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Bouncing Back

Try these natural strategies to restore your health after illness or injury.

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Case in Point:
Antibiotic Discord

A patient Douglas Husbands, DC, CCN, recently worked with illustrates the importance of probiotics. “A woman in her late 50s came to me with complaints of 20-pound weight gain within the prior four months, migraine headaches, various joint pains, and constipation,” he reports. After taking her history, he was struck by prior courses of antibiotics, birth control use when she was younger, a history of multiple mercury-containing dental fillings. The clincher came when lab tests he ordered came back pointing to disruption of her intestinal bacteria.

After starting her on a recuperative dietary and exercise program, Husbands placed her on a customized nutritional supplement program that included digestive enzymes and probiotics. She took 50 billion live organisms daily of mixed strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. “After five months, she has lost all the weight and more, much of it from her waistline. The headaches are greatly decreased in frequency and intensity, her energy level is up, she sleeps better, and she no longer has joint pain or constipation,” says Husbands. “I’m certain probiotic use has been a critical part of the beneficial results she’s obtained.”

Eventually everyone’s “number” comes up, and they’ll be face to face with a health crisis. Often, it takes the form of an infection requiring antibiotics, a car accident or other calamity, or illness requiring surgery. Whatever the case may be, everyone can ignite the power of the healer within and restore balance to the system.

“Your present state of health is a process and not a fixed event,” says Douglas Husbands, DC, CCN, a chiropractor and clinical nutritionist in private practice in San Carlos, Calif. As such, the choices you make-in food, exercise, managing stress, the time you give your body to recuperate-tips the balance either to disease promotion or (one hopes) to health promotion, Husbands explains.

Natural health remedies, such as wholesome foods, appropriate vitamin supplements, and herbal remedies, “can restore, balance and alter the quality of our health” in the midst of a health crisis, notes Sally Kravich, author of Vibrant Living: Creating Radiant Health and Longevity. Read on to discover the best tools for bringing yourself back into balance.

Antibiotic Aftermath
Antibiotics save lives and fight infection, of that there can be no doubt. However, these “big guns” of modern medicine do their job of killing bacteria so well and indiscriminately that the helpful bacteria that live in the GI tract don’t stand much of a chance. That’s bad news for the 400 different species of bacteria (comprising trillions of bacteria) that make their home in a healthy gut, points out Husbands.

Strep throat, sinus infection, urinary tract infection, pneumonia: there are many legitimate reasons for taking antibiotics. But when that health crisis comes to a close, up to 39 percent of people taking antibiotics will end up with a case of antibiotic-associated diarrhea as a result of the healthful bacteria in the gut being killed off.

“It is critical to replenish the beneficial bacteria during and after taking antibiotics,” Husbands asserts. Many species of the bacteria lactobacillus (including Lactobacillus acidophilus) and bifidobacterium, as well as the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii have proven health benefits and are found in probiotic products. Husbands recommends taking at least 5 billion of the main species of probiotics each day while antibiotics are used, and for at least a month after a course of antibiotics. Dietary supplements supplying active and beneficial strains of bacteria are available as powder, capsules, tablets, liquid, or chewables. Probiotics should be refrigerated and also have a strain name (e.g., NCFM, DDS-1, etc.) after the main species in the product.

Foods also fit the bill, such as yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, and a handful of fluid milk products. Think “green” for another option in babying your digestive system after a course of antibiotics. Bumping up your “vegetable intake and perhaps drinking vegetable juices to restore alkalinity and/or taking a “greens” supplement,” helps after using antibiotics, says Kravich. She also recommends liver-supporting herbs after taking antibiotics (since the liver cleans out and processes antibiotics), such as milk thistle, beet, dandelion, and yellow dock.

Under the Knife
If your surgery is planned (rather than emergency), you have time to make a few changes to your supplement regimen. About a week before your operation, stop taking vitamin E, gingko, fish oil, coenzyme Q10, and St. John’s wort, since these act as blood thinners, Kravich explains. Instead, starting a few days prior to surgery, she recommends supplementing with vitamin C, vitamin B12, probiotics, and a green food powder. It’s always a good idea to mention your supplement plans to your surgeon.

Another good addition to this preoperative plan: the homeopathic remedy Arnica montana. In a small study, women who took arnica (12 C potency; 500 mg) prior to and after surgery showed significantly less bruising around their incisions after their surgeries. Ginger is another good presurgery option, as research shows that taking 1 g before surgery can lessen the chances of nausea and vomiting after surgery (a common postanesthesia complaint).

After surgery, keep taking the same supplements that you started presurgery, but consider upping the dosage (especially of vitamin C, probiotics, greens, arnica). If your surgery wasn’t planned, then start taking the supplements mentioned above as soon as you can. Consider adding bromelain and quercetin to your supplement plan, both of which help lessen postoperative bruising and swelling.

After your surgeon gives the OK for you to eat, Kravich suggests including fresh vegetable juice in your diet. “All of my clients who implement juicing into their recovery heal at three times the speed of those who do not,” she notes. If you had colon surgery, grab a pack of sugarless gum and start chewing it three times a day (for an hour each session) after your surgery. Patients doing just this recover more quickly and check out of the hospital two and half days sooner than nongum chewers, according to a study published in Archives of Surgery.

Kravich, a fan of acupuncture, notes that it’s “a safe modality that can be used in conjunction with recovery” from surgery. For starters, acupuncture keeps postsurgery nausea and vomiting in check, and in fact it works just as well as commonly prescribed medications in this regard. Another option: acupressure wristbands, which apply pressure to specific points on the forearm, are readily available and can lessen nausea and vomiting postoperatively.