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Eight Things to Do to Speed Up Your Recovery from Surgery

Woman Healing From Surgery

The length of time it takes to recover from surgery is different for everyone. Following are things you can do to lessen your recovery time after surgery.

Things You Can Do to Shorten Your Recovery Time

1) Adequate Rest – Most women are sleep deprived even without surgery because they typically take care of everyone around them. 12 to 14 hours of sleep each day is recommended the first week after surgery. For the next three weeks, an extra two hours of sleep a day is recommended.

2) Adequate Calories – After surgery is not the time for weight loss. Your body needs good nutrition to allow for healing of injured tissue. 15 to 20 calories per pound of current body weight is a good guideline.

3) Adequate Protein – Healing from surgery requires increased protein intake. Protein is required for your tissue to rebuild and for antibodies and white blood cells to fight off infection. This is sometimes difficult to do in the first week after surgery when you are more sedentary and may not be as hungry. But target one half to one gram of protein per pound of body weight a day. A hundred grams of protein a day is an excellent target. Consider supplementing your diet with protein shakes or protein bars.

4) Adequate Iron – If you had any blood loss during surgery, then you should take 15 to 30mg of iron a day for the first month after surgery. There are iron supplements available over the counter. These can cause constipation, particularly when taken with narcotics for pain relief. Iron rich foods include spinach, beans, whole grain oats, greens, lentils, shell fish like clams or oysters. Dietary iron is better than supplements if you can get enough this way. Eat a spinach salad with beans and drink a green smoothie to build up your iron and get rich healing nutrients every single day.

5) Water and Fluids – Water is necessary for carrying nutrients to your cells and to flush bacteria and waste from your body. The classic recommendation for water intake is eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day or about one half gallon. This is a fine target for most people. You want to drink about one half to one ounce of fluid per pound of body weight. Gatorade or a drink with electrolytes can help replace lost salts and minerals and help you get additional calories. You can tell you are getting enough fluids if you must urinate frequently.

6) Decreased Activity – After surgery everyone decreases their activity because of the pain. People have different abilities to tolerate physical discomfort so some increase activity faster than others. A good rule of thumb after a major surgery is to minimize your activity for at least two weeks. It’s fine to walk to the mailbox when you feel up to it but don’t go shopping or clean or vacuum. I took my wife to the movies four days after her c-section because she absolutely insisted, but I parked in the handicapped spot. After two weeks of relative inactivity, try increasing your activity to about 25% of your activity before surgery. After four weeks increase to 50%. After six weeks, 75%. Expect to get to 100 percent after 8 weeks. This will vary of course based upon the surgery and the individual. Bottom line: Get adequate rest and allow your body to heal.

7) Fresh Air and Sunshine – It is well known that sunlight helps with the synthesis of Vitamin D. This is certainly necessary for healing. But many holistic doctors also promote sunshine as necessary for the healing process in general. There are different theories about this but nothing definitive. From my experience as a clinician and at times in my life as a patient, I have noticed that people heal faster when they get sunshine and fresh air on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean you should lay out in the sun but an open window or sitting on the porch each day for twenty minutes or longer is a good idea. I suspect so much of the poor health that we see in the developed world is that too many of us are cooped up inside all day.

8) Inner Peace – We all weaken and become ill at times and this can be very frightening. As you heal from surgery, it’s important to focus on whatever it is that brings you peace and comfort. For some, it’s prayer. For others, it may be meditation. But at the core of these things, it’s the ability to feel gratitude for all the blessings we’ve been given. It’s a blessing to be able to walk around pain-free, to have plenty to eat and drink, to have a warm bed, to have people to love and laugh with – and yes, even to be able to go to work.

So while it’s easy to get down while your body heals, it helps to focus on the big picture and be grateful for all you have, including the surgery you just had. After all, there was a time not so long ago when that surgery may not have even been available.