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 Nutritional Medicine: Nutritional Programs for Pre- and Postsurgery (and Injuries)  
  • Pre- and Post Surgery Nutrient Program (And for Healing Injuries)

  • This program, although it is simple, can really make a difference—a few changes and supplements can lessen stress, improve healing, and prevent infections after surgery. I have done my own independent research through the years, suggesting a program similar to this for my patients who have had elective surgery, and they have routinely told me that "the doctors and nurses couldn’t believe how fast I healed and was up and about" — and invariably there were no complications. In addition, many medical studies reviewing postsurgical healing time and morbidity, particularly from infections, have shown that with a few basic nutritional supplements, namely vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc, healing time speeds up; in addition, there are fewer complications, and people are out of bed and out of the hospital sooner.

    Many doctors, particularly surgeons, resist these findings. I do not know whether this is due to economics or because they just do not want to believe that taking nutrients in higher dosages than "normal" is necessary. I would bet that having patients follow a few basic nutritional suggestions would improve both doctor and patient success. A good nourishing diet and additional vitamin C, vitamin A, and zinc with adequate fluid intake will usually do it. More recently, I have had patients scheduled for elective surgery tell me that their surgeons suggested they take additional supplements starting two weeks prior to their operations, so there may be some progress in regard to nutrition in the general medical profession.

    I suggest that anyone having elective surgery should follow this program for three to four weeks prior to and four to six weeks after surgery. With emergency or urgent surgery, it is wise to begin taking the extra supplements as soon as possible and to eat the most nutritious diet available. This program will also work to support tissue healing following an injury, burn, or other traumas or with an infection or sickness that causes tissue damage. My surgical program is designed to increase the reuniting of collagen fibers, facilitate protein metabolism, and strengthen the immune system.

    General measures important to healing include proper rest and sleep, fluid intake, and, of course, a nutritious and balanced diet high in fiber and low in fats and junk foods. High-quality protein foods (fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds) are essential because tissue healing requires protein synthesis, so our body needs all of the important amino acids. A "healthy" intestinal flora is also important to health and healing. Additional Lactobacillus acidophilus culture may help replenish the colon. The diet should also contain adequate amounts of high-fiber foods (whole grains, vegetables, and legumes), calcium foods (greens, grains, nuts, and small amounts of dairy products), and foods containing essential fatty acids (some nuts, seeds, or vegetable oils). Congestive foods (excess dairy products, sweets, and baked goods) and fatty foods (fried foods, heavy meats, and ham and other cured meats) should be avoided.

    Minimizing and handling stress is also essential to keeping the immune system strong, which is in turn important for preventing infections and supporting healing. It is wise to stay away from steroid drugs, both topical and systemic, as they suppress our immune system. Doctors tend to overprescribe and patients to overuse these steroid medicines. Smoking should be stopped or minimized if possible before surgery. Avoiding stimulating drugs, such as coffee and cocaine, and sedating drugs, such as alcohol and marijuana, prior to elective surgery, is also a wise idea.

    (Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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     About The Author
    Elson Haas MDElson 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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