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The Do’s and Don’ts of Supplements and Surgery

stickneysupplementsIf you’re preparing for surgery, you want your body in the best condition for your operation. It’s natural to feel like you need to take every precaution – after all, the success of a procedure depends heavily on preparation and your state of health.

Even though it’s done strategically, your tissue undergoes trauma during surgery. Bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, and skin endure stress and may experience injury associated with surgery. To avoid complications during the operation and help your body heal, it’s useful to prepare by taking specific supplements and stopping others. Read on to learn what supplements could be beneficial and those that may be worth avoiding:

What Supplements Can You Take to Promote Recovery After Surgery?
Rather than loading up on supplements, the goal is to correct any deficiencies by consuming essential minerals. Consider taking these to keep your body working optimally:

  • Vitamins D, A, and Calcium: Each aid in bone growth and collagen strength.
  • Magnesium: This often deficient mineral ensures proper circulation and heart rate among other benefits.
  • Vitamin C: Supports the immune system as an antioxidant and rebuilds collagen.
  • Zinc: Helps heal wounds and keeps the immune system strong.
  • Probiotics: Replenishes good bacteria and may stave off infection.
  • Ginger: May help keep nausea at bay after surgery.

What Supplements Should You Avoid Before Surgery?
Successful surgery and recovery largely depend on effective blood clotting and rebuilding of collagen, a crucial component of healthy tissue. Platelet aggregation is part of the process that leads to blood coagulation and the release of growth factors needed to start healing. To ensure that these developments occur, it’s best to avoid supplements with platelet inhibiting effects, prior to surgery, like blood-thinners or herbal additives. Some common blood-thinners to watch for are:

  • Gingko Biloba: May lead to excessive bleeding or prevent platelet aggregation.
  • Garlic: Often inhibits platelet aggregation and prevents blood clotting.
  • Ginseng: Can lower blood sugar or increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Ephedra: Might accelerate heart and blood pressure.
  • Vitamin E and Fish Oil: These are slightly more complex. Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E both have been known to act as blood-thinners, but also have shown reductions in inflammation after surgery. In general, the helpful affects here outweigh the potential for blood loss. Consult with an orthopedic surgeon to find out what’s right for you.

After surgery and initial blood loss has ceased, we actually may seek to inhibit blood clot formation to decrease the risk of deep vein thrombosis (otherwise known as a blood clot) that most often occurs in the legs. This type of blood clot is a well-known risk associated with large surgeries and a period of decreased activity. To prevent these clots from forming you may be instructed to take a variety of blood thinners for 2-6 weeks after surgery. The options include:

  • Warfarin: When combined with vitamin K, this blood thinner can inhibit protein synthesis of a factor associated with forming clots. Vitamin K is found primarily in dark green vegetables. If you are placed on Warfarin you will be asked to avoid these vegetables while taking it.
  • Aspirin: While this drug should be avoided prior to surgery, it’s often used after surgery to help prevent blood clots. Aspirin inhibits platelets from coming together and forming a clot.

Another concern is supplements that interact with important drugs administered during surgery. Stay away from calming agents and sedatives, supplements that speed up the body’s breakdown of drugs, or those that elevate the heart rate and blood pressure. A few common types to avoid are:

  • Kava: May prolong effects from sedatives, painkillers, or anesthetics.
  • Milk Thistle: Could weaken the effect of drugs administered during surgery by marginally increasing drug metabolism.
  • Licorice: Can increase blood pressure or cause other nutrient deficiencies.

The type of surgery largely dictates what supplements may or may not be problematic. To confirm that you are taking the correct steps in preparation for surgery, consult with Dr. Stickney,Kirkland orthopedic surgeon who specializes in joint replacement surgery, sports medicine, and more.


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