Why You Should Stop Taking Supplements Before Surgery

Did you know your daily supplement intake can play a role in how you recover from cosmetic surgery? The AEDITION spoke with a board certified facial plastic surgeon to find out what to stock up on and what to avoid before going under the knife or needle.
Written by Jeannine Morris Lombardi
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Why You Should Stop Taking Supplements Before SurgeryAdam Nieścioruk/Unsplash

When filling out paperwork in a doctor’s office, do you ever list your vitamins and supplements in the space dedicated to ‘current medications’? If you are like most patients, the answer is likely no. But that innocent lack of disclosure could adversely affect your care. In the case of cosmetic surgery, it could negatively impact your results.

In today’s wellness era, the question certainly needs to be rephrased. From a multivitamin to adaptogenic herbs, tonics, tinctures, everything you put into your mouth on a daily basis is of great interest to your provider. The general rule when it comes to cosmetic surgery is to steer clear of taking vitamins and supplements pre-op to minimize bleeding, which, in turn, will help to keep bruising and swelling at a minimum, too (who doesn’t want that?).

But that is not to say all supplements are off limits. Before a cosmetic procedure, your provider will go over a pre- and post-op checklist to ensure the treatment is safe and effective. “Pre- and post-op instructions are a crucial step in the overall outcome of your surgical procedure,” says Lesley Rabach, MD, a double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon and co-founder of LM Medical in New York City. “I can do my job to get the best outcome for my patients, but I need my patients to commit to following the directions for optimal results. It’s a two-way street.”

While a pre-op consultation with your board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon is necessary to receive the exact requirements for your procedure, we’re breaking down what is generally okay and not okay to take before and after going under the knife and needle to avoid complications and improve recovery.

What Are Vitamins & Supplements?

To begin, let’s define what vitamins and supplements are. Vitamins are a part of the supplement family and add nutritional value to your diet. They come in tablet, powder, capsule or gummy form. Besides vitamins, supplements include ingredients like herbs, amino acids, enzymes, and minerals. Some of the most popular include ginkgo biloba, feverfew, St. John’s wort, and ginseng, as well as vitamins C, D, and E.

Pre- & Post-Op Supplement Recommendations

“The pre-op course predicts how your post-op course is going to go,” Dr. Rabach explains. Preparing for a cosmetic surgery or procedure can be compared to training for a marathon. “You commit to an end goal and need to train and feed your body properly leading up to it, so you have the predictable outcome you’re looking for,” she continues. Vitamins and supplements play a role in this.

Two Weeks Pre-Op

Two weeks before your surgical procedure, Dr. Rabach recommends laying off supplements (with a few key exceptions), as taking them increases the risk of bleeding, which could cause complications during surgery and slow the recovery process. Because most supplements aren’t regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the concentration and quality of them are unknown. Those inconsistencies add unnecessary risk to the procedure process.

CBD, however, remains up for debate. Some surgeons recommend skipping it due to the lack of regulation. Others, like Dr. Rabach, say you can continue to take it because she hasn’t seen any increased bleeding in her patients that use it. As with any vitamins and supplements, tell your providers exactly what you use and when you use it, so you can weigh the risks against the rewards together. If you’re ingesting CBD to calm your nerves — especially before surgery — Dr. Rabach believes it’s better than being anxious and having your heart rate skyrocket. Of course, every patient and procedure is unique.

At this time, doctors also recommend discontinuing products that contain aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as wine and foods like beans, garlic, ginger, strawberries, and tomatoes for the same reasons — they can increase the chance of bleeding. Do not, however, discontinue the use of necessary medications or antidepressants without the knowledge of your doctor.

Two Weeks Pre-Op to Two Weeks Post-Op

In the two weeks leading up to your procedure and the two weeks following it, Dr. Rabach suggests patients add two natural remedies to their regimens that help prevent bruising and swelling:

  • Arnica: The herb has been used for hundreds of years in pain management, and Dr. Rabach specifically recommends placing Boiron Arnica under the tongue four or five times per day for the month.
  • Pineapple: A daily dose of fresh pineapple or fresh pineapple juice helps combat inflammation thanks to the enzyme bromelain.

Forgoing your regular supplements in favor of one of the options above should decrease downtime and improve recovery time.

One Week Post-Op

One week after your surgery or procedure, you’re able to resume your supplement routine. “That’s about the time the stitches come out,” Dr. Rabach says. “And if all pre-op instructions were followed, swelling should be at a minimum.”

The Takeaway

From the time of your first consultation through your final post-op appointment and beyond, the relationship between a doctor and patient is a true partnership. To ensure the best experience, it is important that the treatment plan is strictly adhered to. “We’re in an age where you can achieve perfection through cosmetic surgery, but the methodology needs to be followed in order to achieve it,” Dr. Rabach concludes. A commitment on both ends will always yield the best results.

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JEANNINE MORRIS LOMBARDIis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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