Supporting yourself through surgery
Sometimes we are faced with health issues that require medical intervention, including surgery. From caesarean sections and repairing broken bones, to tumour removals and laparoscopies. Surgeries are not pleasant, but they can be life-changing and life-giving. While I do not have a great deal of experience around every surgical procedure out there, having had two surgeries in the space of two months for a very much unexpected health issue has been very eye-opening in understanding and assessing my own health.
It has shown me that no matter what we do to support our well-being, our health can still fluctuate. This does not mean we should stop taking care of ourselves at all, rather it is an opportunity to learn about ourselves and learn new ways of supporting the emotional and physical body. It might even mean letting go of long held beliefs about good health, and relearning what supporting our cells truly means.
Depending on the degree, the type and number of surgeries required, they are certainly mentally and physically exhausting, draining, and difficult – that much I can say from experience! A lot of care before, during and after surgery is essential with the means and support around you to do so.
With my own surgeries, I felt there was not much I could do in terms of supplementation because I was on several medications and I did not have the energy to check whether there would be any contraindications So, I mostly utilised nutrient dense foods (discussed below) and asked for home cooked foods from my family.
Something I found interesting is that after each surgery, quite a few people commented on how great I looked given the circumstances. My surgeries were on the right side of my face and neck, and if the area was covered by my hijab or hair, I looked completely normal, happy, and healthy! I truly believe the many years, time, and effort I had already invested in my health beforehand, helped my body in dealing with the physical and emotional trauma.
I did say that I would share what my surgeries were for, but it has affected me mentally more than I expected, especially because I thought this phase of my life was over. But unfortunately, I recently received more devastating news which means I will require further treatment. When I was preparing notes to talk about it the experience, it made me super anxious – I literally struggled to sleep that night. So, I spoke to my husband about it and decided I am not yet ready to share my personal health issues and treatments. As soon as the decision was made, I felt a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. I think I’ll know when I am ready 😊Nonetheless, a few women did reach out to me explaining that they were going to have surgery done and so, this article is for you.
Here are some of the things I did (and still am doing!) to support my health.
The information provided does not constitute as medical information or replace medical advice. Please ask your doctor, healthcare practitioner and/or nutritional therapist before starting any new supplement or therapy. Some surgeries require medications and antibiotics beforehand, so it is crucial to double check with your doctor and health practitioner whether any supplements will contraindicate any medication.
- Eating plenty of animal-based protein-rich foods. Proteins are building blocks of cells and are needed to synthesise hormones and neurotransmitters. In order to support the post-surgery healing process, eating more protein was (and will always be) essential.
This included lots of raw milk, eggs, lamb, chicken, beef, prawns, oysters, fish, collagen powder, gelatine, etc.
- Home-cooked foods
Of course, there are countless benefits to eating home-cooked meals for health reasons, but the main reason for prioritising home-cooked meals was to avoid inflammatory seed oils. Eating at home and asking family members to cook for me enabled me to focus solely on saturated fats (ghee, butter, coconut oil, etc.), for blood sugar balance, fat-soluble vitamins, skin hydration, and digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Most importantly, saturated fats are not easily oxidised by heat, light, and oxygen, and therefore are safer and more stable to cook with and consume.
Surgery is an emotional and physical stressor, and sugar lowers stress-induced cortisol and provides strong protection against the negative effects of stress on the body. Our cells’ preferred energy source is sugar, so I ensured I consumed plenty of the carbohydrates that feel good to me (honey, fruits, potatoes, rice, cane sugar, orange juice, sourdough bread).
Post-surgery hospital stay care
- Simple skincare:
I certainly did not have the capacity for my usual skincare routine, but I think this did my skin some good. Just leaving it alone and letting it interact with its environment made my skin super soft, calm and blemish free. We often forget our skin is a very wise, highly resilient, self-regulating and adaptable organ, that needs to be left bare on occasion to achieve homeostasis – on its own!
On the days where I did have the buoyancy for some self-care, I did simple water cleansing (just washing the face with water), followed by the Saturée Face Cream for hydration and gentle exfoliation (it contains salicylic acid) and Saturée Lip Balm for nourished lips.
Use code TAYYIB for 10% Saturée Skincare and Supplements: www.saturee.com.au
- Chamomile tea daily
Chamomile is one of the most affordable, soothing, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, nervine, herbs out there. It is great for relieving anxiety, mental or physical discomfort and calming the nervous system. I like Tea Pigs or Pukka chamomile tea bags. I asked the nurses for a mug of hot water and drank this daily, and continued to drink it daily after being discharged too.
- Being under anaesthetic and taking medications that caused constipation, senna tea was extremely helpful. I had 1 cup a day in the evening before bed. It is important to not overconsume senna tea and rely on it for a bowel movement.
- Baths with clay, Epsom salts and baking soda:
For the clay powder, I used bentonite and rhassoul clay to help draw out toxins, heavy metals and remove radiation.
‘Clay is basically inert super charged minerals, and it gets its negative electromagnetic energy charge from the thermo dynamic heat and volcanic action that created it. When activated by water the clay awakens with a strength that radiates throughout the body, stimulating energy for the rebuilding and revitalization of latent cells, and starts a healing process. The body needs this energy to restore harmonic balance essential to healthy maintenance. In addition, this superpower has the ability to absorb harmful, toxic substances from within the body, tightly bind them within the molecule, and carry them out of the body.’ (https://www.foodmatters.com/article/bentonite-clay-a-safe-and-effective-detox-from-radiation-build-up)
Epsom salt baths are a great way to absorb magnesium through the skin. When going through a heightened stressful period, plasma magnesium levels increase, and urinary excretion of magnesium also increases. Plus, magnesium deficiency is associated with higher stress levels, making us more vulnerable to the effects of stress (sleeplessness, anxiety, fatigue, constipation/changes in bowel movements, headaches, muscle stiffness, etc.).
Baking soda soothes irritated skin which was extremely important for me. After a few weeks of antibiotics, I unfortunately had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics I was given, which caused itchy, red rashes all over my body and tiny bumps on my face. It looked like I had first degree burns! Some research in patients with psoriasis has shown baking soda baths are effective in reducing itching and irritation.
Baths in general also boost blood and lymphatic circulation, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the peripheral parts of the body, supporting immune health, and increasing removal of carbon dioxide and other metabolic waste materials. It is an easy way to relax, increase sleep quality, lower tension and anxiety, and give your skin an extra glow.
I do not have specific measurements for each ingredient, but I reckon I use around 1 cup of bentonite or rhassoul clay, 5 cups of Epsom salts, and a few tablespoons of baking soda.
- Slow movement
As soon as it was feasible for me to move, I stuck to walking. It wasn’t easy to do every single day, but when I could muster the energy, a quick 10-minute walk is powerful enough to make a difference mentally and physically.
Now that two months have passed since my second surgery, I am able to do more intense forms of exercise, such as Pilates and weighted workouts. However, I keep these more intense exercises to a minimum (twice a week for 10-20 minutes) and take plenty of breaks between sets, to avoid overstressing my body.
- Homemade marshmallows
I did unfortunately need some additional help to calm my nerves and anxiety as it was affecting my sleep. I usually do experience some insomnia during my luteal phase, so always check your calendar to see what cycle day you’re on and to see if it coincides with any cyclical changes. However, I was insomniac outside of this time. For 4 consecutive nights, I slept between 4am and 5am, and woke up feeling anxious at 8.30am, unable to go back to sleep, mainly due to the sadness and stress over my diagnosis.
Homemade marshmallows changed my evenings completely. I put one in my hot chocolate after dinner and instantly feel CALM and just CHILL. Physically, emotionally, mentally chill. It was such a pleasant feeling after only feeling anxious or distracted for so long. The only way I could cope with anxious thoughts and overthinking was to keep myself distracted with TV, social media, books, and family/people. While those are not bad things, it just wasn’t quiet. My mind was always still constantly overloaded. So, the marshmallows just helped me switch off for a while.
I use the Saturée halal-certified bovine gelatine powder to make marshmallows.
Use code TAYYIB for 10% on Saturée Skincare and Supplements: www.saturee.com.au
- Wunder Workshop Botanical Guardian Tincture
Surgery and medications do a number on your immune system. To slowly build my immunity back up, I started this herbal tincture once a day, and I am loving it so far. It contains well-known immune-boosting herbs like echinacea and elderberry, and also something called mustard flower essence, which I had not heard of prior to trying this tincture. Mustard flower essence is “chosen for its ability to lift heavy clouds of gloom and uplift the one who seeks it. It helps those who suddenly feel cut off from the world and are melancholic about their situation.” Ermmm, I will take purchase every bottle please and thank you.
Purchase Wunder Workshop Botanical Guardian Tincture here – use code TAYYIBWELLNESS for 15% off.
- Red light therapy
Daily red light therapy and daylight/sunlight exposure is a non-negotiable. I use this red light to support skin rejuvenation at the site of the surgery, to support thyroid health and to help with overall well-being, as red light therapy “enhances the natural energy producing ability of our cells, raising the metabolic efficiency and ultimately allowing the cells to function at their best” - redlightman.com/health/.
- Stool test
So, I had a very painful, sore and unpleasant skin reaction to the antibiotics I was given. Antibiotics are sometimes necessary, but they do damage the healthy gut microbiome as well. Because of the skin reaction and to assess the effects of the antibiotics on my gut health, I decided to do the Invivo GI EcologiX gut and microbiome stool test. It definitely is not mandatory, but checking the health of my gut microbiome has been on my to-do list for a long time, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.
I am yet to receive the results of the test, but let me know if you want me to share the results!
As soon as I felt well enough, hijama was one of the first ports of call to help me feel like ME again. Just by virtue of hijama being a sunnah practice, I knew it was something I just needed. I immediately felt relaxed, at ease, and my hijama practitioner massaged all the knots and tension from my shoulders. Absolute bliss.
Some references for further reading: