Your body uses 13 vitamins — A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins — to keep healthy. A balanced diet will supply most of these, and your body manufactures the others. Many people also take a daily multiple vitamin or specific vitamin supplements. If you plan to have surgery, you need to tell your surgeon about any supplements you are taking, including vitamins, because some of them may affect your heart rate or blood pressure or cause increased bleeding. You may need to stop taking such supplements as much as two or three weeks before surgery.
Vitamin E, which is in vegetable oils, cereals, meat, poultry, eggs, fruits and vegetables, has been found to have antioxidant properties, meaning it can help clear free radicals, the byproducts of cell manufacturing, from your body. For this reason, some people take vitamin E supplements. However, vitamin E can slow blood clotting, which may cause surgical complications, especially if you are also taking anti-clotting agents such as warfarin, also known as Coumadin.
Vitamin C is another antioxidant. It is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits. Your body uses vitamin C to build and repair skin, bone and connective tissue cells. Vitamin C is a good example of why you need to talk to your doctor about nutritional supplements prior to surgery. While studies support the use of vitamin C in conjunction with heart surgeries, the same supplement may not be compatible with weight reduction surgeries, such as gastric bypass, according to an article in the “Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.” This is because it can contribute to the development of kidney stones following the surgery.
Other Supplements to Avoid With Surgery
Besides vitamins, several herbal supplements may complicate a surgery, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These include echinacea, ephedra, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, kava, St. John's wort and valerian. They can affect bleeding, blood sugar, and anesthesia or other drugs used during surgery, which could potentially lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Surgery and Other Vitamins
Vitamin B-12 is needed for red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis. It can be found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. People who have certain types of gastrointestinal surgeries may be deficient in vitamin B-12 because of the difficulty in absorbing it, so they may need a B-12 supplement both before and after surgery. Absorption problems after gastric bypass surgery may also lead to vitamin D deficiency, so a supplement may be recommended.
Vitamin K, which is found in leafy green vegetables, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, promotes skin healing, so it is often recommended for use after surgery. However, it does affect blood clotting, so consult your doctor about the amount of vitamin K you need if you are taking Coumadin.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Should I Check With My Doctor or Healthcare Provider Before Using a Supplement?
- Cleveland Clinic: Herbal Supplements & Surgery
- Medline Plus: Vitamin E
- International CardioVascular and Thoracic Surgery: The Role of Ascorbic Acid in the Prevention of Atrial Fibrillation After Elective On-Pump Myocardial Revascularization Surgery; Pavlos Papoulidisa, et al.; November 2010
- Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine: Bariatric Surgery, Vitamin C and Kidney Stones; Daniel Weiss; July 2010
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B12