Why do you have surgery?
In my case, I have a hole in the wall of my lower abdomen (inguinal hernia) causing a protrusion. It occasionally causes light pain and discomfort but otherwise isn’t an immediate concern. However, I’m told that over time, it will only get worse. That is, unless I have surgery to fix it.
Ideally after surgery, your body is better off than before. You’re stronger and healthier.
But it’s not that simple.
There are some challenges and risks with surgery.
In fact, although the goal of surgery is to heal and repair, it does quite the opposite…
What happens during surgery?
For surgery, you might expect to be given anesthesia and antibiotics. There will likely be damage done to your body including your skin and other tissues. You will be subjected to an environment that is not the best for healing.
Some anesthesia numbs a small area of the body. General anesthesia makes you unconscious (asleep) during invasive surgical procedures.
Anesthesia temporarily blocks sensory/pain signals from nerves to the centers in the brain.– Cleveland Clinic
Numbing or completely removing sensations and pain during surgery is generally thought of as a good thing. However, anesthesia comes with some risks like:
- Back pain or muscle pain
- Chills caused by low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Difficulty urinating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain, tenderness, redness or bruising at the injection site
- Sore throat (pharyngitis)
- Collapsed lung
- Malignant hyperthermia
- Nerve damage
- Postoperative delirium
Antibiotics are powerful drugs that are generally safe. They are very helpful in fighting disease, but sometimes antibiotics can actually be harmful.
Side effects of antibiotics are responsible for almost one out of five emergency department visits.– Cleveland Clinic
Antibiotics also have some risks:
- Allergic reactions
- Drug interactions
When going in for invasive surgery, it’s generally thought that antibiotics are necessary because the risk of bacterial infection is high.
Damage to your body. This is the most obvious concern with surgery: Parts of your body will be physically damaged. Skin and tissue will be cut and some of it likely removed. Other implements may be added to your body.
For my surgery, mesh will be added to cover the hole in my abdomen. Adding any foreign substance to the body likely induces an immune response. (Your body will fight back!)
Hospitals are unhealthy environments. This seems counterintuitive to most people, but when you see that medical error is the third leading cause of death in USA and, despite being quite sterile, hospitals have unhealthy lighting, sounds, food, and electrosmog; all this making them less-than-ideal places for healing.
So, with all these challenges around surgery, you might be wondering:
How will you get the best outcome?
That is, what can you do to optimize for a speedy recovery?
By reading this short essay, you’re already way ahead of the game. I find that, simply by starting to prepare, it puts my mind at ease by alleviating anxiety and stress.
Look at your options.
Decide to do what you can that you think will work best for you – to prepare for your surgery and to recover after.
Talk to your doctor. Talk to others with experience. And use this essay as your guide. Pick and choose the options below that you think will work best for you.
Biohacking for the best recovery.
By biohacking your surgery, you’ll find ways to recover and heal both better and faster.
I see biohacking as way to take control of your own health – and your life – while finding the easiest and most effective ways to optimize your health.
I’ve written various essays that have attempted to define biohacking. You can read and learn more about biohacking here.
The basics of surgery prep and recovery.
When I searched on the internet for surgery preparation and recovery recommendations, I was a bit disappointed with my findings.
It’s not that it’s bad advice per-say.
But I basically found (from the Cleveland Clinic) that you should
- eat clean,
- stop smoking and
- stop taking anything that thins your blood.
Furthermore, patients absolutely should engage in
“meditation, prayer and things that are important to help them through the trauma that they’re about to undergo,”Dr. Alaedeen says
That’s good general advice. But it left me with more questions than answers, primarily:
What are the most effective biohacks for surgery prep and recovery?
With my own research and experience in the world of biohacking, I know there are many things you can do to biohack your surgery – for a faster and more effective recovery.
With all the options, the problem then becomes:
How do you prioritize and choose the best surgery biohacks for you?
I think the best way for you to decide, is to dive right in…
Sleep and Activity
I think this is one of the most important things to pay attention to: Quality sleep.
And there are ways to biohack your sleep…however, this could be an entire essay on its own about sleep. So, rather than give you all the details, I’ll give you the basics:
- Track your sleep – both the objective and subjective measures. For objective measures, use a sleep tracking device like the Oura ring. For subjective measures, simply tune into how you feel during and after sleep.
- Follow good sleep hygiene practices. Wind down and turn down (or off) the lights a few hours before bed.
- Stay active and move your body throughout the day.
My goal is to follow Oura’s recommendations and get sleep, activity and readiness scores above 85. I’ll also stick to my planned exercise schedule.
Again, this could be an entire essay (or books!) on what it means to eat healthy. So, rather than dive deeply into the details, here’s my plan:
- Fast > 12 hours daily and stop eating before sunset. Why? Eating too much slows digestion and stresses your body and mind while limiting your body’s ability to recover and heal. On the flip side, eating too little will put excess stress on your body and hormones (thereby compounding the stress of the surgery).
- Optimize your nutrition. After spending months tracking my nutrition, I know which foods I need to focus on. Here are just a few: liver, salmon, swiss chard, spinach, cauliflower.
Red Light Therapy (photobiomodulation)
There have been well over 218 published articles on photobiomodulation therapy (or low-level laser therapy) for wound healing. Thus we have really good evidence that it’s effective.
However, there is a lack of consensus on standardized treatment parameters such as wavelengths, dose, and therapeutic outcomes in the reviewed studies, preventing direct comparison and clinical protocol recommendation.
There are many devices and options when it comes to red light therapy. My go-to is the FlexBeam by Recharge because it’s a targeted portable device that I can easily use on and around the area of the hernia surgery.
There are a couple of ways in which enzymes can help speed your healing:
- “Cleaning up” the dead and dying proteins in your body – when taken on an empty stomach.
- Absorbing and making use of the proteins you eat – when taken with food.
They also appear to help to control inflammation, optimize blood flow, prevent atherosclerosis, prevent diabetic heart disease, reduce inflammatory bowel disease, reduce ulcerative colitis, boost your immune system and help fight cancer – added bonuses I found with my research.
I’m taking 2 different enzymes for these purposes:
- Serrapeptase taken fasted to clean up proteins in my body.
- Bioptimizers’ Masszymes – both with food (for better absorption) and on empty stomach (to clean up proteins).
(Foods high in digestive enzymes include: pineapple, papaya, mango, honey, banana, avocado, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kiwi, ginger.)
In the alternative health space, ozone therapy has long been believed to be an effective tool for surgery and wound healing. Some believe it’s so effective that it should be a standard practice along with surgery. However, when I asked my surgeon about it, she hadn’t heard of it.
Beyond wound healing and surgery, ozone has been purported to help with energy production, brain function, inflammation, mold, infections, and parasites.
At $180 for one IV or ten-pass ozone treatment in Denver, I’m currently on the fence on this one. I’m thinking I’ll check out the facility before my surgery and, if I trust their services, I’ll do the treatment the day after my surgery.
You can also buy your own ozone machine here.
Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)
That’s what EMS does for you. After surgery, you can apply progressively stronger stimulation to the muscles around the area of your surgery.
As for me, I don’t have my EMS device with me so, unless I find one to borrow, I’ll likely skip it.
Glutathione is considered your body’s master antioxidant. Our bodies make their own glutathione (especially when you get n-acetyl-l-cysteine, glutamine, alpha-lipoic acid, and grass-fed whey) but it’s believed and evidence supports that taking glutathione can boost immunity (and perhaps speed healing).
Because I don’t have any glutathione, and there’s a lot of controversy over the difficulties of getting a form of glutathione that your body can actually absorb, I don’t plan on using glutathione. I’ll use vitamin C and melatonin instead (see below).
Here’s the recommended liposomal glutathione I would buy.
So it makes sense that Urolithin A would help to speed healing and recovery from surgery.
Urolithin A is a post-biotic that comes from eating foods (and especially pomegranates); but it seems most people don’t actually convert the food into Urolithin A.
So I decided to buy Mitopure with the active form of Urolithin A – in sample packs – to give it a try.
Let’s face it: Clean, healthy water is always important – whether you’re getting surgery or not. However, what you might now know is that you can biohack your water to make it healthier and more therapeutic…
You can clean and purify your water with distillation and filtration systems – like reverse osmosis machines.
You can get mineral water directly from a spring – or buy it at the store.
EZ water makes your mitochondria stronger so you can produce more energy. It also acts as an antioxidant, protecting you from stress and slowing down aging, and improves protein folding across your whole body, which makes you more resilient to stress and speeds up recovery.
EZ water forms when you expose water to infrared light.
– Dave Asprey
Sounds great, right? So where do you get EZ water? You can get EZ water from raw vegetable juice, fresh spring water, blended water, sunlight through your skin, infrared sauna, and the NanoVi machine.
I’m hoping to get into the gym to use their infrared sauna to help speed healing and recovery after my surgery.
Molecular Hydrogen Water
This is simply hydrogen-infused water and it’s reported to decrease oxidative stress, promote heart health, improve mood, and boost physical performance.
And, more to the point of this essay, hydrogen water has been shown to speed wound healing.
I ordered some molecular hydrogen tablets to take pre and post-surgery.
Buckminsterfullerene Carbon 60 (c60)
Carbon 60 is an arrangement of carbon atoms that forms a ball-shaped molecule, with a structure similar to a geodesic dome.
c60 gained attention in the 60’s when one research team accidentally found that it made rats live longer. They wanted to find the lethal dose but, to their surprise, it doubled their lifespan.
c60 has also been found to act as an antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, all while helping to prevent cancer – thus it makes sense that it would help promote healing after surgery.
Here’s the c60 product I bought and will use for my surgery.
You know about the potential benefits of probiotics – especially after taking destructive antibiotics. But the problem is that the evidence has been shaky on just how effective probiotics can be.
Rather than take probiotic supplements, I eat probiotic foods like kefir.
But there’s a new probiotic kid on the block: Akkermansia that shows a lot of promise in terms of protecting your gut lining and stabilizing your microbiome.
I don’t yet plan on taking Akkermansia but, if you’re interested (especially if you have gut issues), you can buy Akkermansia here.
I’ve also heard good things about the justthrive line of probiotics and supplements.
Spermidine is referred to as “fasting in a pill” because it boosts autophagy (cell cleanup) in your body – much like when you fast.
And, yes, spermidine is found and was originally discovered in semen. That’s where it gets its name.
But it turns out spermidine is present in nearly all of your cells, and your body uses it to maintain cell growth and cell renewal.
Normally I would forego a supplement like this and just plan on fasting to get the benefits. However, as I recover from surgery, I will be focusing on eating a lot of food and especially protein (from grass-fed beef) to heal faster.
So, rather than fasting, it makes sense to have a supplement that I can take before bed to speed up healing and recovery from my surgery.
Proper hydration is important for optimal wound healing. Thus it makes sense to supplement with effective mineral and electrolyte supplements – that include sodium, potassium and magnesium – because you’re likely not getting enough from foods alone.
I bought these electrolyte drops from Amazon.
D-ribose and L-cysteine
D-ribose and L-cysteine have been shown to promote faster muscle recovery (among other health benefits). Here’s the D-ribose I bought from Amazon.
Cysteine is abundant in egg whites (and other meats) – so I see no reason to supplement.
Meditation, Mindfulness, Gratitude and Prayer
This is essentially the “biology of belief” (book by Bruce Lipton) which demonstrates that our thoughts and beliefs strongly correlate to and influence our health (as demonstrated in almost every study using a placebo – as the “placebo effect”).
As a former atheist, I now welcomingly accept prayer and religious beliefs – especially when offered for my benefit. (Thank you Melanie, Paul, and Peter!)
I also practice meditation, mindfulness, gratitude and breathwork – which I think all have strong health benefits that will promote a more enjoyable, speedy recovery from surgery.
In spite of all the amazing claims of mushrooms and their health benefits, I have yet to prove to myself that they have any meaningful effect (except for psilocybin mushrooms which have an unquestionable effect on my mind!).
(More specifically, I’ve taken my fair share of medicinal mushrooms reported to help boost immunity while, at the same time, contracting and not recovering quickly from colds and infections. Thus I think there are more effective ways to boost immunity.)
Regardless… In addition to the studies, I know many people who swear by mushrooms so I think they’re worth a try. Here’s the latest medicinal mushroom source recommended by Dave Asprey.
Because magnesium plays a role in so many (hundreds) of biological processes and functions, it’s no surprise to find that magnesium has been shown to help facilitate wound healing.
And, with so many different forms of magnesium, the question becomes:
Which form of magnesium is the right one to take?
To cover my bases, I ordered a supplement with all 7 forms of magnesium.
Rehab / Physical Therapy (PT)
The amount and types of movement, activity and exercises you do for your recovery will depend on the circumstances of your surgery.
I like to take an “active recovery” approach when I’m feeling down and need to recover. This means moving my body regularly throughout the day – ideally outside under the sun in nature.
I’ve been told not to lift anything heavy for 2 weeks after my surgery so I’ll be sticking to walking and calisthenic exercises that I can progressively make more challenging over time.
Vitamin C is involved in all phases of wound healing.
Based on my research it wasn’t clear if mega-dosing (considered 1000 mg / day) would have any additional benefit beyond the recommended daily intake.
When I’m feeling like I’m getting sick or run-down, I’ll take up to 1000 mg of vitamin C every hour. I’ll do the same following my surgery (if I’m not feeling well – and my stomach tolerates the mega-dose vitamin C.)
Most people seem to think of melatonin simply as a sleep aid.
However, the pineal gland hormone melatonin is known to have both anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. Thus, it seems melatonin is yet another effective tool to enhance the process of wound healing.
Similar to Vitamin C, I’ll take up to 10 mg of melatonin every hour when I’m not feeling well.
Arnica montana is a widely used therapeutic plant used traditionally to treat various ailments.
I have some arnica gel that I’ll apply to my skin on and around the area of the surgery.
Ice Baths, Cold Showers (Cold Thermogenesis) and Hydrotherapy
I don’t find any studies specifically addressing cold thermogenesis and wound healing. However, I think the evidence is clear that there’s a benefit. Cold lowers inflammation, boosts mood and energy and I believe will be a big benefit for a quick recovery from surgery.
There are many studies showing the effects of hydrotherapy on the body and how hydrotherapy can be used to improve immunity and for the management of pain, CHF, MI, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, asthma, PD, AS, RA, OAK, FMS, anorectal disorders, fatigue, anxiety, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, hyperthermia, labor…
I’ll have access to hot and cold showers, a swimming pool, hot tub and hopefully a sauna.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves increasing your exposure to pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. When you breath inside the hyperbaric chamber, your lungs are able to gather up to three times more oxygen than it would normally, allowing it to enter your blood and promote healing.
I’m already doing enough for my recovery so I’m going to pass on finding a place to do this – for now.
If you’re interested you can get your own HBOT chambers here.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF)
When you consider that our bodies are electric, it makes sense that you could use this electricity to your advantage. This is the basic idea behind PEMF.
In fact, here’s a study supporting that PEMF helps heal from wounds more quickly.
As for me, at $50 for one PEMF session in Denver, I’m currently on the fence on this one. I’m thinking I’ll check out the facility before my surgery and, if I trust their services, I’ll do the treatment the day after my surgery.
There are many peptides with claims of many more benefits. Two peptides in particular come to mind for healing body tissue: BPC 157 and TB 500.
I’ve tried both of these and, although I did improve, I’m not sure how much they helped. I’d like to try them again but, because they are not legal for human consumption – and they need to be re-constituted and injected – I don’t think it’s worth the effort.
I have to give credit where credit is due. Obviously a lot of this information came from PubMed. But the initial list of biohacks came from The Biohacker Tribe Facebook group and Dave Asprey’s video on healing from surgery. Thank you!
What about you?
What are your go-to biohacks for healing?