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Preparing for Surgery

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

There’s a lot you can do prior to getting surgery, from preparing your body for the inevitable tissue trauma that occurs (no matter how small the incision), to supporting a speedy and optimal recovery. I share here a short version of what to consider when you’re contemplating, getting ready for, or recovering from surgery.

Some key points I'll cover -

How to:

1) Prepare yourself physically and emotionally to efficiently cope with any trauma and/or toxicity of surgery…thereby improving wound healing*

2) Educate yourself regarding what supplements and herbs to avoid that may be counteractive to surgery

3) Protect and nourish your healthy cells

4) Promote wound healing, lymphatic drainage, and liver and kidney detoxification (from anesthesia)

5) Facilitate muscle and fascial release and recovery and restoration of Qi/energy balance

* Stress affects wound healing

(These recommendations are taken and adapted from the book The Breast Cancer Companion that I co-authored with Dr Barbara MacDonald)

Feeling Ready

If you’re contemplating surgery, it's important to check in with how you’re feeling about it. Stress affects wound healing, so it’s important that you feel physically and emotionally prepared. Feeling prepared and as relaxed as possible prior to the event can do wonders for your experience and your recovery. Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself (or a loved one) if you are preparing for a surgical procedure.

  • How’re you feeling about this surgery?

  • Do you have any fears? What are they?

  • Do you have any prior experience with surgeries or anesthesia procedures? How did that go for you?

  • How do you anticipate being affected by the surgery, what is your desired outcome?

  • Do you have any known allergies to anesthesia or pain medications?

  • Do you feel you need any anxiety-reducing natural supplements or drugs?

  • Would a guided meditation help you before your surgery?

  • Would you like family members to be present at the hospital with you?

Obviously the type of surgery makes a difference.

Getting a root canal may feel less fear-provoking than getting a mastectomy. Both are significant procedures, but the mastectomy has many added complications; longer time for recovery, higher potential for post-surgical infection, bleeding, clot formation, pain and musculoskeletal asymmetry. The emotional impact of having to let go of a breast adds greatly to the impact of the mastectomy.

Take the time, either with a health-care practitioner or a loved one, to anticipate and examine your emotions. By doing this, you can greatly reduce post-surgical traumatic stress. Make sure you understand the surgical experience and what the day of surgery will look like for you. Mentally walk yourself or have someone walk you through the procedure to prepare for what’s to come.

Click here for a guided meditation that can support you


1) Presurgical Cleanse – if you have time, you can help yourself immensely by following an individualized detoxification or cleansing program. This will enhance your body’s vitality and strength before you undergo surgery. A cleanse prior to surgery will also increase the chances of proper and efficient wound healing and support your body so that you recover more quickly.

Are you ready for a cleanse? Are you motivated enough to consider making changes to your diet? Make sure you’re not overwhelmed already, and that you have the means to properly prepare your meals. If contemplating a cleanse is too much, making healthy substitutions for unhealthy foods is a great place to begin.

There are many different types of nutritional cleanse programs you can tailor to your needs. Here are some basic suggestions that are effective in supporting and detoxifying the body.

  • Simple Cleanse Recommendations

Hypoallergenic and anti-inflammatory diets (click here for Anti-Inflammatory Diet)-

Whole foods that include a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocado, beans and legumes, cold water wild fish, free-range, organic eggs, unrefined whole grains and lots of water (water intake should equal ½ your body weight in ounces).

Specifically eliminate unhealthy beverages, activities, negative media, etc. Avoid fried and processed foods, partially hydrogenated oils, sugars, high carbohydrates, soda, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine, cheese and high fat conventional meats. Avoid purging or depleting cleanses such as intensive bowel cleanses, parasite purges or water fasts

  • When to do a Cleanse

- When you are strong enough to do it and not already overwhelmed.

- Between treatments such as after surgery and before chemotherapy

- At the end of treatment for 3-6 weeks

- One week per month or 4-6 times a year

Presurgical Sample Plan

Naturopathic Herbal and Supplemental Support

Anti-inflammatory Diet high in vegetables, fruits, grains, and healthy protein

  • Anti-inflammatory Diet high in vegetables, fruits, grains and healthy protein

  • Drink 10 glasses of water daily, reduce or eliminate caffeine, alcohol, sugar and food allergens/intolerances such as phlegm producing dairy products

  • Probiotics (10-20+ billion live organisms with multiple strains)

  • Temporary use of mixed, natural carotenes (25,000 iu) for wound healing

  • Vitamin A (5,000 iu) for wound healing

  • Vitamin C (500 to 3,000 mg) for wound healing

  • Rescue Remedy –an effective anxiety reducer without side effects

  • Avoid blood thinners and agents that may promote excessive detoxification

  • Homeopathics

  1. Arnica 30c, 3 pellets under the tongue once a day starting 5 days prior until 5 days after to reduce tissue trauma

  2. Phosphorous 30c, 3 pellets under the tongue, one day before surgery to limit bleeding

What to Avoid 10-14 days Prior to Surgery*

There are some supplements and medications that you should avoid prior to surgery. These include potential blood thinners and agents that will alter your body’s capacity to clear substances from the body. *Please note that this list is not exhaustive and does include supplements that can be useful at other times for you.

Blood thinners - the following list includes herbs and supplements that may alter your platelet activity and encourage bleeding; Turmeric, Vitamin E, Willow bark, EFA’s (Fish oil, Flax oil, EPO, borage), red clover, ginseng, sage, devil’s claw, Don quai, capsicum, bromelain, Gingko, Vitamin K, alfalfa, licorice.

Conventional doctors will advise regarding the avoidance of NSAIDS, aspirin, etc..

Anything that alters your liver’s clearance of anesthesia, pain killers, etc.

Herbs and nutrients that detoxify the liver should be avoided 5-10 days prior to surgery as they may alter the dose and predictable efficacy of surgical medications.

Milk Thistle, St. John’s Wort*, Methionine, grapefruit juice, N.A.C., etc.

*(St John’s Wort remains controversial, as it is still unclear whether this herb definitively alters liver clearance. It does appear that water extracts/capsules are more likely than alcohol extracts to cause contraindications for surgery.)

Post-Surgical Plan

Begin the following as soon as you return home:

  • Wound healing nutrients:

Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, digestive enzymes between meals,

herbal anti-inflammatories (Consider Opti Recovery by Vitanica – 1 capsule 2x/day. Use one bottle for smaller surgeries, two bottles for more extensive surgeries.)

  • Liver detoxifiers:

Consider Silymarin or Silybum marianum (milk thistle), N.A.C., Methionine, etc Consider providing a single combination liver support product (available from most nutraceutical or naturopathic product companies). Liver drainage remedies are also very effective, such as those from UNDA or Pekana.

  • General detoxification and cleansing techniques:

Skin brushing, castor oil packs, increased water intake, deep breathing, moderate sweating and movement to improve circulation. Prepare yourself for the possibility of constipation if you are on any pain medication. Constipation can increase both pain and nausea. Consider Smooth Move Tea, high doses of vitamin C and magnesium or small, temporary doses of products containing senna to alleviate this issue.

  • Homeopathics to consider:

Hypericum for nerve pain, Bryonia for acute pain that is better lying on affected side and worse with movement, Ruta for bruising and general achiness

  • Continue health enhancing diet for at least 10 days – See Appendix

  • If possible receive acupuncture weekly for at least 3-4 weeks or as long as your practitioner recommends



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