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Nutritional Programs for Pre- and Postsurgery (and Injuries)

© Elson M. Haas MD

Another reminder for improved healing from surgery is to become active and involved in the healing process as soon as possible. Most surgeons and nurses are supportive of this practice and will provide encouragement. "Think/Feel healing"—know, believe, and see (through internal visual imagery) that complete recovery is taking place.

Several specific nutrients are particularly important in this program. Vitamin A in the retinol form helps in tissue healing and immune support. The beta-carotene form, provitamin A, adds further vitamin A and has an antioxidant effect. Vitamin C also improves collagen tissue healing and is needed in regular frequent amounts to replenish the increased amounts of vitamin C used during the stress of surgery and sickness. The bioflavonoids support the beneficial vitamin C effects and aid in tissue healing as well. Zinc is important to tissue healing and immune support through its function in a variety of enzymes. Magnesium also activates many enzymes useful in healing.

The B vitamins are needed, particularly extra riboflavin (B2), which seems to help tissue repair, and pantothenic acid (B5) to deal with the extra stress of surgery. Adequate vitamin K in our diet supports normal blood clotting, so important during surgery. Various other vitamins, such as B1, B3, B6, and B12, and other minerals, such as selenium, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, molybdenum, and cobalt, are also important to healing. Of course, with surgical blood loss, more iron may be needed in the recovery stage to build blood cells. Silica is useful to skin and tissues. Bromelain, the pineapple enzyme, has a mild anti-inflammatory effect and may be useful after surgery to aid in food digestion as well as to reduce micro blood clots (thrombi). Moderate levels of supplemental L- amino acids can be helpful, and some recent research suggests that additional amounts of L-arginine and L-lysine in particular aid tissue healing as well. The essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) are also very important to wound healing.

Healthy immune function is, of course, essential to healing and preventing infections. The antioxidant nutrients are useful in supporting the immune system, but for this program, a lower than usual amount of vitamin E is suggested, usually about 200 IUs and definitely not more than 400 IUs. Vitamin E has been shown in some studies to slow wound healing time, in contradiction of the popular belief that oral vitamin E and topical E are good for healing tissues; many vitamin E caps have been popped and the oil applied to the skin to help in healing. It would make sense to use vitamin A oil for this purpose, as it is a nutrient known for its tissue healing properties.

Herbs can also be used to support wound healing. Horsetail is very high in silica, a mineral that helps strengthen tissues, especially skin, hair, and nails. Goldenseal root is a tonic herb when taken internally and also has mild anti-infection properties. Used locally, it works as an antiseptic. It has been used effectively in helping heal wounds internally and externally, in strengthening mucous membranes, and in ulcer treatment. Comfrey leaf has always been believed to have healing properties when taken internally, though there is not much specific research data to support this observation. It is more often used externally for sprains and bone, muscle, and ligament injuries or internally for broken bones than for healing surgical wounds.

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About The Author
Elson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
 
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