Therapeutic Supplements For Improving Surgery Outcomes
Sometimes surgery is necessary in an emergency situation as a life-saving act. Usually for these types of surgeries there is little or no time to prepare.
Many surgeries however, are planned procedures, leaving ample time to prepare.
It is amazing that 50 percent of people admitted to hospital for surgery are malnourished. ((Patel GK. The role of nutrition in the
management of lower extremity wounds. Int J Low Extrem Wounds. 2005 Mar;4(1):12–22.)) A malnourished body will be at a greater risk for complications and have a prolonged recovery and healing time.
The following recommendation may be applied both pre and post-surgery.
Broad Spectrum Multi-vitamin-mineral
All known vitamins and minerals are essential before, during and after surgery either to promote healing, enhance immunity or both. By including a good quality multivitamin you cover the basic nutrient requirements of all essential nutrients. (It is essential that you use a good quality multi, as some multi's on the market may be more harmful than beneficial).
Proteins are the building blocks of all our body tissues. They are used to repair and build damaged tissue.
In times of rapid growth (i.e. pregnancy, children, body-building and surgery) we require a greater amount of protein to avoid breaking down more tissue (catabolic) than is being built up (anabolic). In fact, under stressful conditions that body actually looses the ability to manufacture certain amino acids (the building blocks for protein). ((Kendler BS. Supplemental conditionally essential nutrients in cardiovascular disease therapy. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2006 Jan;2(11):9–16.)) ((Sole MJ, Jeejeebhoy KN. Conditioned nutritional requirements: Therapeutic relevance to heart failure. Herz. 2002 Mar;27(2):174–8.))
Fish Oils and Omega 3s
Every single cell in our body is surrounded by a double-layer of fats. Thus, when new cells are required, the demand for fats increase.
The omega-3 fatty acids offer another very important feature for patients recovering from surgery. They are the precursors to anti-inflammatory compounds in the body.
The importance of getting inflammation under control post-surgery is two-fold. Firstly, if inflammation can be reduced, pain can be contro
lled a lot more effectively. Second, by controlling inflammation, the healing process is bolstered.
The most potent omega-3 fatty acids for decreasing inflammation are from fish oils. They offer the long EPA form of omega-3 which is easily converted into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (PG3).
Fish oils also:
- Reduce infection rates and shorten hospital stays ((Heller A, Koch T. [Immunonutrition with omega-3-fatty acids: Are new anti-inflammatory strategies in sight?]. Zentralbl Chir. 2000;125(2):123–36.))
- Improve liver and pancreatic function ((Heller AR, Rossel T, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids improve liver and pancreas function in postoperative cancer patients. Int J Cancer. 2004 Sep 10;111(4):611–6.))
- Decreases deaths from surgery ((Tsekos E, Reuter C, et al. Perioperative administration of
parenteral fish oil supplements in a routine clinical setting improves patient outcome after major abdominal surgery. Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):325–30.))
The most abundant protein in the body is collagen. It is the base protein for all of our connective tissue and bones. In order for collagen to be produced in the body we need both ample amounts of vitamin C and protein (already discussed). Surgery greatly enhances the need for collagen production.
Studies show that vitamin C speeds up the healing of fractures. ((Sarisozen B, Durak K, et al. The effects of vitamins E and C on fracture healing in rats. J Int Med Res. 2002 May;30(3):309–13.))
Zinc is another key player in the production of collagen.
Animals that are deficient in zinc have greatly compromised wound healing compared to those with adequate zinc status. ((Kaplan B, Gonul B, et al. Relationships between tensile strength, ascorbic acid, hydroxyproline, and zinc levels of rabbit full-thickness incision wound healing. Surg Today. 2004;34(9):747–51.))
- All supplements should be discontinued 2 weeks prior to surgery. Supplements can be commenced once the patient can eat solid food.
- Each patient requires a specific combination of supplemental nutrition. Consult a qualified health care practitioner to determine the appropriate regimen.
Surgery is sometimes a necessary treatment, but there are many ways we can improve success of the surgery, decrease side-effects and speed healing.