I had a small procedure just over just over a week ago where I had some of my cervix removed - Yep, not an easy thing to talk about but hey that's life and I'll go more into that another day. On the day of the surgery I had to have a general anaesthetic, 2 panadol, 1 Nexium (reflux med) and 1 Maxolon (anti-nausea med) all within half an hour of each other, then followed by a week of pretty intense antibiotics. My goodness, you can imagine how overwhelmed I was mentally let alone physically about having all those medications, but in this situation, it was-what-it-was and I've made peace with it.
I know all too well the stress all those drugs in one hit would be doing to my liver and my gut but thankfully I'm pretty well educated on both of those areas of the body and I had a plan of attack to make sure I was well-supported post-op and in the weeks that followed.
The foundation to healing is always good nutrition, no amount of therapeutic supplementation will make up for a shitty diet - you might as well flush your $$$ down the drain if you're eating really processed foods. So the first things first, you need to hone in on making healthy food choices which = eating whole foods (veg, fruit, grass fed meats, 'good' fats and whole grains) and cooking from scratch as much as you can. If you know ahead of time that you'll be having an operation you can plan well for this and have things in the fridge/freezer but if it's more short notice, like mine was (I had two days notice) then you'll just have to do the best you can and just focus on keeping things simple.
No doubt you'll be feeling pretty rubbish if you've had surgery and even if you haven't and you're just on antibiotics for something I'm sure your motivation will be minimal. This is where your family needs to pick up the slack and support you - not just order takeaway because you're usually the main cook in the house. Even if they can just manage to roast you some veggies and frying off some chicken, that's perfect, it's not hard. If you want to take short cuts then opt for something like a premade organic soup (usually found in the cold section of the supermarket near the cheese).
Try to keep sugar to a minimum. Avoid binge eating while you're feeling flat and recovering. You'll want to I'm sure, I did, you'll feel a bit crappy and want to eat your feelings. Have a little chocolate if you want but after a square or two PUT THE BLOCK DOWN my friend! Your immune system is susceptible during and after antibiotics and your gut is vulnerable to imbalance; if you binge on sugar you'll only exacerbate current issues and potentially cause more. If you're prone to antibiotics induced thrush you need to take this seriously, sugar will exacerbate it and have you feeling even worse!
Ideas on what to eat...
- Easy to digest foods like soups, smoothies, slow cooked foods, roasted veg, chia pudding, coconut yoghurt, broths.
- Nutrient dense foods like fruit and veg, especially yellow/orange/red foods which are high in antioxidants and vitamin C, and eggs.
- Fibrous foods like fruit, veg, quinoa, legumes, oats, buckwheat, sourdough.
- Nourishing fats like coconut oil, nut butter, avocado.
- Gut Mucosa-lining supporting foods like gelatin, coconut oil, gelled chia and flaxseeds
My Supplement Protocol
Post surgery you need to work hard on supporting your liver, it metabolises most drugs and is our main organ for detoxification. You can give your liver a hand by taking certain supplements. This is what I took and why...
- MediHerb LivCo - a supplement containing 3 herbs designed to support liver function the main one being milk thistle. There is lots of evidence to support the use of milk thistle and its role in detoxification. Another well-trusted herb is for this is rosemary, it's the second ingredient in the complex and the final one is five-flavour berry. There are lots of herbal liver support blends available on the market so have a look around and find one that contains well-studied ingredients like milk thistle. Another few good ingredients to look for are globe artichoke and dandelion. I take 1 in the morning and 1 at night and I'll continue to take this for 3 weeks post surgery.
- BioCeuticals Liposomal Glutathione - Glutathione is a key antioxidant involved in the maintenance of cells. Glutathione is said to help with reducing oxidative stress and is involved in the detoxification functions of the liver, which assists in eliminating metabolic by-products from the body. I take 2 pumps in the evening - pump under the tongue and hold in your mouth for about 1 minute before you swallow and I'll continue to take this for 3 weeks post surgery.[Liposomal technology is a relatively new and exciting method of delivering nutrients to the body. Without talking in biomedical jargon it means the nutrients are captured in teeny tiny little droplets which are highly absorbable through the membranes in the mouth, this is awesome for those who have a compromised gut and have trouble absorbing nutrients.]
- NutraVital Bio-Curcumin Plus - Curcumin is the anti-inflammatory component of turmeric. It's traditionally used to assist joint inflammation but it's actually great for any inflammation whether it's to do with the joints, skin, gut, uterus, brain etc. It's been widely trialled and usually, I recommend it confidently for a range or conditions. I'm using it in this instance to reduce inflammation on my cervix post-op but also any inflammation in my body (liver or gut) caused by medications I've had. I take 1 capsule in the morning and 1 in the evening - each cap contains Equiv 600mg Curcuminoids and black pepper and I'll continue to take this for 3 weeks post surgery.
During and post antibiotics. When you're on antibiotics there are plenty of ways during and after your allotted dose which you can do to make sure you preserve your beneficial bacteria and support your immune system. Supporting your immune system is important because around 80% of your immune cells are in your gut so they can be heavily affected by antibiotics, plus your chances of getting sick (with a sniffle or tummy bug) increases after antibiotic as they can leave you susceptible. Ok, so here's what I took to support my gut and immune system...
- Vitamin C - Ah yes, good old vitamin C! It's a valuable antioxidant in supporting the immune system and not just for coughs and colds. I took 2000mg per day in tablet form (1000mg in the morning and 1000mg at night), it's also available as a chewable or as a powder. All Vitamin c supplements are very similar so just get one in a decent dose that suits the way you like to take it. I'll continue to take this for 3 weeks post surgery and probably 1000mg daily thereafter throughout winter.
- BioCeuticals Liposomal D3 - Most of the time we think to vitamin D3 to improve calcium absorption for bone health but there is plenty of evidence that supports that vitamin D3 is valuable for a healthy immune system too, it plays an important part in the innate antimicrobial response. Being a Ballarat gal I take vitamin D3 daily over the cloudier months anyway (about 6 months of the year!) and I take 3000IU each morning - spray under the tongue and hold in your mouth for about 1 minute before you swallow.
- Healthy Essentials Broad Spectrum 'Probiotic 10' Probiotic - Keeping up your beneficial bacteria during and after antibiotics is probably the most important thing you can do!! Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria but it's usually fairly indiscriminate and will effect your 'good' bacteria too. I took the Probiotic 10 WHILE I WAS ON ANTIBIOTICS and then a different one afterwards which I'll explain below. The Probiotic 10 is a robust shelf-stable broad spectrum/multi-strain probiotic which also contains a great FODMAPs friendly prebiotic (food for the probiotic). The very important thing to note here is that if you're taking antibiotics in the morning and/or the evening you need to take this at lunch time (a minimin of 2 hours away from your antibiotics) to make sure you give it every chance to work, if you have them together you will likely kill your probiotics. I took 1 daily WITH lunch while on antibiotics.
- BioCeuticals UltraBiotic 500 - This is your super heavy duty probiotic to have AFTER you've finished your antibiotics for maximum gut recovery - the guidelines say you can have it during antibiotic therapy but it's an expensive product so I'd rather save it until after. It's 14 stains in really high therapeutic doses to really focus on repopulating your beneficial bacteria. I'm taking it for 7 days after having been on antibiotics for 7 days, so take it for about the same length of time that you were on the antibiotics. I'll then go back to my normal routine of daily fermented foods and beverages for maintenance.
So I guess that may seem like a lot of supplements to be taking! I usually don't take a lot of things, I just focus on eating well but in these special cases no matter how healthy you are to start with extra support is a good idea.
*DISCLAIMER* Guys this is what I did in my particular situation, it doesn't mean it's the right thing for you in your particular situation. Although I am a health professional, I generally only recommend specific supplements after a private consultation or after having a thorough discussion with that person first. When choosing supplements please be mindful of drug/supplement interactions, health condition contraindications and pregnancy/breastfeeding restrictions before taking anything. If you're not sure, ASK! Please check in with your trusted health professional before undergoing supplementation therapy.