How to detoxify from local and general anesthesia drugs commonly used in surgery, dental procedures, and epidurals. This speeds healing and prevents unwanted side effects from drugs lingering in body tissues.
If you’ve ever gone under for an operation, you know that the detox from general anesthesia can pack quite a wallop!
When I had my wisdom teeth removed as a teenager, the effects from the drugs used to knock me out took longer to recover from than the actual surgery itself!
In some cases, the anesthetic can have obvious physical effects. For example, my mother-in-law went completely grey in a matter of weeks from the strong anesthetic used during a surgical procedure in her early forties!
How Long Does Detoxing from Anesthesia Take?
Some of my alternative practitioner friends estimate that it takes roughly six weeks for the body to fully detox anesthesia drugs. This includes epidurals used during labor and delivery.
This is a shockingly long time!
These drugs are super powerful and can be health altering. Hence, if your surgeon offers the option of inhalation sedation, aka “laughing gas”, you should definitely consider it.
Obviously, the longer the surgery, the more drugs are required to keep you under. Hence, a six-week anesthesia detoxification process is the upper limit for more involved surgeries or prolonged labor.
However, even a local anesthetic for shorter outpatient procedures introduces plenty of drugs into the system. In those cases, plan to keep the detox process going for at least a week or two depending on your individual situation.
Traditional Foods that Help Speed the Process
A solid, whole food diet is obviously very important to feel “normal” again after surgery. To supercharge the process, consider adding a few traditional foods to your daily regimen. These superfoods will help remove those anesthesia drugs from your system more quickly than would otherwise occur.
While a number of additional foods could be added to this list such as potassium broth, the ones listed below are the core, foundational foods I recommend to friends and family convalescing from surgery who wish to get the drugs out of their system as quickly as possible.
Homemade meat stock is a nourishing, comforting food to have on hand for post-operative detoxing. It is very low in glutamate compared with long-simmered, traditional bone broths because the cooking time for meat stock is very short. Thus, even those who are histamine intolerant do quite well on it.
Note that you cannot buy meat stock; you must make it yourself.
The good news is that it is only simmered for a short time, so you will likely find it quite convenient to make. For example, a pot of chicken meat stock is ready in 90 minutes. This compares with chicken bone broth that takes 6-9 hours.
A small cup of stock with every meal is a good rule of thumb for up to six weeks post-op. It is high in the amino acid glycine, which is critical for the optimal cleansing functions of the liver.
If you have trouble digesting fats, such as what happens after a gall bladder operation, clarified meat stock is a good idea to consider. This process gently removes all the lipids.
Dairy kefir fermented for 24 hours with live grains makes a powerful fermented beverage that is unrivaled in its ability to cleanse the body via potent rebalancing of intestinal microflora.
Do not settle for commercial kefir or even homemade kefir made with powdered starter. Neither of these options is therapeutic in the same way as kefir made with live grains (like these).
Note that water kefir is also weaker than milk kefir. If you have a dairy allergy, you may use coconut milk kefir as an alternative, but the therapeutic benefits will likely be lacking.
If this suggestion seems surprising, it is important to realize that anesthesia drugs unbalance the microbiome just as surely as antibiotics. (1, 2)
Thus, post-surgery, steps are needed to rebalance the gut environment. When it comes to nourishing and strengthening beneficial microbes, kefir is second to none.
Start with small amounts if you’ve never consumed kefir before. Work your way up to 2-3 cups spread throughout the day.
Fresh Wheatgrass Juice
Wheatgrass is the healthiest green juice, and when freshly made, is a detoxification powerhouse!
The chlorophyll in wheatgrass is what makes it so cleansing. Chlorophyll is an extremely potent blood, liver, and gastrointestinal cleanser.
Fresh wheatgrass juice also contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. Best of all, unlike juice from cruciferous and some leafy green vegetables, wheatgrass juice is low in oxalic acid, unlike some other raw vegetables with thyroid suppressing substances which can be problematic to health especially for those with candida or gut imbalance issues.
Note that powdered wheatgrass is NOT an adequate substitute. Powdered greens go rancid and lose nutritional content very rapidly. Cold-pressed wheatgrass juice is also not an adequate substitute.
The wheatgrass must be freshly made right in front of you and consumed immediately. Buy it from a local health food store cafe or make it yourself at home.
Natural Vitamin C
Concentrated sources of natural vitamin C are very important for naturally eliminating toxins from general anesthesia.
I suggest actively avoiding lab-isolated forms of vitamin C that require large, mega doses and stress the kidneys. This would include the popular but damaging oral Vitamin C flush.
Under certain circumstances and for the very ill, high dose IV Vitamin C therapy can be beneficial. For example, my husband used IV ascorbic acid therapy immediately after amalgam removal.
However, for general detoxification purposes such as removal of anesthesia drugs from the body, taking a quality natural vitamin C is all that is needed!
Epsom Salt Baths
Sulfur and magnesium-rich Epsom salt baths are unparalleled in their ability to remove toxins from the body via the skin, the body’s largest organ. In addition, they will help you sleep more deeply, which is also necessary for proper detoxification.
Magnesium, in particular, helps speed the removal of anesthesia drugs from the body. Some surgeons will even give their patients magnesium pills to take once they get home.
However, many people absorb magnesium even better via the skin than orally.
If you have a surgical incision that cannot be submerged in water, then get whatever parts of your body you can into the mineral-rich waters, even if it is only for a basic foot soak.
A friend of mine recently had breast cancer surgery, so she could only sit in an Epsom salt bath up to her navel. The key is to get as much skin into the tub as possible without risk to the surgical incision, stitches, or wound.
Have you had surgery where general anesthesia was necessary? What steps did you take to detoxify your body from these powerful drugs?
(1) List of Anesthesia Medications
(2) Non-Antibiotic Drugs Found to Harm Gut Bacteria
Can you do all these things after an epidural and are breast feeding?
I am not a doctor, but in my lay opinion, since everything is food based, it should be ok. I did epsom salts baths while breastfeeding my three.
I have known for a long time that Epsom salt baths are very beneficial but I am wondering how do they compare to near infrared saunas? Are they just as effective?
Sarah Pope MGA
Hi Julia, the benefits of an epsom salt bath and infrared saunas are quite different. Epsom salts provide nutrients to the body (the much needed minerals magnesium and sulfur) which is how the detoxification occurs. Near infrared saunas encourage sweating for detoxification and also red light therapy. Both are beneficial. However, I do not feel that saunas can be helpful early in the post-op process due to the risk to the sutures. Consult with you doctor if you wish to sauna right after surgery. In my view, it might be wise to wait a bit for this 🙂
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this:
Sarah Pope MGA
Seems very weak on the evidence that “wheatgrass is bad”. He mentions that some of the plant enzymes in the wheatgrass juice are anti-nutrients, but gives no specific examples of which ones are detrimental. He also says that if wheatgrass was healthy, then we should all “be eating the grass on our lawn”, which is ridiculous. Eating wheatgrass (or lawn clippings) is silly as we can’t digest it like herbivores that graze on grass can, but we can benefit from small amounts of the nutrient-rich juice which is easily digested (insoluble fiber that we can’t handle with our simple stomachs is removed).
I agree with him that wheatgrass shots are not a substitute for eating veggies as some wheatgrass fans erroneously claim. However, a shot or two or wheatgrass to benefit from the cleansing chlorophyll during a detox is very reasonable and not at all excessive or damaging as he seems to suggest. Perhaps try it yourself and see what you think. I’ve been drinking wheatgrass shots for over 30 years periodically and they are amazingly helpful for gentle internal detoxification.
While I like much of Dr. Gundry’s advice, I think he’s taken the “allopathic doctor” approach to the chlorophyll benefits. He says chlorophyll is not hemoglobin, but in homeopathic medicine and some other alternative health thinking, because chlorophyll is identical to hemoglobin but for the central iron atom (chlorophyll has a magnesium atom there), the body easily switches out the magnesium for iron due to the “like attracts like” virtue. And, as Sarah, notes, eating wheatgrass itself is ridiculous; no one does that, so it was nonsense to even address that. Also, in regard to the detoxing from anesthesia, chlorophyll is recommended as the best detoxer for radiation (such as a CT scan)—although in this case, copper chlorophyllin, which is the ingredient used in chlorophyll supplements and breath mints, is recommended over veggie greens.