First off, swelling is going to happen. It is a fact of life after tummy tuck surgery. The medical term for swelling is edema, so you might hear that word occasionally. Don't let Swell Hell get you down. If you know it is going to happen, you will be less stressed about it. Here are some things you can do to help.
Tips to Reduce Swelling
Drink plenty of water during your recovery after tummy tuck! Proper hydration is paramount. The human body is made up of 70% to 72% water and it cannot function correctly without water. You may think that adding more water to your body can only make swelling worse, but it really can help. Drinking plenty of water will help flush out your system and assist in bowel movements. Medications may hinder regular bowel movements and can contribute to bloating and discomfort. Drinking adequate water is essential for overall good health and it can decrease the abdominal swelling and your healing time.
How much water should you drink? The average person, with proper activity levels and diet, needs between 10.5 cups (84 oz) and 12.5 cups (100 oz) of water each day. This amount includes the water contained in food, so the general rule is to drink 8 to 12 8-oz glasses of water each day. Do not count alcohol or drinks high in caffeine because they act as diuretics, causing you to lose water. You shouldn't be drinking too much of them, if at all, during your recovery anyway.
The amount of water you need depends on your diet, your overall health, and what your surgeon or primary care physician suggests for your individual needs. Certain medications cause you to lose a lot of water that you then have to make up. Climate is a factor, also. People in southern Arizona need to drink more than people in Seattle, just to make up for how much dryer it is in Arizona than in Seattle.
Another factor for me was that while I was sleeping on my back after my tummy tuck surgery, my mouth would fall open and get very dry. My mouth would get so dry that the dryness woke me up a few times! I kept a bottle of water on my nightstand so that I could take a few sips during the night when dry mouth struck.
Keep track of how much water you drink. Using a measured sports bottle or bottled water can help you keep track of how much you drink.
But remember! An increase in water intake means an increase urine output, and more trips to the bathroom. This is especially true if your body is not used to drinking the proper amount of water (and most of us aren't, including me).
Still not sure how much water is good for you? Ask your primary care physician or plastic surgeon what amount of water you should be drinking each day.
Healing takes good nutrition. The body cannot heal correctly from the tummy tuck surgery if it cannot get the nutrients it needs. Good nutrition helps with abdominal swelling, bruising, and tissue repair. Your body needs a balanced diet of protein, iron, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to repair damaged muscle and skin and to maintain proper fluid balance. A diet high in leafy green vegetables, lean proteins, omega 3 and 6 fats, and whole grains is essential to proper body function, and will contribute to less swelling and faster healing.
Watch Your Sodium Intake
Salt (sodium chloride) and sodium make the body retain water. Watch your sodium intake and try to keep it low. This does not mean you should have no salt in your diet. Getting too little salt can be dangerous, and when coupled with too much water, fluid shifts can occur, causing a serious condition called hyponatremia. However, the American diet is so overloaded with sodium and salt that very few people are in any danger of getting too little sodium.
What most surgeons mean when they say to lower your salt or sodium intake is to avoid the high sodium levels of prepared foods. Many canned soups and vegetables and prepared foods have large amounts of sodium and salt. Start reading the product labels and you will see that one serving can give you a large percentage of the amount of sodium you need in a whole day! You should also avoid foods such as deli meats, soy sauce, pickles, and salty snacks like potato chips, and pretzels. High levels of sodium increase fluid retention.
Activity can both help reduce swelling and help increase it. You need to take it easy and rest, but at the same time you need to move your both gently each day.
Activities to avoid after tummy tuck surgery:
* bending over
* reaching above your head
* lifting anything heavier than 10 lb (including your kids and pets)
* doing crunches or sit-ups
However, you can't just sit in your recliner all day. Inactivity causes swelling and you also risk blood clotting and fluid pooling. You need to walk a bit each and every day to help your circulation. Light exercise is also allowed, but check with your doctor. Ask him or her for some suggested activities that you can do.
A manual massage can increase circulation and assist in reducing swelling. However, ask your surgeon first to be sure that it is OK and find out if you are allowed to remove your compression garment for it. Massage does not work on top of a binder and bandages.
During a massage on a tummy tuck patients, the masseuse (or yourself) should not place any direct pressure downward on the abdomen, but rather use a clockwise motion, working in circles, spiraling outward. Ten minutes of massage, one to three times a day can help in reducing swelling and pain. Keep your hands away from your incision and take care not to get lotions or oils anywhere near the incision. If you must use lotion, use an antibacterial formulation. Stay away from natural oils made from shea nut, koala nut, almonds, or similar products until the abdominoplasty incision is well healed and fully closed.
If you have had liposuction, massaging the treated area can decrease the formation of scar tissue that can cause lumps and dents.
Lymphatic massage was developed in Germany as a treatment for patients
stricken with lymphedema, which is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissues that causes swelling due to missing or impaired lymphatic vessels. (The lymphatic system is the combination of lymph nodes and vessels that transport fluid around the body and that form one component of the immune system.)
Lymphatic massage can reduce swelling, stimulate the immune system, reduce abnormal and excessive scar tissue formation, decrease healing time, and improves overall health in tummy tuck patients. It improves circulation and reduces swelling in a given area by moving pooled fluids.
You may be advised against having a tissue or lymphatic massage for at least a week after tummy tuck surgery because you will be sore and your bandages and sutures should remain undisturbed. A massage can also contribute to formation of a seroma (a pocket of fluid) and, if the massage is too rough, a hematoma (pocket of blood).
Please ask your surgeon before you have a massage.
Finally, avoid drugs and supplements that can interfere with the proper fluid balance in your body and should be avoided after tummy tuck surgery. These include diuretics (water pills), caffeine or caffeine pills, garlic supplements, and papaya supplements.