Proactive Considerations for Surgical Patients

Author: Gael Wheeler, DO

Any surgical procedure and anesthesia, while beneficial in the long term, can carry certain physiological challenges. Just as a person would when preparing for a sports competition, the better your overall condition going into the challenge, the better the chances of a positive outcome and speedy recovery. Below are some considerations both prior to and after surgery to help you prepare.*

Prior to surgery

For the week prior prepare your body for healing by increasing intake of protein. A branched-chain amino acid supplement containing the essential amino acids can be a helpful addition. Getting a 25g vitamin C IV a day or two prior to surgery can help with the oxidative stress of the anesthesia and the surgery itself and help with collagen-building and healing. Taking Arnica Montana 30C can help minimize surgical bruising and swelling. Take 5 pellets under the tongue twice a day beginning 3-5 days prior to surgery and continuing till the day after.

Because anesthesia paralyzes the intestinal tract, constipation can be a problem after surgery. To minimize this, stay well hydrated up to the day of surgery and for 3 days prior drink prune juice, eat stewed prunes with lemon juice and take a quality fiber supplement. Avoid sugary and processed foods prior to surgery.

To minimize the risk of excessive bleeding, for 1 week before surgery stop aspirin, vitamin E, fish oil and herbal supplements, including garlic, ginkgo, and ginger. Many herbal supplements may also interfere with anesthesia, so it’s wise to stop these a week prior to surgery. Be sure to inform your surgeon and anesthesiologist of any medications or supplements you have taken prior to surgery.

After Surgery

As mentioned above, constipation can be a significant post-surgical problem, especially with abdominal or pelvic surgery. Stay well hydrated and never strain to have a bowel movement. It can take the GI tract 3-4 days to begin normal movement, so be patient. Again, prunes and a gentle fiber supplement can help. Getting up and moving as tolerated will also help.

Tissue healing is a high priority at this stage, so protein shakes and amino acid supplements can be very helpful. Oral vitamin C or IV vitamin C can help with collagen formation and healing. Take a good quality multivitamin daily after surgery. The stress of surgery and the healing process increase your need for antioxidants and the B complex vitamins. Coenzyme Q10 200 mg a day is safe to take prior to and after surgery for its benefits as an excellent antioxidant.

Plan to have light, nutritious food easily available after your procedure. You may not have much of an appetite for a few days and having nutritious shakes with protein, berries, olive oil and a non-sugary liquid, like unsweetened almond milk, can be a delicious and easy way to get the tissue building nutrients you need. Garden of Life Raw Protein works well for this. Avoid whey protein, as it can promote inflammation for many individuals.

Also, plan to alternate rest with light activity like walking as tolerated. Don’t be surprised if your coordination is off for a few days, so avoid driving or other activities that require attention or balance until adequately recovered.

Most of all, be patient with yourself in the healing process. Healing well takes all of the above, but mostly it takes time. Find some good books to read. Draw or write; this may be a time to explore creativity. Prepare for yourself as you would your child or best friend and you can help assure a positive outcome and speedy recovery.

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* Please remember that these are general guidelines and not intended to diagnose, treat, or be used in place of advice from your medical provider. If you have additional questions, please schedule an appointment to meet with Dr. Gael Wheeler or consult your regular physician.