Vitamin Intake Before and After Surgery
Traditionally, vitamins were thought to merely prevent specific vitamin deficiency syndromes or disease, in the manner that a modest amount of vitamin C prevents scurvy and vitamin D prevents rickets. Recommended daily allowances (RDA’s) were formulated by government bodies solely with this in mind. Nowadays, there is broad agreement that higher vitamin dosages will optimise health and prevent many diseases common in modern society, such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis.
In 2002, the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association wrote that ” It appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements. Most people do not consume an optimal amount of vitamins by diet alone.” (1)The British Medical Journal agreed, saying “…popping a multivitamin a day can keep disease at bay”.(2)
Surgery is unavoidably a time of emotional stress and physical stress on your body, as well as tissue damage and free radical formation. It is also a time when the body turns from anabolic (building tissues up) to catabolic (breaking tissues down), for an extended period. Several interventions will help to minimise these changes. As is the case in anti-ageing medicine, these interventions compromise diet, exercise, supplementation and hormonal modulation.
Before surgery your diet should be very low in sugar ( and other high-glycaemic index carbohydrates) and very high in protein. Gentle exercise such as walking should be resumed as soon as possible after surgery. Aim to resume all usual activities within one month.
Supplements which reduce inflammation, accelerate resolution of bruising and swelling, and provide strong anti-oxidant effects will prove valuable. There are no supplements designed specifically for peri-operative use available in Australia, so we have finally designed our own programme. We now stock a number of supplements by NutritionCare, a respected “health practitioner-only” range formulated by the eminent Professor Ian Brighthope of Melbourne. We have specifically selected four supplements to provide maximal support for your body during and after surgery, whilst avoiding ingredients which might cause bleeding problems due to thinning the blood. We recommend commencement a week or two prior to surgery and continuation for two to three months afterward. Details of these supplements are included.
With respect to hormonal modulation, there is excellent evidence that anabolic and immune stimulant hormones will also help, particularly human growth hormone, DHEA and 7-keto DHEA. We are currently researching such interventions.
(1) Fletcher RH & Fairfield KM (2002) “Vitamins for chronic disease prevention in adults : scientific review” JAMA 287 (23) – 3116 – 26
Some medication must be avoided completely for two weeks prior to surgery. Please find a comprehensive list of these medications on the next page.
Vitamin C in high doses is beneficial prior to surgery as it is an anti-oxidant and it has anti-inflammatory properties. It is essential in the healing of wounds, bruises, fractures and capillary damage, and for the formation of bones, cartilage and teeth.
Anti-oxidants before surgery will assist your general level of health. Having increased anti-oxidant levels in your system will aid your bodies healing process, aiding your fight against free radicals. A good multi-purpose anti-oxidant tablet should contain some or all of the following: milk thistle, grape seed, Beta carotene, vitamin C, selenium, vitamin B1, B5, B6, B12, folic acid and zinc.
(Beware of anti-oxidants with high levels of vitamin E, as this is one of the vitamins to be avoided for two weeks before surgery. Daily levels of vitamin E prior to surgery should not exceed 200 IU daily).)
As for pre-operative use, vitamin C is essential for healing and has many anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. Quercetin and Bromelian are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, reducing swelling and oedema and promoting faster healing
Zinc is believed to accelerate wound healing, and is therefore useful before and after surgery. Most multivitamins contain zinc, and this is usually sufficient. However, if you are a particularly poor healer, suffer infections easily, or are prone to stretch marks etc, then you may wish to take an additional zinc tablet daily just prior to and after surgery.
Arnica is credited with anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, circulation stimulating, healing and antiseptic properties. It has been shown to aid in the reduction of bruising post operatively. Some people are sensitive to arnica, so we suggest only low doses if you are not familiar with arnica. For optimal results, commence Arnica the day prior to your surgery. After surgery continue treatment for four days.