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Supplements for Surgery

Supplements and Surgery:

You most likely know already that there are certain supplements and medications that you should avoid before surgery. Mostly these are supplements and medications that can cause excess bleeding, as well as those that can interfere with the anesthesia.

Surgeons’ opinions vary on which medications and supplements are okay and when to stop taking them. You should follow your surgeon’s recommendations to the letter. These suggestions will likely be more conservative than the ones you receive from your surgeon, because in holistic healthcare, we are interested in helping you achieve optimal health, not just the absence of disease. You can choose to follow these recommendations only if they fit with your surgeon’s recommendations as well. Do not take any supplements or herbs which you know you are allergic or sensitive to or which your doctor or surgeon has told you to avoid.

What to Avoid Before Surgery:

It is most important to avoid potential blood thinners for at least 7 days before and 3 days after surgery. Your surgeon may tell you to avoid them for even longer, depending on the type of surgery you are having. This includes any prescription blood thinners as well as garlic, ginkgo, vitamin E, fish oil/omega 3, and aspirin, ibuprofen, aleve, and other NSAIDs.

Some surgeons may also recommend that you avoid St. John’s Wort, dong quai/dang gui/angelica, feverfew, goldenseal, ginseng, ginger supplements, saw palmetto, reishi, echinacea, ephedra/ma huang, kava, licorice, and valerian for 7 days before and 3 days after surgery, as these can cause excess bleeding.

I tend to err on the side of caution, stopping all herbs and supplements (and any medications your surgeon tells you to avoid) 7 days before surgery.

Most surgeons say that tylenol is okay to take before surgery as needed, but don’t take it if you can avoid it since tylenol can be hard on the liver and your liver is already going to be stressed by the anesthesia. Check with your surgeon when deciding what to take.

Ideally, avoid alcohol, tylenol, and anything else that is hard on your liver 1 month before and after surgery to allow your body to safely process the anesthesia. This obviously does not apply if your surgeon prescribes or recommends tylenol before or after surgery.

Get plenty of sleep, exercise, stay hydrated, and avoid sugar (to keep your immune system healthy) in the month before surgery, and always!

Before Surgery Supplements:

There are certain supplements that can help you recover faster from surgery and risk less side effects. It is helpful to start taking these at least one month before surgery. Do not take any supplements that your surgeon does not approve and remember to stop your supplements one week before surgery.

Starting one month before surgery:
A multivitamin with 25-50mg of B vitamin complex
50 mg CoQ10/day: reduces stress of surgery on heart, improves recovery
500-1000mg/day vitamin C: necessary for wound healing, helps your body produce collagen
Milk thistle: detoxes the liver to prepare for successful anesthesia
2000-5000 IU vitamin D/day with food if not already included in your multivitamin

Starting 2 weeks before surgery, add:
30-50mg zinc picolinate/day with food: necessary for wound healing
Probiotic blend with acidophilis and bifida: reduces risk of post-surgical infection


After Surgery

After surgery, start off with broths, including bone broth, fresh juices, soups, and other easy to digest foods like oatmeal. Green drinks and whole food based protein shakes are also great when you’re not up for eating real foods yet. Stay away from sugary drinks like gatorade and pedialyte, starches, breads, and crackers, as they can deplete your immune system and cause constipation.

After Surgery Supplements

As long as your surgeon says it’s okay, take 1000mg vitamin C as soon as you get home from the hospital and continue daily. Vitamin C is necessary for wound healing, helps your body produce collagen, and helps your liver break down the anesthetic.

Some surgeons will recommend waiting a few days before restarting supplements and herbs. As long as your surgeon says it’s okay, the day after surgery, start taking Resinall E from Health Concerns (three tablets three times per day, available by prescription from Prism) or 1000-1500 mg standardized bromelain 3x/day on an empty stomach. This helps speed recovery and reduce swelling and bruising. It is mandatory to take it on an empty stomach, otherwise it will just help digest your food but not have any effect on swelling and bruising.

Starting 3 days after surgery, add:
250mg B6 2x/day (or substitute your multivitamin if it contains B6): reduces swelling
100-200mg CoQ10/day: reduces stress of surgery on heart, improves recovery
Milk thistle: detoxes anesthesia from the liver
30-50mg zinc picolinate/day with food: necessary for wound healing
Probiotic blend with acidophilis and bifida: reduces risk of post-surgical infection
2000-3000mg omega 3 per day: reduces inflammation and improves circulation
Arnica 30C 4-5x/day: reduces pain, bruising, and swelling
2000-5000 IU vitamin D/day with food


After one week post-surgery:
You can stop the B6/multivitamin, unless this is part of your regular supplement regimen

After two weeks post-surgery, you can stop taking:
Vitamin C or return to your usual dose
Lower your fish oil/omega 3 dose to 500-1000mg/day

One month post-surgery:
You are done with this supplement plan! Return to you regular supplements and herbs as recommended by your acupuncturist and doctors.

Happy healing :)

All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.

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