Kinder, Gentler Surgery

Going under the knife? Lessen the toll on your mind and body before and after with these holistic approaches.

Kinder, Gentler Surgery
Pin it Matthew Wakem

For anyone committed to holistic health, surgery can feel like the specter of doom. After all, it’s the ultimate medical intervention—and there’s nothing natural about it. Whether you’re going for a simple nip or tuck, an orthopedic repair, oral surgery or a lifesaving operation, you’re on the allopathic medical highway: There could be antibiotics and steroids; pain and anti-anxiety meds; and chemical agents to manage your nausea and sleep. Through anesthesia, doctors may even take over control of your consciousness. Of course, surgeries mend body parts and save lives, and they are really what Western medicine does best, fixing many problems that medications, herbs, exercise and nutrition can’t. They can be a blessing, albeit a mixed one that takes a toll on your body and your emotions. So whether you’re undergoing a musthave surgery, a purely elective procedure or even a minimally invasive one, take it seriously, says Andrew Weil, M.D., founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, and director of integrative health at Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson. “Surgery is always a shock to body and mind,” Weil says. “A cascade of metabolic and hormonal activity is initiated that can lead to muscle wasting, impaired bowel function, increased blood clotting, nausea and vomiting. And that’s to say nothing of pain and anxiety.” If there’s no avoiding surgery or if you decide the benefits are worth the risks, it pays to plan ahead, prepping yourself with some of the strategies that follow so you can go into the procedure as healthy, strong and calm as possible. Afterward, adopting some similar practices will help speed your physical and emotional recovery.