What Every Patient Should Know Before Surgery

What Every Patient Should Know Before Surgery

By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc

Surgery is sometimes necessary and depending on the procedure it can take quite some time for patients to heal. It is important for every patient to know that there are therapies available that help to promote wound healing post surgery. Every surgical procedure is stressful on the body and this stress changes the metabolic requirements in your cells. As the body puts energy into wound healing several nutrients suddenly become in high demand. For optimal wound healing it is essential that these nutrients are supplied.

Collagen is a key component of the wound healing process. Vitamin C is essential post surgery as it is required for proper collagen formation1,2. The enzymes that produce and stabilize collagen require significant amounts of Vitamin C. It is well established that patients who smoke are very slow to heal from surgery. This is because cigarette smoke is very oxidative which results in a rapid depletion of Vitamin C in the tissues3. With inadequate supplies of this essential nutrient the collagen is slow to form and the collagen that does form tends to be weak. As a consequence wounds are more likely to break open after the surgery due to their inability to heal. It has been known for decades that when patients are supplemented with Vitamin C they heal faster after surgery4.

Another nutrient that is very important with regards to wound healing in zinc. Many of the enzymes that are directly required for wound healing are dependent on a sufficient supply of zinc. Patients with a genetic predisposition to zinc deficiency have significantly impaired wound healing capabilities5. After a traumatic event such as a surgery the requirements for zinc in the body are significantly higher. When patients are supplemented with zinc they heal faster as they are able to meet this obvious metabolic requirement5.

Vitamin A is another nutrient that must be supplied in adequate amounts for proper wound healing to occur. Patients with a deficiency in Vitamin A are very poor at healing wounds6. The role of Vitamin A in wound healing is different than that of zinc and Vitamin C. It is likely that the wound healing properties of Vitamin A are due to its ability to regulate the immune system locally in a way that is conducive to tissue repair.

Not only should patients be supplemented with these basic nutrients, their diet should be altered to help promote tissue healing as well. The patient must significantly increase their protein intake while avoiding inflammatory foods. All of these simple changes make a profound difference in the healing process. These natural approaches are well supported by scientific evidence but they are not commonly encouraged by surgeons. This is very often due to their lack of training in nutrition.

If you have an upcoming surgery make sure that you contact a Naturopathic doctor to help you develop a plan that will accelerate the healing after the surgery is complete. It is very important to have professional guidance from a Naturopathic physician when you are preparing for a surgery. The dose and the quality of the supplements makes a huge difference. Some of the recommended approaches are contraindicated in certain conditions and it takes an expert to develop a plan that is both safe and effective. Contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic to see if this is the right therapy for you.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative cancer care. https://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com


1) MacKay, Douglas, and Alan L. Miller. “Nutritional support for wound healing.” Alternative medicine review: a journal of clinical therapeutic 8.4 (2003): 359-377.

2) Boyera, N., I. Galey, and B. A. Bernard. “Effect of vitamin C and its derivatives on collagen synthesis and cross‐linking by normal human fibroblasts.” International Journal of Cosmetic Science 20.3 (1998): 151-158.

3) Schectman, Gordon, James C. Byrd, and Harvey W. Gruchow. “The influence of smoking on vitamin C status in adults.” American Journal of Public Health 79.2 (1989): 158-162.

4) Bartlett, Marshall K., Chester M. Jones, and Anna E. Ryan. “Vitamin C and wound healing: II. Ascorbic acid content and tensile strength of healing wounds in human beings.” New England Journal of Medicine 226.12 (1942): 474-481.

5) Lansdown, Alan BG, et al. “Zinc in wound healing: theoretical, experimental, and clinical aspects.” Wound Repair and Regeneration 15.1 (2007): 2-16.

6) Hunt, Thomas K. “Vitamin A and wound healing.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 15.4 (1986): 817-821.

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