by Marianne Benforado, L.Ac. Dipl.OM
Thanks to the miracle of modern Western medicine, we have access to surgical procedures that can save our lives and restore our body’s functions. And thanks to the holistic approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are potent tools to help us heal from major interventions such as surgery. Western medicine and TCM work as harmonious partners for healing.
TCM has five branches – acupuncture, herbs, movement such as Qi Gong, therapeutic massage, and nutrition – and all of them can be extremely helpful in supporting the body before and after surgery.
Even a simple surgery can cause trauma that activates stress, weakens the immune system and leaves one vulnerable to infection. Acupuncture helps to regulate body temperature, increase blood flow to compromised areas, and increases white blood cell and platelet counts; supporting a healthy immune system. After an acupuncture treatment, one can experience immediate benefits such as feeling more relaxed, which supports the body’s systems to function at their optimum level.
There are Chinese herbs to treat just about any disorder or injury. Herbs are used to stimulate bone growth, strengthen the immune system, and decrease pain – to name just a few of their many functions. For example, the combination of surgery with pain medications often causes constipation, and Chinese medicine offers many ways to get the bowels moving while gently supporting the body’s overall healing.
To practice Qi Gong is to coordinate movement with breath. “Qi” is translated as “vital life energy,” and “Gong” means “to cultivate,” so “Qi Gong” literally means to cultivate your vital life energy. Some Qi Gong moves are very simple, and therefore easy to practice even in a bed or chair. Many of the moves can also be helpful in establishing peace of mind and calming the nervous system, important for healing after a hospitalization or surgery. Qi Gong promotes healthy sleep, which is wonderful medicine.
Tui Na is an ancient form of Chinese therapeutic massage that works with the soft tissues and can deeply nourish the body. The practitioner uses techniques such as traction, stretching, range of motion exercises, deep tissue massage, and stimulation of acupressure points. This style of bodywork supports relaxation while gently energizing the nervous system and the flow of blood and lymphatic fluids.
A healthy diet is especially crucial for staying healthy pre- and post-surgery. In Chinese medicine, there is no “one size fits all” diet. Instead, it aims to treat the symptoms unique to each individual, depending on one’s constitution. A general guideline before and after surgery is to eat foods that are easy to digest and that support one’s energy. Soups and steamed veggies are good choices. Bone broth is particularly advantageous; healthy, easy-to-assimilate, and tonifying.
Everyday Table Detox Spice Blend
Recipes from The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen by Talya Lutzker
Naturally detoxifying, simple, clean and delicious!
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
1 cup Whole Coriander Seeds
1/3 cup Whole Black Peppercorns
1 Ceramic, Copper, Glass or Wooden Spice/Pepper Grinder
Fill the grinder with whole coriander seeds and whole black peppercorns. Sprinkle liberally on top of foods (cooked and raw) at most meals.
Ginger Turmeric Tea
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 1 to 2 servings
2 cups water
2 inches fresh ginger root, peeled & grated
2 inches fresh turmeric root, peeled & grated
1 to 2 teaspoons raw honey (1/2 teaspoon for Kapha)
Use a box grater or cheese grater to grate the ginger and turmeric. Bring the water, grated ginger and grated turmeric root to boil in a medium saucepan. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, strain and drink with raw honey to taste.