recommended vitamins, minerals, and topicals to boost surgery recovery

Pre-Operative Supplements, Recommended Supplements Before Surgery

Pre-Operative Supplements, Recommended Supplements Before Surgery

surgeon analyzing results before surgery
surgeon analyzing results before surgery

Next to post-operative healing, vitamin and mineral supplementation has a role in preparing one’s body for surgery.

Vitamin and mineral supplementation has a role in preparing one’s body for surgery, and also in post-operative healing.

Prior to engaging in pre and post-operative nutritive therapy, patients should first consult their physician to discuss the types and dosages of supplements to take, and how long the therapy should last.

In this manner, the supplement therapy can be monitored by your doctor and can be tailored so it is most effective.

In any case, it is important to explore the nutritional and botanical influences on wound healing, as effective treatment with the right vitamin and mineral supplements can promote quicker healing time, with less pain, discomfort, and scarring. ( McKay, Douglas, ND and Miller, Alan L. ND, 2003).

Pre-operative Supplementation
In the weeks prior to surgery, it is very important that a patient’s diet include the recommended daily allowances for macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

About 2-4 weeks before surgery, patients should prepare their bodies adequately for the stress of upcoming surgery by engaging in healthy nutrition that includes drinking enough water, eating protein, and taking several different supplements (Turk, Jon B., 2011).

Water is necessary because it aids digestion, ridding the body of toxins, wastes and impurities, while preventing constipation and bloating. It is also necessary that patients eat enough protein to prepare their bodies for surgery and post-operative healing (Turk, Jon B., 2011).

Patients should take a multivitamin during the pre-operative preparation period. Multivitamins provide the recommended daily dosage of micronutrients that will help the body get ready for post-operative tissue repair (Turk, Jon B., 2011).

There is substantial evidence that vitamin A is an effective perioperative (meaning, before, during and after surgery) nutritional substance, enhancing wound repair and suppressing factors that work against proper healing.

One study concluded that taking 25,000 International Units (IUs) of vitamin A before and after surgery helped patients known to be immune depleted or steroid treated, and those with sepsis*, fractures, or tendon damage.

(* sepsis, sometimes also referred to as blood poisoning, is the body’s inflammatory response to infection.)

Supplements typically contain 10,000-50,000 international units (IU) per capsule.

If you prefer to get the fat-soluble vitamin A through food you could add fortified foods and animal foods  such as milk, liver, kidney, fish oil to your diet. Dietary vitamin A is also obtained from provitamin A carotenoids from plant sources such as (cooked) carrots.

Cautions on vitamin A use are warranted, as vitamin A suppresses the effects of steroids (for those patients who need to use steroids), and extremely high dosages of vitamin A are toxic. Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age should also use caution in taking Vitamin A.

vitamin C speeds surgical recovery
vitamin C speeds surgical recovery

Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, proteoglycans, and the organic components of the intracellular matrix of tissues, such as bones, skin, capillary walls and other connective tissues. (McKay, Douglas, ND and Miller, Alan L. ND, 2003).

Taking high dosages of vitamin C for a two-week period before surgery and during the postoperative period will ensure that a high blood-level of vitamin C is maintained to aid the healing process (Tylee Peter & Jenny, 2011).

One study recommended taking 1-2 grams of vitamin C from wound onset until the healing is complete (McKay, Douglas, ND and Miller, Alan L. ND, 2003).

Zinc is an important trace mineral for DNA synthesis, cell division, and protein synthesis. Zinc demands increase from wound initiation through the inflammatory phase of healing. Perioperative zinc supplementation of 15-30 milligrams (mg) daily is recommended, with higher levels in patients who have conditions that promote zinc deficiency (risk factors such as malnutrition, malabsorption, or chronic diarrhea). (McKay, Douglas, ND and Miller, Alan L. ND, 2003).

Glucosamine aids the production of hyaluronic acid, which plays a role in mediating the sequence of events in the healing process. Oral glucosamine (1,500 mg daily) taken both before and during the first few days after surgery might enhance hyaluronic acid production in the wound, promoting swifter healing and possibly less scarring. ( McKay, Douglas, ND and Miller, Alan L. ND, 2003).

Glutamine is an amino acid that is important to healing—taking glutamine during the preoperative period will reduce the healing time, post surgery.

Arginine is another important amino acid that aids in infection prevention, immune function, and post-operative healing. CoenzymeQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that aids faster healing if taken prior to surgery.

Probiotics taken before surgery will ensure that good bacteria inhabit the gut prior to surgery (Turk, Jon B., 2011).

Adequate protein intake is essential for proper wound healing. Protein depletion will delay healing by prolonging the inflammatory phase. Patients who undergo major surgery need 10% more protein, while patients who suffer major trauma need up to 75-100% more protein intake. During the perioperative period, patients should daily consume 8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (McKay, Douglas, ND and Miller, Alan L. ND, 2003).

The Hospital and Your Supplements


Once admitted to the hospital, patients should realize that supplements are considered medications, and hospital personnel will not approve taking them without a doctor’s consent.

Patients should talk with their doctors about continuing supplement therapy while in the hospital, and get approval for whatever supplements are to be taken. These can then be included on a patient’s chart as approved medications (Tylee Peter & Jenny, 2011).

2 Responses to Pre-Operative Supplements, Recommended Supplements Before Surgery

  1. Im going in for A Breast Aug on the 19th June this year. Im recently taking 1tsp Pure Vit C and 1mg of liquid Zinc daily. 1/4 tsp is approx equivalent to 1,000mg Vit C. Do you think im taking enough ? Is there anything else that you would recommend?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Ayisha, the information here is intended as a general guideline. For more specific and personal advice I would recommend for you to consult your doctor or surgery team.

      In general I can say that eating healthy and being fit can make a considerable difference. Regarding other recommendations, you may find this post on preparing for surgery helpful.

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