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Natural First Aid for Surgery
By Jack Challem
As much as we try to stay healthy, sometimes there’s no avoiding major surgery, and any way you look at it, surgery puts a huge amount of stress on the body. You needn’t take the experience lying down, however—you can do a whole lot to prepare yourself for the operating room and to speed your recovery.
Not surprisingly, good nutrition pays post-op dividends. Take the time before your surgery to improve your eating habits by limiting your intake of most store-bought snack foods, fast foods, and refined carbs such as white bread and white rice. These foods can create a diabetes-like blood-sugar pattern that results in poor glucose tolerance, which, in turn, can lower your immunity and hinder your recovery. Case in point: A study in the April 2006 Archives of Surgery reported that people with poor glucose tolerance had twice the risk of post-operative infections.
And don’t forget your vitamins. Alan Gaby, MD, coeditor of A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Healthnotes, 1999), often suggests that his patients take a high-potency multivitamin and mineral formula, starting at least two weeks before surgery and continuing for at least four weeks afterward to promote healing. In addition, add the following supplements to top out your total daily intake at these levels: 2,000 to 3,000 mg vitamin C, 25,000 IU vitamin A, 30 to 50 mg zinc, 3 to 4 mg copper, and 1,500 to 3,000 mg citrus bioflavonoids. “Just about every time patients use this,” says Gaby, “the surgeon comments that he has never seen anyone heal so fast.”
Because of the risks inherent in major surgery, however, you absolutely must let both your surgeon and your anesthesiologist know what supplements, medications, and over-the-counter drugs you’re taking. For example, certain supplements have a tendency to thin blood and could cause excessive bleeding on the operating table. Ron Hunninghake, MD, medical director of the Bright Spot for Health, a nutritional medicine center in Wichita, Kansas, offers this advice: “It’s prudent to stop taking natural anticoagulants, such as garlic, ginkgo, high levels of vitamin E, and fish oils, a week or so before surgery.” But resume them after surgery, with your doctor’s go-ahead.
Additionally, various herbs may interact with anesthesia during surgery. Steven Barker, MD, head of the anesthesiology department at the University of Arizona Medical School, Tucson, points out that St. John’s wort prolongs the effects of anesthesia, making it more difficult to regain consciousness. “Ephedrine-like supplements, such as ma huang, often taken for weight loss, can increase blood pressure and trigger heart-rhythm abnormalities—not what you want on the operating room table.” For the same reason, Barker also notes that antihistamines, including those sold over the counter (such as Sudafed), may also pose problems.
The acupuncture approach
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Author: Jack Challem
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