Surgery carries risks but is, at the end of the day, the most curative aspect of modern medicine. This is a debatable point because removing a lump may, indeed, rid the individual of the symptom but will not necessarily answer the cause. However, a cancer that is taken out may not spread and therefore, it is arguably true to say that the problem is cured.

Any holistic approach to health must include surgery as part of its whole. Ayurvedic, Tibetan and Chinese medicine all have surgical techniques – some of them extremely sophisticated considering the lack of technical knowledge – entrenched in their roots. Modern medicine, by using incredibly sophisticated scientific techniques, has made surgery much safer than even ten years ago. Techniques include the use of laser instead of scalpels, ‘keyhole’ endoscopic surgery instead of open surgery and robotic techniques. Surgeons can work using X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) without actually visualizing the organ upon which they are operating. All in all, the techniques are fascinating and not to be discouraged when required.

Plastic surgery

A special mention, I feel, should be made of elective (optional) operations and most of these fall into the category of cosmetic surgery or, as it used to be known, plastic surgery.

While surgical techniques have much improved, there is still a 1 in 500 chance of having a severe adverse reaction to an anaesthetic. A bad reaction may even include death. Surgery itself may entrap nerves or create scar tissue that irritates and hurts well past the healing of the wound and I feel that all of this must be taken into account. I also feel that much cosmetic surgery is done for the wrong reasons; principally, as we age we should not try to compete with those younger than us but accept that wrinkles and wisdom -being saggy and sage and eroding whilst gaining experience – are inextricably linked.

Always ask the questions, ‘Does this procedure need to be done?’ ‘Does this procedure have a medicinal alternative?’

A physician should decide if a surgical procedure should take place. Surgeons cut, that is what as a profession they do, therefore that is what they will recommend.

Pre- and post-operative care

Sometimes, when the body fails to heal itself, it is necessary to resort to mechanical repair, in other words, surgery.

Pre-operative preparation

Leading up to an operation is invariably an anxious time whether it is sprung upon you through an emergency or planned, elective surgery. As soon as anxiety starts we produce adrenaline, which speeds up the body’s metabolism and certain compounds may run into deficiencies. Combine this with the inevitable ‘nil by mouth’ instructions at least 6 hours before an operation and it generally means that an individual is going into a damaging process with poor nutrition. Preparation to avoid this should start two weeks before an operation by building up stores of vitamins, minerals, trace elements and water.

Suggestions for medication prior to an operation are given in the recommendations below.

The operation

When having an operation it is necessary to view the patient from four angles:


Repair of operated area

Liver toxicity

Nervous system shock

Psychological aspects

Going in for an operation can be a very harrowing experience and a full explanation by a physician, a surgeon and if necessary a counsellor should be provided. This explanation of the procedure and its side effects must be clear to the patient. People who are particularly anxious should be introduced to techniques of relaxation and meditation, thereby often negating the need for a premed (a drug given to keep you calm on your way to the operating theatre) and thus reducing the drug effect on your body.

Many operations can leave individuals disfigured and psychological support for operations leaving visible signs such as amputations or mastectomies is often very necessary.

Repair of the operated area

When operating, the skin or membrane is cut, the underlying tissues are damaged and the surrounding blood vessels and deep tissue all need repairing. The repair process requires scar tissue formation as well as many other biochemical reparative processes, all of which use proteins, vitamins, trace elements and other nutrients. Before an operative procedure, therefore, a check-up with your health professional is recommended and supplemental advice should be offered to ensure that the body has a pool of required nutrients, etc to enable the body to heal without hindrance. Supplementation can be given orally or, preferably, intravenously and this should be discussed with your health professional.

Liver toxicity

An anaesthetic is a powerful drug. As with any medication the liver is instrumental in its breakdown and removal from the body. The effects on the liver are mild in nearly all cases but the liver is nevertheless poisoned and requires support. Supplements, herbal medicines and homeopathic remedies should be utilized to strengthen the liver.

Nervous system shock

An anaesthetic works by preventing the vibration of electrons within nerve tissue. Whilst this very rarely damages the nerves permanently, it gives the central nervous system quite a shock. As far as the brain is concerned, unconsciousness has occurred for no reason. The chemicals within the nervous system that activate us are instructed to awaken us and there is quite considerable activity on that level as the anaesthetic effect wears off. As with the liver, the nervous system needs to have its building blocks in abundance to allow it to repair itself rapidly and supplementation and homeopathic remedies are useful in this area.

Advise your complementary medical practitioner of any operation, major or minor, involving a general or a local anaesthetic, preferably two weeks before the procedure. The following recommendations should be administered by a professional preferably. Operations should not be undertaken unless as good a standard of health as is feasible, considering that a surgical operation is required, is achieved. Do not go under anaesthetic with a upper respiratory or chest infection.

Be absolutely certain that you are comfortable about having the operation and understand the need and probable outcome. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor, surgeon or a counsellor if you have any doubts or insecurities.

Ensure that the risks and side effects are clear.

Ensure that you are taught a technique for relaxation and thereby reducing the need for a ‘pre-med’.

Avoid any junk food at least one week before an operation. Ensure that five portions of fresh fruits or vegetables are taken every day for that period and at least ten days after. These will not be provided by hospitals and should be organized from outside.

Good hydration is essential because no water will be allowed for several hours prior to, during and whilst recovering from an operation. The day or so before an operation, drink at least three-quarters of a pint per foot of height throughout the day and start drinking water as soon as it is permissible after the operation. This is important to dilute down the anaesthetic toxins and encourage the biochemistry of healing.

Three days before the operation take the following supplements as directed below and carry this on until healing is complete: vitamin C, Ig per foot of height in divided doses with meals; zinc, 5mg per foot of height taken before bed; argenine (an amino acid), 5g with each meal. Argenine may not be tolerated and may cause digestive upset, in which case halve the dose and see if this can be tolerated. If not, take the minimum amount to avoid problems. Please note that argenine may trigger viral herpes attacks and carriers should not attempt to use this supplement.

Nux vomica, potency 30, should be taken four times a day starting the day before an operative procedure and carried on at hourly intervals on the day of operation. After the anaesthetic use Arnica, potency 200 three times a day for three days and then potency 30 four times a day until repair is complete.

A herbal liver cleanser available in most healthfood stores should be taken at twice the daily recommended dose. If this is not available then milk thistle at twice the recommended dosage can be used. Either should continue for one week postoperatively. • See Wounds and Cuts for supplemental advice and start supplements at least one week before the operation.