Surgery, Antibiotics and Gut Health.

So, this last week has been a mix of choices that I don’t usually have to contend with. Ordinarily, I avoid antibiotic therapy at all costs, which is probably a weird thing for a pharmacist to say, but hell, I’m a new breed of health practitioner mixing it up with the holistic and the conventional. Anyway, contrary to my usual reaction I didn’t wrestle with the fact that I would need antibiotics after a wisdom tooth extraction. Firstly, I had hunted down an oral surgeon that I trusted to do the procedure, he is way more experienced with this procedure and the dramas of post-surgery infection than I was, so you can bet your life I am going to trust him with the prescribing of prophylactic therapy post op! I knew they would make me feel crook if I just took them with no plan to keep my healthy gut going. So, I made a plan.

Pre surgery, I prepared the biggest pot of chicken and veggie soup. I knew if I didn’t do this prep, I would likely end up eating some kind of manufactured mush that I could handle consuming without much jaw effort. I also knew that incorporating all sorts of gut health promoting ingredients, prebiotic veggies and herbs, collagen from bones and muscles of the chicken and healthy fats, I was at least able to continue to support gut health whilst potentially annihilating many of my poor microbes. I also filled the fridge with kombucha, kefir, yogurt and made certain I had a good clinically proven probiotic to hand. I also stocked up on vitamin C to keep my immune system topped up.

Post-surgery was not as bad as I anticipated. Yes, I was sore, bruised and swollen, but at least my prep efforts allowed complete rest and good nourishment. The addition of some pain relief (which to be honest was not needed too often), would have ordinarily ramped up the “post op constipation factor”. You know, the absence of poo from my life after anaesthesia! No problem! I was eating probably more nutrition dense foods, taking vitamin C (which “loosens” up the bowels) and chucked in a bit of lactulose solution, which is not only a great laxative but feeds those good gut bacteria up to full strength. I took probiotics every day, two hours away from my antibiotic to ensure that they lived through the antimicrobial onslaught. By day 6 post-surgery I was fighting fit, no more swelling. I did still carry some bruising reminiscent of a good punch to the gob, so a few funny looks were cast as I walked through the market, but hey, what’s a bit of bruising when you get two fangs yanked out of your jawbone. This was damage limitation at its finest and I wore those bruises with pride!

So, if you are on the verge of surgery and looking to maximise health before and after, you need to take care of your gut. Why? Because your gut microbes are the centre of your immune universe. Feeding them the correct nutrition equips your body with everything it needs to promote healthy healing and fight infection. If you give your body the right ingredients, it will know exactly what to do to take you back to 100%!

Night of Surgery aftermath, great cheekbones, nasty jowls!

Fighting fit at day 9 post op!

Top Tips:

  • Work on your gut health before you have surgery. This can be as simple as taking a daily probiotic, bringing in prebiotics or changing up your diet to include more whole foods. I know for a fact that eating a diet comprised of whole natural foods is completely responsible for my superwoman status as champion healer. At 48 years old, my surgeon told me I would have a hard time recovering in comparison to my younger counterparts. I was the only person not wearing a full head bandage resembling bunny ears in recovery, despite all those other wisdom teeth wearies being wayyyyyyyy younger than myself. (Boom! High fives to all the other middle-aged warrior like women!!)

(Lesson for today for any medical personnel waiting to write off the over 40s….

“age is a number, not a health status!”)

  • Consider taking probiotics and vitamin C to support your immune system. Vitamin C can also move the bowels if taken in a large dose.

  • Prepare nutrient dense foods so you don’t have to rely on crappy packaged foods, takeaways or charitable neighbours and friends.

  • If you have to take pain relief and are undergoing general anaesthesia for your procedure, take a good laxative to make sure you’re not piling up toxic waste in your colon. This will arrest the recovery phase and just make you feel like crap. I recommend lactulose solution which will supply prebiotics to your good gut bacteria and save you from poo stress!

  • Get out in the sunshine if you can to optimise your vitamin D levels. This will also help your healing and boost immunity, and well just make you feel darned good!

  • Get plenty of rest and drink lots of water.

Most importantly, do your homework when you are looking at having surgery. I travelled from Queensland to Tasmania to find a surgeon I liked and trusted in order to remove a rotten stump from the back of my mouth which has probably been poisoning me for two decades! Yep I’m slow on the uptake, but I definitely have to be sure of my people. If you are holistically minded, choosing your healthcare team gives you both peace of mind and gives you opportunity to apply holistic principles. In some circumstances conventional medicine is imperative, but we live in a very paranoid world and the advantages of modern medicine are overshadowed by the sometimes ill-applied practices that slander the good practices of talented and empathetic practitioners. Having a plan that incorporates a holistic approach and combining conventional with traditional practices is not illegal! Think about what is best for you as an individual and go with your gut!!

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