Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A barber rant and Chinese myths about surgery

Yesterday I went to a budget hair snipper for the regulation pre- Chinese New Year hair cut.

I was admonished by a young (?early twenties) guy with dyed blond hair in a fancy do that my oily skin was causing my thinning vertex, because "the oil was clogging the hair follicles". This isn't the first time I have come across such 'advice'. It seems every time I go to a place with a younger generation of hair dressers, I get this same advice. There seems to be an extremely knowledgeable hair dressing lecturer doing the rounds in Singapore.

Because I have had this advice a number of times before, which is just about as much as I could handle, I asked him if he had ever been to medical school. I am grateful he didn't give me a bald patch at the time. But I am going to an Indian barber the next time.

I'm glad my hair did not turn out like this...

Which kind of brings me to a couple of common questions originating from Chinese myths and traditions that we commonly get asked by patients who are going for surgery.

Number 1: Can you eat seafood after cataract surgery?
My answer-Yes, and do enjoy yourself to your hearts' content with prawn, crabs, lobsters, etc

TCM regards some seafood as 'fa wu' or stimulating, and these (which include cured fish and shellfish) may cause inflammation according to traditional Chinese beliefs.

It's possible that shellfish allergies are fairly common, and along the way they became associated with causing itching-as what commonly happens with any healing wound. It is also possible that undercooked shellfish such as clams and cockles commonly cause food poisoning, since they often concentrate toxins and bacteria by dint of their lifestyle as filter feeders.

However, well cooked shellfish are in fact nutritious and rich in proteins and minerals such as iodine and zinc. And as long as a person is not allergic to them, they are a perfectly good food to eat whether surgery has been done recently or not.

Number 2: Will eating things with soya sauce cause the surgical wound to turn black?
My answer-No, so don't worry, go ahead and make your food a little more tasty with that magic sauce.

Any wound develops inflammation, which is part of the healing process. In the active inflammatory phase, the wound is pink, and as it heals, the pinkness goes darker. Eventually, after a period lasting weeks to months, the dark colour fades. This darkening is a normal phenomenon and is called 'post-inflammatory pigmentation'. We see it with other types of inflammation such as pimples or a scraped knee, as well. So no, it is not due to the black colour of soya sauce. Otherwise we are also going to have to ban coffee and marmite/vegemite-I think these are going to be an even harder sells than prohibiting soya sauce!

Do you know any other traditional myths surrounding surgery and post-operative care? Do let me know!


  1. Hi,

    Can I eat raw seafood such as crab leg, oysters, scallops and sashimi after bladeless lasik surgery? Any food restrictions?

    1. Hi Ailing, yes, you can eat all these things after bladeless LASIK surgery. There are no dietary restrictions. This actually applies to most eye surgeries also, such as cataract surgery. Although there is no harm if you abstain, there is also absolutely no harm if you indulge, unless there is a pre-existing allergy to the said food. Enjoy!

  2. Hi,

    Thanks!(: Your blog is so informative, definitely helps people who are looking for info on eyes 😊👍

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