After knee replacement surgery, it’s especially important to maintain your joint health. The best approach is to eat whole foods rich in the vitamins you need. If you can’t get the vitamins in your diet alone, supplements may help. Vitamins and supplements can play a positive role in helping you heal, though it’s important to check with your doctor about the pros and cons of each substance.
Immediately after surgery and while taking blood thinners, it’s best to avoid foods high in vitamin K, which contributes to blood clotting. This includes:
- Brussels sprouts
- green beans
- garbanzo beans
Your doctor may suggest that you supplement your diet with vitamin C and zinc. These two substances can help boost your immune system and ward off viruses and infections.
- eating foods such as fish, mushrooms, and dairy products
- receiving 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure during peak daylight hours
- taking a supplement
Anecdotal reports claim that vitamin E — particularly vitamin E oil — can aid in wound healing and decrease scar formation. Some doctors recommend applying the oil to your closed wound three times per day after your doctor removes your stitches. However, there’s little scientific evidence for these claims. Some research even suggests vitamin E may actually worsen the appearance of scars. Ask your doctor before using vitamin E.
Your surgeon will likely prescribe iron after surgery. This is to replenish iron in your blood that was lost during the operation. Expect to take the supplements for about four weeks. Iron helps your blood’s clotting mechanism and helps you avoid anemia.
A variety of herbal supplements may help your body heal after knee replacement surgery. Green tea and rosehip tea have antioxidant properties and may promote wound healing. Applying witch hazel or chickweed may reduce bruising after the incision has healed. Echinacea and bromelain reduce inflammation and promote healing. Arnica, a homeopathic remedy, reduces bruising.
Many of these are said to reduce inflammation and swelling or fight infections and promote wound healing. However, there’s no conclusive evidence that these substances provide any benefit.
Several other non-herbal supplements and substances may also aid in healing, including fighting infection and rebuilding tissue. These include:
- coenzyme Q10
- essential fatty acids
- free-form amino acids
Each has its own benefits, though it’s important to research claims about products. Also note that these substances are only part of a good, balanced diet. If you eat well, you may not need to take any dietary supplements.
Keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the same stringent rules for supplements (especially herbs) as it does for drugs. The potency of different brands will vary, and there is no oversight over what is organic or how much purity is required. Many supplement manufacturers have been known to make claims that have not been proven.
You and your doctor should discuss possible supplements while mapping out an overall strategy for helping your knee heal and stay healthy. You should always disclose all the substances that you are taking to your doctor to verify that there’s no risk of an interaction.