Fish oil or omega 3 fatty acids help recovery and pain reduction because of their ability to reduce inflammation, protect joints, provide a substrate that is neuroprotective (protects the nervous system) with improved dopamine neurons. These fatty acids are primarily found in cold water fish, eggs, cod liver oil and also flaxseed oil.
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated the effects of Omega-3 fatty acids on patients undergoing surgery for gastrointestinal malignancy. The authors concluded that omega 3 fatty acids were effective in improving the nutritional status and immune function in patients undergoing surgery. The omega -3 fatty acids not only enhanced immunity but attenuated inflammatory response. Another experimental study demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids significantly decreased wound area by day 7 in diabetic wounds. Additionally, the wound strength was significantly increased by day 15. In an animal model for osteoarthritis cartilage degeneration, docosahexenoic acid (DHA) an Omega- 3 fatty acid, showed promise as a therapeutic agent in osteoarthritis prevention. In the field of dentistry, omega-3 fatty acid effect reduces bone resorption following gingivalis infection. The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids continue to be supported to improve cognitive function as well as reducing central nervous system oxidative stress.
Vitamin C, a natural constituent of many fruits, is a powerful anti-oxidant. It helps to prevent free-radical damage that contributes to aging and degenerative disorders. Vitamin C also prevents other antioxidant vitamins from being oxidized. Eating citrus is a good way to get Vitamin C, but it may not be enough when recovering from injury or surgery to reduce pain and risk.
Specifically, for chronic pain states like Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), Vitamin C used preoperatively at 2 g, reduces the morphine consumption in the post-operative stage. Fifty days of use at 1g/d post-operatively may reduce the CRPS risk development. A meta-analysis supports use of Vitamin C for reducing CRPS risk despite not finding conclusive dosage. Another study concluded that the administration of Vitamin C in preventing CRPS after distal radius fracture is low cost and has few complications. Another systematic review also supports the use of Vitamin C for foot and ankle surgery at 500mg for 45-50 days. There are some conflicting reports on effectiveness of 500mg Vitamin C in reducing pain, and it is worth noting as it may be dose dependent.
Is it possible that bacteria could aid in healing from injury or surgery?
Yes. In fact it is important to promote the variety of bacteria in your gut to promote immune health, reduce pain and reduce risk of infection.
As described in an earlier post about the leaky gut syndrome, supplemental recommendations that may reduce pain and improve healing are geared to promoting gut health. Specifically, the microbiome diversity is strongly linked to gut and mental health. This gut-brain connection is at the core of much of the research around supplemental probiotics. A literature review evaluated the research around use of probiotic use and migraine headache. The findings of improving gut microbiota and reducing inflammation may have positive effects on strengthening the gut and improving brain function. This is important to surgery/injury in that gut health supports brain health which thereby will have a positive benefit in the role of the brain in the pain experience.
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
Where physical therapy, nutrition and lifestyle meet, because how you live your life determines whether or not you soar. Inspiring action with information so you can reduce pain, optimize healing and improve function naturally during recovery from injury, surgery or painful condition. This is a website for the open-minded; obstinate need not apply.