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What you put in your body matters. Do you put high performance fuel in your body like dark leafy greens, complete proteins, and complex carbohydrates? If you’re like me, you don’t always eat the healthiest foods.
But you should be conscious of what you’re eating, especially after knee replacement surgery. A balanced diet with added supplements will ensure you receive all the minerals and nutrients needed to recover quickly.
Most of us have what I call “holes” in our diet. Maybe we don’t eat fish often, or maybe we’re not outside much and lack Vitamin D. In this article we’ll examine helpful vitamins and supplements that could enhance the recovery process – and make you healthier at the same time.
I’ll share my go-to supplements and vitamins that helped me get back on my feet and outdoors. I’ll also share methods/tips I use to not forget them in my daily routine.
My Experience With Supplements for Bad Knees
As I’ve gone through the process of knee replacement, I’ve learned that recovery is more than just physical rehabilitation. In other words, it’s also about your health going into TKR surgery, it’s about muscle strength, it’s about cardiovascular endurance, and just as important it’s about what you’re putting into your body.
I’ve always eaten well. Starting with my mom and now my wife I have been fortunate to live with people who know how to cook healthy. I usually eat home-cooked meals rather than take-out. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ate fast food.
I maintained a garden where I’ve grown vine-ripe tomatoes, zucchini, beans, lettuce, broccoli, and beets and we had a number of fruit trees too. The harvest of our summer garden provided a much better diet for my family in the spring and summer.
In the 1990’s I read more about the importance of nutrition and the benefits of vitamins and supplements. I began taking a multivitamin and looked into other supplements that could ease my knee pain.
One supplement was glucosamine and chondroitin that targeted joint pain and restoring cartilage. Another favorite of mine became fish oil – which is great for the heart and overall health but also has anti-inflammatory effects and skin benefits.
There are also herbal supplements that can help relax the body. I drink tea now, whereas in the past it was only coffee. Herbal tea provides beneficial antioxidants and can be incorporated into a nightly routine to help promote relaxation and assist with sleep.
During my TKR rehabilitation I stepped up my vitamin and supplement intake. I wanted to make sure everything I put into my body could aid with healing.
I believe it helped. If you’re in a similar situation, make sure you consult your medical provider before taking supplements or vitamins after surgery. In a week or two following surgery you will be on medication that could be sensitive to supplements (always good to double check).
Let’s take a deeper dive to examine how supplements and vitamins can aid recovery for knee replacement recovery.
Supplement Considerations For Knee Health
If you’re thinking about buying supplements for your TKR recovery, you’ll want to know how the supplement or vitamin will assist you. You’ll also want to know if you’re already eating foods that contain the vitamins or supplements.
For example, fish oil benefits can be obtained from a diet rich in cold-water fish. If you eat a lot of salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, tuna, and sardines, you’re probably getting enough fish oil.
Often it’s difficult to keep track of what you’re eating and taking an extra supplement or vitamin is easier. Let’s take a look at why I took supplements and vitamins after surgery.
- Anti-inflammatory – I wanted a supplement that would help reduce inflammation and swelling. There are numerous supplements (pills and tea) that are anti-inflammatory.
- Improve circulation – I did not want to experience a blood clot after surgery. Blood clots are why doctors require you to wear a compression sock/sleeve after surgery (keeps the blood moving and reduces chance of clot).
- Blood thinner – I was interested in supplements that thinned the blood to reduce swelling. You’ll likely be on medication for this after surgery, so speak with your doctor first.
- Relaxation – I was in pain for a few days after surgery and wanted a supplement that would help relax my body. I found this in herbal teas.
- Immune Enhancer – You definitely need a strong immune system going into surgery and during recovery. You don’t want to develop a cold after the surgery. You want all your energy focused on the knee and recovery.
- Scar Healers – There are supplements or vitamins that can help with skin and scar recovery. This is a wise idea if you want to minimize the appearance of your scar.
How Not To Forget To Take Supplements and Vitamins After TKR
One of my biggest problems after knee replacement surgery was remembering to take the vitamins and supplements. I was busy icing, elevating, compressing, and strengthening my body so sometimes I’d forget my daily supplements. I never forgot my medication though!
In another article I mention how to prepare your home before TKR and I mention preparing food and medication prior to surgery. If you have a container marked with the days-of-the-week, it’s a great way to not forget. Fill the weeklong container up with pills and place them next to your prescription medication (make sure to ask your doctor if it’s safe to take them at the same time).
You can do the same with herbal tea bags. Place them on the counter, ready to go. If they are hidden in a cabinet you’ll likely forget.
How To Travel With Supplements and Vitamins After TKR
Traveling with vitamins and supplements can be tricky, especially if you’re flying or lack adequate space in your bag. Years ago I began emptying the bulky bottles of vitamins into a ziplock bag. It was easier to stick in a side pocket whereas taking the bottle would require more space (even more if a glass bottle).
This practice worked great for years until one-day airport security checked my bag and asked what the pills were. I told them vitamins and they asked for labeling.
Sadly I didn’t have a label so my response wasn’t good enough. They confiscated the vitamins and told me to include a label in the ziplock bag next time.
Now I have a similar practice where I tear the label off the bottle and place it in the ziplock. I also began putting the small plastic piece from the bottle in the ziplock (it’s the piece that prevents moisture in the bottle). The label gives an explanation for the vitamins and the other piece keeps moisture from affecting the vitamins.
No. 1 Fish Oil
Unless you eat a lot of fish, you probably aren’t getting the full benefits of fish oil. Actually, it’s not just fish oil, the health benefits come for the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. The omega-3’s are DHA and EPA (long names to write) and they work with your body to reduce inflammation.
Fish oil works great to decrease the effects of arthritis on joints. They positively affect joints by reducing stiffness, chronic knee pain, and help to increase blood flow.
I’ve taken 2 a day for years. You won’t feel a difference right away, but as with any supplement, over time your body will thank you. Develop a routine of taking fish oil while you’re preparing for TKR and it will help your body recover post-surgery (even a small bit helps).
Fish oil has many more benefits including heart health and skin health. If you’re concerned about scarring (I like scars), fish oil will promote skin health and help discourage wrinkles. The many benefits of fish oil make it my number 1 supplement!
No. 2 Vitamin C
I grew up hearing about vitamin C and I was always told that if you were sick vitamin C would help. Unfortunately it was a promotion from the orange juice companies (there’s a good amount of vitamin C in orange juice but there’s more elsewhere).
If you want a natural source of vitamin C, you can eat a green bell pepper daily. Other foods that have high amounts of vitamin C are:
- Bell Pepper (mentioned above)
- Brussels Sprouts
Or you can take a daily vitamin C tablet. There are options instead of swallowing pills, they are chewable pills and candy pieces. I prefer taking my vitamin C in my daily multivitamin.
Vitamin C will help keep your immune system strong heading into surgery and it will help your body fight off infection after surgery (occurs occasionally). I continued taking vitamin C for a month after surgery until I had more energy and strength.
No. 3 Herbal Tea
Herbal supplements can help you recover from knee replacement surgery in more ways than one.
1) They can relax the body. A more relaxed body functions better than a body that experiences stress. You will experience some stress or shock after surgery and finding ways to relax your body are important for recovery.
2) They are rich in antioxidants, which aid skin in healing. Some herbs are even said to help reduce bruising.
3) Help reduce inflammation. I really like Quercetin with Bromelain for inflammation. Quercetin is a natural substance found in vegetables and Bromelain is found largely in pineapple cores.
It can be bought together as one supplement or can be purchased individually. These supplements will be great post-surgery as you’re trying to decrease inflammation in the knee/leg.
My picks for relaxation, antioxidants, and inflammation are below.
- Relaxation – Chamomile – great for before bedtime
- Antioxidants – Green Tea – will help promote skin healing and reduce scarring
- Inflammation – Quercetin w/ Bromelain – Together or individually to reduce inflammation in the body.
No. 4 Glucosamine Chondroitin
Studies are mixed over whether Glucosamine Chondroitin actually provides lasting benefits, but if there’s a chance (and there’s no health risk) then I’ll give it a try. I’ve taken Glucosamine Chondroitin for a number of years.
Let’s go over what it is first. Chondroitin is manufactured from the cartilage of animals (think cows, pigs, sharks). Technology has developed enough that it can now be made in a lab. In many European countries it is sold as a prescription for osteoarthritis.
Glucosamine is found in healthy cartilage and is completely natural. There is fluid in and around the joints – much of that is glucosamine. In some cases it has displayed anti-inflammatory properties and helped to repair cartilage.
Unfortunately I lost the cartilage I had in my knee so GC couldn’t help me regenerate it. I take it for the arthritic benefits specific to joints!
No. 5 Vitamin D
My doctor did a lot of work to my bone during knee surgery. They actually affix the artificial knee to the bone. As a result I began looking for supplements or vitamins that would help my bone recover from TKR.
I found that vitamin D assists with bone density. Bone density can deteriorate as we age so taking a supplement, as a senior is a wise decision. I’m not sure about you but I want healthy bones, as I grow older.
We produce vitamin D when we’re exposed to the sun. We also get our share of vitamin D from milk, mushrooms, tuna, and salmon.
Many people who live in areas of the world with long winters (Scandinavia, Canada, Alaska) experience a deficiency in vitamin D and a supplement can help. If you’re recovering from TKR in the winter and you won’t be outside much, you should consider taking vitamin D.
Supplements and Vitamins for TKR – Final Thoughts
Supplements can be a major asset to you as you’re preparing for TKR and recovering from surgery. Although they aren’t a cure-all and the benefits may be minimal, I believe that having every advantage helps.
If you have a great diet and drink kale smoothies everyday, then you probably don’t need extra vitamins to make up for deficiencies. However, an evening cup of herbal tea could help relieve stress from the surgery or relieve pain from the physical therapy session.
If you choose to use supplements and vitamins, double-check with your doctor to make sure they won’t interfere with prescription medication. These supplements can also be a long-term routine to help you feel better years after surgery. I’ve taken many of these supplements for years and I plan to continue.
In this article we discussed the best supplements and vitamins after knee replacement surgery. Don’t get me wrong; many of these supplements and vitamins are great to take as you prepare for surgery too.
I encourage you to prepare and lay out your vitamins and supplements before you go to the hospital for surgery. Once you return home you won’t be in the mood to organize pills so you’ll want them ready.
I prefer to use the vitamin containers with the day-of-the-week label. This way I can set up the whole week at one.
Consider why you’ll be taking a supplement or vitamin. Is it to reduce inflammation, for blood clotting, for scarring, or for relaxation? Once you’ve narrowed it down you can find a supplement or vitamin that addresses your needs.
I really enjoy the anti-inflammatory supplements like fish oil and Quercetin with Bromelain. I also like an herbal tea before bedtime to relax my body. I used these supplements before TKR surgery and I continue to use them afterward.
I hope you enjoyed this article on the best supplements and vitamins for knee replacement surgery. I write this blog to share my experiences with others in the same position I was in.
I was hesitant to go through with knee replacement surgery, but I’ve recovered nicely and I’m happy I did it. Feel free to read my other blog articles on exercise, pain, and items you’ll need. Thanks for reading.