East Meets West

Preparing for Surgery


How does a person best prepare for upcoming surgery? There are physical, emotional and mental aspects of the process ~ and of the healing. In order to address all three, we recommend the approach be an integration of both western medicine and eastern, holistic tradition.

In fact, to establish whether there is an alternative healing method to the surgery, we would encourage the person first to visit both a good practitioner of oriental medicine and a naturopath before making a decision. Many times, acupuncture, herbs and other strategies can avert surgery, and there will also be potential to benefit from alternative strategies ~ whether or not one decides to go ahead with surgery.

If the choice is made to have surgery, the best way to enhance recovery is to become as healthy as possible beforehand. If there is urgent medical need, one might postpone the procedure until their overall health is optimal. Is there any extra weight that they might shed before surgery? Reduction of unnecessary weight will make the surgeon's job easier and recovery faster.

The three areas to focus on for optimal health are attitude, exercise and nutrition. Anyone contemplating surgery can make the procedure easier and improve recovery by making improvements daily in ALL of these areas ahead of time.


Positive Attitude

After learning that surgery is needed, the first step in maintaining personal power is to lower anxiety about the surgery and create an empowering attitude. This can be done through a daily practice of relaxation and healing imagery. There are many relaxation tapes available, some of which are specifically designed to enhance surgical outcomes. Belleruth Naparstek is widely known and respected for her powerful imagery technique and tapes. Just 20 minutes of guided deep relaxation is known to boost immune activity and help one become healthier.

At a New York hospital, patients having access to classes on hypnosis, breath, guided imagery, and meditation were reported to have had their stress levels drop by an average of 69% and their pain to have decreased by 57%. "People who have done mind / body preparation for surgery usually need less anesthesia during the operation and less pain medicine afterwards," says Steven Grugevich, Ph.D , who teaches self-hypnosis and provides audiotapes to patients at Dr. Andrew Weil's clinic. Peggy Huddleston's book and audiotape Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster is a highly recommended, must-have, easy step-by-step guide to mind / body techniques for surgery.

While under anesthesia, the mind is as suggestible as if it were in a hypnotic state. At the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, Scotland, women undergoing abdominal hysterectomy who listened to a tape of positive therapeutic suggestions under anesthesia required 24% less pain medication the day after surgery than patients who listened to a blank tape. It is becoming commonplace for patients to bring battery-powered cassette players and headphones into operating rooms to play healing affirmations or soothing music. Some patients have even persuaded anesthesiologists to use healing statements during the operation.

Create a circle of support. Ask your family and friends to wrap you in a warm blanket of love and good wishes ~ it gives them something more constructive to do than worry about you. Especially if it is a major surgery, your family and friends may want to set up a Power of One prayer circle to assist with your process, beginning several days before the surgery and continuing until your condition becomes fully stable and balanced.

Dr. Larry Dossey has been a pioneer of prayer in the medical realm and many studies now demonstrate the powerful healing effects of prayer or loving thoughts from a distance. You can also arrange for a loved one to be with you just before and after the operation. This type of support is very healing.

Cathy Holt's The Circle of Healing provided the above information in this section on attitude, and her book offers even more studies, resources, quotes and self-help strategies for those who are struggling with medical crises. Her personal and professional experience as a biofeedback therapist and holistic health educator can help people access their inner and outer resources for healing.

Anyone facing surgery will want to imagine him or herself in the operating room, with everything proceeding beautifully. In one's mind’s eye at least once daily, imagine the surgeon's operating skillfully while one's own body responds perfectly to all that is required of it. Hold a picture of rapid recovery, comfortable and without bleeding, infection or any complication. Anticipate returning to a normal routine soon afterward. This visualization practice sets the stage to speed recovery, and even reduce the risk of complication.

The most important thing in getting healthy is what you think. If you think you will accomplish your goals, our experience is you are correct. Cultivate a positive attitude. Three words to drop from the vocabulary are "can’t," "hope" and "try." If you can’t, you won’t. If one is merely hoping or trying, efforts will be half-hearted.

People are always looking for good doctors. It is even more important to be a good patient.

Begin daily spiritual practice. A strong spiritual program is the surest way to health and happiness. The regular practice of meditation, prayer, or other spiritual study powerfully alters circumstances. Set aside the same time for this every day. For most people, the best time is immediately after awakening.

Observe your thoughts and words with new understanding. They have an enormous effect on your body. Our bodies listen and respond to whatever we tell them. If one says or thinks something often enough, it becomes accepted by the subconscious mind. Choose only positive mental and emotional states. Imagine an angel on your shoulder who knows everything and misses nothing. Listen to your angel!



Over 2000 years ago Hippocrates said, "Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food." In preparation for any surgical procedure it's important to eat very, very well.

In many cases a vegetarian diet, presuming it is balanced and comprised of fresh foods, is most supportive of the healing process. Regardless, choose the very best foods possible during the preparation period. A balanced diet should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. We recommend additional fiber, fruits, veggies and perhaps even psyllium or other supplemental form. This promotes good bowel health, particularly important after surgery where general anesthesia acts to paralyze peristalsis.



Supplements ~ as the term implies ~ are meant to be in addition to a good diet, not a substitute for nutrition.* It's important for patients to communicate their supplement intake with their doctor. ABCNEWS's Dr. Nancy Snyderman suggests, "Bring the bottles of any medication, pharmaceutical and herbal, to the hospital with you. The bottles can provide necessary information to your doctors."

Traumeel is a wonderful homeopathic formula to help the body prepare for surgery and help it heal. Take 10 drops three times daily, directly on the tongue as much as a few weeks before surgery if possible. It is also useful for pain after surgery.

Vitamin B complex: 50 mg 2–3x daily

Vitamin C: 2000 mg 2–3x daily with meals.

Vitamin E: 400 i.u. beginning on the day after surgery.
Note: Do not take Vitamin E for two weeks prior to surgery, it causes platelets not to stick together thereby lengthening bleeding time.

Good multivitamin / mineral: once daily.

Acidophilus and Bifida: before and after surgery: as directed on label ~ VERY important to repopulate the digestive system when antibiotics are used.

Note that popular herbal supplements such as Echinacea, Ephedra, Garlic, Gingko, Ginseng, Kava, St. John's Wort and Valerian can have a negative effect when mixed with other drugs and some may even make it more difficult for incisions to heal. For a University of Chicago researcher's and doctor's list of recommendations on when to stop taking such products before an operation click here.

For pain after surgery:
Traumeel: 10 drops directly on the tongue; may take it every 15 minutes if necessary.
Use Arnica 30c, 3 pellets 3x daily, if Traumeel is unavailable.



Daily exercise is very important to build health before surgery. Good forms of exercise include walking, cycling and swimming. Many suggest exercising minimally for 1/2-hour a day, but the truth is all exercise is helpful.


Other suggestions

Because aspirin prolongs bleeding, it is important to stop using it at least two weeks prior to surgery.

Have lab work performed well in advance of surgery. This will help if there are abnormal values that might be improved with a little time.

Low level laser therapy (500 milliwatts or less) using infrared light can speed recovery after surgery, and in many cases it may even be helpful in and of itself to treat the person's symptoms prior to surgery. It is a safe and powerful technique, light as medicine. To find out more about low level laser therapy, visit the Laserworld Swedish Laser Medical Society website. In some cases if the person could get treatment with this effective, gentle modality they might not need surgery, and recovery could be much quicker.


*Always consult with your own doctor / surgeon
before beginning new medications or supplements.


Suggested dosages for supplements given above are for adults.
For dosage guidelines of nutritional supplements for children, click here.


Credit for article and information:
David Rindge, D.O.M., L.Ac., R.N.,
The Center for Cooperative Medicine,
Melbourne, FL


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