In less than 24 hours I went from planning my weekend to planning emergency surgery… well, not quite ‘emergency surgery’ as I was lucky enough to have five days to prepare my body for it. But out of nowhere, one of my wisdom teeth got infected and started to cause me angst! What’s worse is that after having x-rays, it was evident that the tooth that was giving me issues was sitting up against one of my nerves. Hmmm no wonder I was in agony.
After seeing a few different dentists, it was pretty clear that I couldn’t just get my wisdom tooth extracted in the chair under local anaesthetic; the risk of paraesthesia (possibly permanent altered sensation of the lip, tongue, facial skin and mouth as a result of nerve trauma) was too high. No way did I want to have half of my face paralysed!
After having a consultation with my surgeon, I was booked into to have all four of my wisdom teeth extracted surgically in five days’ time. Another stressful aspect of this situation was that I HAD to have intravenous antibiotics. I was told ‘it’s just standard procedure’.
I asked my surgeon if I could be an exception and I even asked my holistic doctor for a medical exemption. I was so adamant I didn’t want to have any form of antibiotics (let alone intravenous antibiotics) near or in my body, especially as I have spent the last three years rebuilding and repairing my gut health.
Unfortunately I had no luck because as my wisdom tooth was infected, it would have made the operation quite risky, resulting in septicaemia or osteomyelitis. I felt pretty devastated hearing this news, however I knew I had five days to prepare my body for the surgery, so I went to work … and as always, I turned to real foods to use as my medicine.
I’ve put together some tips that will make not only your lead up to surgery smoother but your recovery a whole lot easier, enabling you to return to health quicker.
As every surgery is different depending on the specific health issue, you might choose to adapt some of these tips and recommendations based on your own individual health situation.
6 Ways To Prepare Your Body for Surgery
There are currently over 7,000 studies researching the efficacy of turmeric and its active (anti-inflammatory) component curcumin. Turmeric is also antibacterial, is a natural pain killer as it reduces inflammation, boosts immunity, aids liver detoxification, aids your body to deal with stress, its antioxidant rich, aids digestion and contains many more health benefits.
The day I realised I had a tooth infection, I started drinking a Turmeric shot.
- 1tsp of Turmeric with a pinch of black pepper
- Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in filtered water
- 1 Tbsp of Kultured Wellness coconut yoghurt (for the high quality fats and probiotics)
All of these ingredients ensured that the curcumin component in the turmeric was absorbed more effectively. I did this 3 or 4 times a day for two days in a row. The results spoke for themselves, the very next day the pain was almost completely gone and the inflammation had subsided considerably.
Unfortunately I couldn’t continue taking the turmeric leading up to the surgery as I later found out I had to avoid all blood thinners, even natural ones such as turmeric, ginger, garlic and olive leaf. As soon as I got home from surgery, I continued to have my daily turmeric shots.
- Disclaimer: thin blood can be dangerous during surgery since it may not clot properly. It’s important you talk to your doctor or surgeon so you know which medications, supplements and real foods will need to be avoided and for how long.
2. Coconut Oil Pulling
This was another one of my saving graces. Oil pulling is a fantastic oral detoxification practice. You simply swish a few teaspoons of coconut oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. I opted to add in a few drops of the highly potent oregano oil for maximum antiseptic and antifungal properties, as oregano oil is also a natural antibiotic and aids in the treatment of infections. I did this three times a day, as it helped to manage my pain levels and reduce the inflammation surrounding my tooth. Another added benefit was that my teeth got whiter and brighter each time.
Anyone who knows me will know how much of an advocate I am for gut health. Like Hippocrates, I truly believe that ‘all disease begins in the gut’ – click here for 6 easy ways to support your gut health. So I made sure I did everything I possibly could to prepare my gut and body the best way I could for the unavoidable antibiotics and drugs. My probiotics of choice are the coconut yoghurt and coconut water kefir cultures from Kultured Wellness. I use them because of their therapeutic grade probiotic potency. The Kultured Wellness coconut water kefir contains 27 billion CFU per cup, and the coconut yoghurt contains 42 billion CFU per cup. These cultures are one of my favourite foods ever as there are so many benefits. They help to balance hormones, boost immunity, increase energy, fight infection due to their antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, increase antibodies, contains enzymes and a variety of beneficial probiotic strains, help to remove toxins from the body aiding in restoring a healthy flora within the body.
Due to my sore mouth and painful and infected tooth, I was on a liquid diet because chewing was just too painful. These are just a few of the recipes I made that incorporated a whole host of nourishing, nutrient dense real foods.
Probiotic Drinks I Consumed:
- I also juiced celery, parsley, lemon, lime, cucumber and basil – a great tonic for the kidneys
- Lemon & Beetroot Detox Kefir (mine was fermented for 24-36hrs)
- I also made a Berry Protein Smoothie made of: organic berries fermented in Kultured Wellness coconut yoghurt and kefir, chia seeds, vanilla, lime juice, camu camu powder, stevia, avocado, collagen and ice.
For a break from juices and smoothies, I would make up a small batch of them and add them into ice-block moulds so I had something cold and soothing for my mouth and gums.
4. Bone Broth – Gelatin – Collagen
All three of these foods provide a bioavailable form of minerals, trace minerals, calcium, magnesium and amino acids which are essential for healing of the digestive tract, hormonal balance, digestion, sleep, liver detox, skin and hair, nails and TEETH health. Additionally, the amino acids found in these foods promote probiotic balance and growth. This is how I used all three foods.
- Bone broth: I sipped on this throughout the day and used it as the base of my soups/purees
- Gelatin: I added in extra gelatin to the bone broth I drunk throughout the day
- Collagen: Unlike gelatin, collagen doesn’t ‘gel’ or ‘set’ so it can be easily stirred into juices, dips, smoothies and soups. I also used it as my nutrient dense ‘protein powder’ in smoothies. This kept me feeling satisfied, not heavy or too full.
5. Loading up on Veggies
It would have been really easy for me to just stick to sipping on bone broth, smoothies and juices leading up to my surgery. But the downside to that is that my body wouldn’t have been receiving enough nutrient dense vegetables and fibre. Fibre is really important for balancing blood sugar levels, aiding detoxification, promoting a healthy gut microbiome and decreasing inflammation. So the high fibre vegetables I ate were:
- Avocado – which I added to every smoothie I drank
- Berries and figs – I fermented these and added them to my berry smoothie
- Onions, garlic and leek – I added these to my pureed soups
- Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli – These were the base of my pureed soups
- Chia seeds – I added these into my smoothies.
I made my Cauliflower Puree in many different ways by adding in different ingredients to keep changing up the flavour profile. Sometimes I would add in:
- dehydrated broth, collagen and/or coconut oil
- fresh herbs – dill, thyme or oregano
- vegetables – zucchini, broccoli, garlic, onion, leek, bokchoy
- spices – chilli, cumin, coriander or curry powder
- extra bone broth if I wanted it more ‘soupy’ and less thick.
If I felt like I hadn’t had enough protein and fats I would add in extra gut healing grass-fed butter or ghee along with slow cooked chicken meat or fish, both pureed nicely into these soups/ purees.
6. Stress Management
Stress adds so much havoc to your body, as it suppresses the immune system, decreases nutrient absorption, slows down the blood flow to the digestive system and turns off or turns down our body’s healing processes.
We know how important stress management is, however sometimes it’s a lot easier said than done and is a constant work in process. However, if stress is not managed, it weakens the immune system over time which doesn’t allow the body to fight off bad bacteria and viruses, resulting in systemic inflammation and leaky gut.
This is not something I wanted to happen to me, I needed my body to work to the best of its ability so I could have a speedy recovery. To decrease my stress levels, I:
- had magnesium salt baths with lavender oil before bedtime
- walked along the beach for relaxation and to connect with the earth
- meditated at least once a day (even if for just 15 minutes)
- watched a funny movie or TV series to allow my body to release more tension.
There were many other things I also implemented or changed in my diet and lifestyle leading up to my surgery; however the ones above had the most dramatic and positive effect on MY body.
Disclaimer: the goal of this blog post was to share my own personal experience and information as I seek to use nutrition and a natural lifestyle to improve my own health. All the information in this blog post is not to be construed as medical advice or instruction. Please consult your physician or qualified health care practitioner on any serious matters regarding your health.