By Dr. Shannon Sarrasin, ND

The last century has seen such advance in modern medicine that the age old traditions of “healing” are being forgotten. Conventional medicine offers powerful tools such as antibiotics, antivirals and anti-inflammatory medication that often lead to instantaneous improvement in symptoms. It can be easy to dismiss the reasons we became sick in the first place, and we often throw ourselves back into life too quickly before we have fully recovered.

Convalescence is the lost art of healing. It is the gradual return to health following illness, surgery, or childbirth, and literally means “growing strong”.  For me, the word invokes images of the tuberculosis sanatoriums that existed in the early 1900’s before the advent of antibiotics. These sanatoriums were located in natural settings where rest, fresh air and good nutrition were the best chance for a patient’s immune system to fight off the infection. 

Many of us are in need of such healing. You may have recently gone through a physical or emotional trauma such as an accident, surgery, depression or loss of a loved one. The period following childbirth is a time of convalescence for a new mother, where failing to get adequate rest can lead to infection such as mastitis. Caring for an ailing loved one (child, spouse, parent, friend) takes its toll on your body, mind, and spirit, and these individuals need support as well.

At these times it is important to be gentle with yourself and take steps to support the restoration of your healthy self. Failure to do so can lead to infection, relapse in your health condition or chronic health concerns.

Rest

A good place to begin your healing journey is to support your body with plenty of rest. Clear out your schedule to minimize responsibilities and reach out to friends and family for support.

Support

Develop a support network. This team of people will be the foundation for your healing process. It involves family and friends who will support you physically and emotionally, your health care team which may include conventional and holistic practitioners, and spiritual support. Naturopathic medicine is well equipped to support individuals in convalescence. Treatment plans incorporate natural therapeutics such as healing foods, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and lifestyle counselling to tonify and restore health.

Nourishing foods and herbs

Focus on nutrient rich foods such as fresh organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, easy to digest soups and stews, and adequate protein to support tissue repair. Boost nutrition by blending green smoothies, or drinking juices such as carrot and ginger. Mineral rich teas are a great addition; choose from nettle, red clover and oatstraw. If digestion is sluggish, bulk up your diet with some additional fiber such as ground flax seeds or psyllium husks.

Gradual rehabilitation

Stay positive and trust in your body’s healing ability. Healing takes patience and doesn’t always follow the timeline set out by your doctor. When you are ready, start to incorporate rehabilitating activities such as physical therapy, walking, spending time outdoors, yoga therapy, meditation or art therapy.

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