water. BEAM Minerals provide more trace minerals than you can find in modern day foods and make a huge difference in how you will feel.
If you have a bit more time, consider doing a Hair Mineral Analysis. The data and analysis provided will guide your food choices better than playing the guessing game. Random supplementation is rarely beneficial in the long term but if you in a hurry you could focus on foods rich in Selenium and Zinc.
Eat and Drink for Connective Tissue Repair
Connective tissue, also known as your Fascia System, is often overlooked when it comes to surgery and food. Connective tissue is everywhere in your body: tendons, ligaments, the saran-wrap-like layer under your skin, the hammocks that hold your organs in place, the sheath over every muscle fiber, etc. Fascia repair and growth requires ingredients:
- Vitamin C – If you want to get serious about bringing vitamin C into your cells, you will want to bring in the liposomal Vitamin C formulation from Quicksilver Scientific. It works way better than the little tablets you chew or even an orange because of its encapsulation by fatty acids that brings it through the cell membranes.
- Collagen Peptides – Glycine and other amino acids (tiny bits of protein) are criticial ingredients for building new connective tissue. You can get your collagen from using bone broth in your recipes, adding collagen powder to your yogurt, smoothies, and more, or by eating cuts of meat that require slow, moist cooking in order to properly break down the connective tissue in the meat (so you can make use of it and also enjoy the meal!).
- Copper, Zinc, and Iron – All three of these minerals support the production of collagen and elastic – the main components of your connective tissue. Imbalances in your intake will negatively affect your ability to heal. Functional mushrooms can be a great source of all 3 minerals. Lifecykel’s double liquid mushroom extractions contain both water soluble and fat soluble forms of medicinal mushooms like shiitake, reishi, and more. Superfoods like spirulina and chlorella are algae sources of copper, zinc and so many more wonderful nutrients. My favorite brand is Energy Bits (check out the nutrition info of their products) which my clients can get in small amounts or large amounts from me. Your algae supply can also be included in your Custom Supplement Subscription.
- B vitamins – B vitamins can be obtained from many foods depending on your diet. If you need a boost in your B’s, you can add in those wonderful medicinal mushroom liquid extracts I have mentioned several times in this post. Algae like spirulina and chlorella both have a nice blend of Bs (there are so many!) to augment your diet. I also recommend a few supplements depending on your needs: a liposomal Methyl B complex and a capsule Bioactive Complete B Complex.
- Sulfur or Sulfate – If your gut allows you to, make liberal use of garlic, onions, cruciferous vegetables, and other sulfur containing foods. If soaking your feet or whole body into an epsom salts bath is more your style, enjoy! Just dump your used water into your food garden – or at least outside to return to the soil and Earth.
- Healthy, Good Tasting Water – Plenty of water coming into the body will keep the blood a consistency that flows well in your blood vessels to bring nutrients into the cells and toxins out. I like to use my HEAL Capsule to improve the quality of my well water at home. At Zen and Vitality, I also use a Berkey filter on the city water provided by the town of La Plata. You can learn more in my post about healthy water.
If you would like help making sustainable adjustments to your diet to support your upcoming surgery and the healing thereafter, please schedule time for us to talk about how we can work together.