Surgery is sometimes unavoidable, and if you're one of the nearly 30 million Americans suffering from diabetes, getting your body ready for surgery is critical to ensuring a healthy recovery. Taking care of your body in the weeks and months leading up to your surgery can have a huge impact on how well your body is able to recover.
How does Diabetes Affect My Body's Recovery from Surgery?
People who suffer from diabetes have difficultly processing sugar which leads to elevated blood sugar levels. As a result of elevated blood glucose levels, arteries tighten up, becoming more narrow and less blood is able to circulate through your blood vessels. Decreased blood flow also means less oxygen reaching your wound.
Immune System Deficiency
Elevated blood sugar levels reduce the ability of red blood cells to bring nutrients to the tissue which results in healing taking considerably longer. This makes things even worse, because your wounds are slower to heal there is increased risk of infection, and when infection does occur less white blood cells are available to fight off the infection due to the reduced blood flow.
Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve disorder caused by diabetes. It causes a loss of sensation in nerve endings, making it less likely for patients recovering from surgery to be able feel a developing infection or other surgical issue. Delayed detection of these issues means they may become more severe before action is taken.
While diabetes itself is dangerous enough, it's the cascading complications that can occur as a result of diabetes that pose the true danger. In addition to wounds taking longer to heal, infections being more likely to occur, and those resulting infections taking longer to overcome, people who suffer from diabetes are also 4x more likely to suffer from heart disease.
Preparing for Surgery and Controlling your Diabetes
Uncontrolled diabetes is typically due to a poor diet, poor physical fitness, or not following instructions for prescribed medications. These patients are at a high risk for heart and kidney disease, degrading vision, dental issues, and more. Getting your diabetes under control in advance of your surgery is critical to ensuring your successful recovery following surgery.
Following the steps below will give your body its best chance at healing without any added complications:
- Maintain a Healthy Diet – Consuming a healthy and balanced diet with the right nutrition for at least 3 months leading up to surgery will help your body regulate glucose levels and provide the body with the nutrients it needs to heal following surgery. Be careful to ensure you're consuming adequate vitamin C, protein, and carbohydrates which are used to fuel your body's recovery.
- Adopt an Active Lifestyle – While we recommend you always maintain an active lifestyle, it is even more important leading up to your surgery. Aerobic exercise will not only help reduce your blood sugar, it will also reduce the chronic inflammation common in people who suffer from diabetes.
- Stop Smoking – If you smoke, it's important you stop before and after your surgery. This will improve your blood circulation which is already reduced due to diabetes causing your blood vessels to stiffen.
- Keep a Close Eye on your Body – It's important that as you head into surgery, your body is not currently fighting off any pre-existing infections or other issues that may make it more complicated to heal the wounds resulting from your surgery.
By taking these precautionary actions leading up to your hip or knee replacement surgery, you're giving your body its best chance to heal quickly without added complications resulting from infections.
Healthy Healing Post-Surgery
Preparing your body before surgery isn't enough to ensure a successful recovery from joint replacement surgery when suffering from diabetes, you need to take care of your body following surgery as well.
Follow your Doctor's Instructions
This may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at how often complications occur following surgery simply because the patient did not follow their doctor's orders. If your doctor tells you avoid driving, not to lift anything over a certain weight, to take medications at set times, and to follow a regimented diet, it's important you follow those orders. Your doctor is not telling you these things simply to make life more difficult, the instructions they provide are necessary for your body to be able to heal properly.
Consume the Right Foods
Following surgery your body will need certain nutrients to begin healing and fight off any potential infections. Though you may be nauseated or even constipated post-surgery, the nutrients you consume will help kick start your body's recovery.
There are certain nutrients it is recommended you consume through the duration of your recovery as well:
- Protein – Protein is essential to helping your body heal. It aids in repairing your damaged tissues, and studies have shown that a protein deficiency while recovering from surgery contributes to poor healing rates.
- Fiber and Probiotics – Consuming fiber and probiotics will help your digestive system process foods, boosting your immune system.
- Vitamin C – It is believed the Vitamin C may help with the healing process so it is recommended you consume at least a couple pieces of fruit high in Vitamin C each day.
- Vitamin B12 and Iron – These vitamins boost the production of blood cells from your bone marrow.
Foods to Avoid
In addition to specifically consuming certain foods, there are other foods you should avoid at all costs during recovery:
- Refined Sugars – Consuming refined sugars causes our body to become more fatigued and will cause your blood sugar levels to spike which will slow recovery.
- Sodas and Sports Drinks – Aside from these drinks being high in refined sugars, they also tend to be high in sodium which causes your body to retain water which leads to increased swelling.
Careful, monitored physical therapy is necessary to prevent blood clots and get your digestive system going immediately following surgery. As your body continues to heal, careful activity will help prevent further complications.
As recommended leading up to surgery, avoiding smoking post-surgery will help with your blood flow which will allow your body to heal more quickly.