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What supplements should I avoid before surgery?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
No matter how much you love 'em, you have to quit taking certain supplements for at least a week before surgery and stay away from them for as long afterward as your doctor instructs -- otherwise you could turn yourself into an unfortunate statistic. One set of common consumables you should stop taking a week before surgery is the "G Family": garlic, ginger, ginkgo biloba, and ginseng. These can seriously increase the odds for bleeding during surgery.

Below is a list that I give patients, but it's by no means complete; let your surgeon and your anesthesiologist know everything that you take well before you're being wheeled into the operating room because many of these supplements stay in your bloodstream for several days.
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), fish oils, garlic, onion, and Vitamin E. These supplements can affect blood clotting after surgery.
  • Feverfew, ginkgo biloba, Coenzyme Q10, ginger, and ginseng can interact with Warfarin, a common blood-thinning drug, and possibly cause bleeding.
  • Hawthorn berry, kyushin, licorice, plantain, uzara root and ginseng can interact with Digoxin, a heart drug many patients receive during and after surgery, and the interaction could be fatal.
  • St. John's wort can interact dangerously with a number of drugs, including Digoxin, Warfarin, oral contraceptives, Cyclosporin, and antiviral drugs.
  • Iron can reduce the bioavailability of other drugs.
  • Caffeine can affect your blood pressure, and caffeine withdrawal after surgery causes headaches (ask for a cup in the recovery room if you're a java junkie).
YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

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YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

Everyone needs to become a smart patient. In fact, in the worst cases, your life may even depend on it. Number one bestselling authors and doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz have written this...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.