All Set for Surgery?

I am scheduled for surgery in two weeks (hysterectomy), and I wonder what supplements might be good for me to take now and after surgery to aid in speedy recovery?

– October 17, 2006

One of the best things you can do for yourself before surgery is to speak to your surgeon about mixing vitamin C with the intravenous fluids you’ll get in the operating room, and then continuing the IV drip until your digestive system is ready to handle food again. Ask for 20 grams of vitamin C in every 24-hour period. The body uses a lot of vitamin C to make connective tissue. A high intake will speed the healing of surgical wounds. Your surgeon may resist, but press your case. The results will be worth it. If you can’t do this, increase oral intake of vitamin C to 1,000 mg twice a day until the surgery.

Be sure that your anesthesiologist is aware of all supplements and drugs you are taking. You will have to temporarily discontinue any that might interfere with blood clotting or anesthesia. No doubt your surgeon has told you to stop taking aspirin or any other anticoagulant prior to surgery. I suggest that you also temporarily discontinue high doses of fish oil, garlic, and vitamin E, all of which have anticoagulant effects.

I also suggest that you make a tape of healing statements to be played while you’re 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. You may want to look into taking the “Prepare for Surgery” program by psychologist Peggy Huddleston or listening to affirming tapes made by psychotherapist Belleruth Naparstek and available via her Web site:

I also urge you to bring some guided imagery tapes to the hospital and use them both before and after your surgery. More than 200 studies have shown that guided imagery can make a huge difference to surgical patients by decreasing pain and the need for pain medication, reducing side effects and complications of surgery, lessening stress and anxiety before and after procedures, reducing recovery time, improving sleep, strengthening the immune system, and boosting self-confidence and self-control.

After surgery, ask for 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.

You also may be able to speed your recovery after surgery by taking cordyceps, a Chinese tonic mushroom. In addition, bromelain, a pineapple enzyme, can reduce swelling and bruising; take 200-400 mg three times a day on an empty stomach. Homeopathic arnica can help with pain; use the 30c potency and take five tablets as directed every two to four hours as needed for the first 48 hours after surgery.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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