By Dr. Brooke Azie-Rentz
Growing up an athlete meant lots of injuries, fortunately none ever requiring surgery. However, I was always fascinated by the human body and its ability to heal and repair, so much so that I almost became an orthopedic surgeon. Life had other plans for me, and after pursuing an undergraduate degree in Physical Therapy, I now practice as a primary care physician. Although this does not allow me to scrub in for surgery, it does allow me to help my patients in other ways, like educating patients in how best to prepare their bodies for surgery and maximize healing efforts once on the road to recovery.
Wound healing involves the activity of an intricate network of blood cells, tissue types, cytokines and growth factors. All of this activity results in an increase in cellular activity which in turn causes an intensified metabolic demand for nutrients. Here at AIM, we have developed a pre and post surgery protocol that makes sure to supply the correct amount of nutrients needed to meet this higher demand. I won’t bore you with the actual amounts, but I will give you some info on the most important nutrients needed during this healing time.
- Calcium- needed to build and maintain bone
- Iron- helps carry oxygen to wound sites in the form of hemoglobin
- Zinc- plays a vital role in the immune system by reducing inflammation, decreasing bacterial growth and decreasing scar tissue creation. It helps speed the process of healing by being a key component in enzymes needed for this process to occur correctly. Deficiency in zinc can lead to worsening of a scar.
- Vit A- has an affinity for the skin and mucous membranes and why it helps with healing and growth of collagen
- Vit D- helps in bone healing through the absorption of calcium
- Vit E- antioxidant and disease fighting properties
- Vit K- helps wound healing response, blood clotting and aids in bone repair
- Vit C- Critical to wound healing! It is responsible for making connective tissue/collagen formation, a free-radical scavenger, supports immune function and works as a major anti-oxidant! Trauma is known to increase the body’s metabolic rate, which in turn decreases the amount of Vit C available to the body.
- B vitamins- have been shown to speed up wound healing, increase protein synthesis and increase the amount of “repair cells” present at the wound site. This can help prevent excessive inflammation and make for shorter recovery times.
- Bromelian (pineapple) – In addition to its uses as a digestive aid, when taking away from food, is a fantastic anti-inflammatory. It can reduce swelling and bruising, speed healing and recovery time, and prevent adhesions from forming.
- Essential Fatty Acids- (flax oil containing DHA and EPA) – capable of shifting the production of cytokines away from those that produce inflammation and more towards ones that are anti-inflammatory. In addition, they make cell and mitochondrial membranes more resistant to stress, which reduces tissue damage and prevents an over excitatory inflammatory response.
- Rutin and bioflavonoids- helps by protecting and stabilizing blood vessels to prevent bruising and excess bleeding. In addition, bioflavonoids support the actions of Vit C.
- Arnica 30c homeopathic- reduces bruising/inflammation and helps clear up the healing process
- Phosphorus 30c homeopathic- helps decrease the potential for pneumonia related to general anesthesia
This list seems a little overwhelming, especially if thinking about how many pills it would take to get all this in! Luckily, some supplement companies have made it easy, providing combination products such as First Intention™ by Integrative Therapeutics®. At AIM, we have a convenient handout that easily lays out how to get the levels of these vitamin and nutrients into your body as easily as possible. Remember, many substances are contraindicated a few days before surgery due to the potential to thin the blood and decrease clotting. So we recommend that people start treatment 2-4 weeks before surgery that way you can build up levels and still have time to stop 3-7 days before surgery, and then restart supplements for another 4-6 weeks post surgery.