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Vitamin C for Surgery?

My son is going in for surgery. Do you still recommend extra vitamin C?  What about the use of headphones to block sounds? Do you recommend Arnica montana as well?

Answer (Published 1/4/2008)

I do still highly recommend vitamin C before, during and after surgery, but you may find that it's pretty hard to persuade your son's physicians to do what I suggest. The body uses a lot of vitamin C to make connective tissue and high levels of the vitamin speed the healing of surgical wounds. For that reason, I recommend giving patients an IV drip of vitamin C during surgery. The drip should provide 20 grams of vitamin C in every 24-hour period, from the time a patient goes into surgery until the IV is removed. If you're persistent, you may be able to convince your son's doctors to go along with this plan, but I'm afraid you'll have an uphill battle.

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If, as I suspect, you aren't able to get the IV drip, the alternative is taking high doses of vitamin C by mouth. I recommend 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day for five days before surgery and continuing with that dose for a week afterward.

Rather than headphones to block sounds, I suggest making a tape of healing statements to be played while your son is under anesthesia. A study conducted at New York's Beth Israel Hospital showed that patients who heard positive affirmations on a tape played while they were under required 50 percent less post-op medication than those who didn't have tapes played. Look into the "Prepare for Surgery" program by psychologist Peggy Huddleston or the affirming tapes by psychotherapist Belleruth Naparstek, available via her Web site:

I also recommend bringing some guided imagery tapes to the hospital and playing them before and after surgery. More than 200 studies have shown that guided imagery can help decrease pain and the need for pain medication, reduce side effects and complications of surgery, lessen stress and anxiety before and after procedures, reduce recovery time, improve sleep, strengthen the immune system, and boost self-confidence and self-control.

After surgery, you can request therapeutic touch therapy, available at many hospitals. Practitioners usually are registered nurses. They use their hands to assess and balance the energy surrounding the body in order to promote healing. Alternatively, opt for Reiki, a type of energy medicine that uses light hand placements to channel healing energies to patients. Scientific evidence for the effectiveness of these methods is contradictory, but the techniques are gentle and harmless, and in my experience can be a powerful way to enhance the healing process.

I do recommend homeopathic arnica to help with pain after surgery. Use the 30X potency; the dose is five tablets as directed every two to four hours as needed for the first 48 hours after the operation. In addition, bromelain, a pineapple enzyme, can reduce swelling and bruising; the dose is 200 - 400 mg three times a day on an empty stomach.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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