Supplements for surgical recovery, as included in Prism Integrative Acupuncture's post-surgical recovery toolkit
Prism Blog, Surgical Recovery, Transgender Wellness

Best Supplements and Herbs for Surgical Recovery

What Herbs and Supplements Help with Gender Affirming Surgery Preparation and Healing?

When preparing for your gender-affirming surgery, there are many natural remedies and supplements to speed healing and make your recovery more comfortable. Knowing what to take, and when to take it is important. Always check with your doctor and/or surgeon before taking any supplements or herbs.

Things to Avoid: 

When preparing for gender-affirming surgeries, there are certain herbs and supplements that should be avoided in the days leading up. While each individual is unique, I tend to err on the side of caution, recommending stopping all herbs and supplements seven days before surgery. Do not take any supplements that your surgeon does not approve. 

  1. Avoid vitamin E, fish oil, omegas, ginkgo, and garlic at least seven days before surgery, as these can act as potential blood thinners.
  2. Avoid St. John’s wort, feverfew, bai shao, devil’s claw, dan shen, ginger, dong quai/dang gui/angelica, goldenseal, saw palmetto, reishi, echinacea, ephedra/ma huang, kava, ginseng, licorice, and valerian at least seven days before surgery, as these can either potentially cause excess bleeding or interfere with anesthesia.
  3. Avoid green tea and chili peppers at least 24 hours before surgery, or longer if your surgeon advises. 
  4. Avoid teas that contain herbs like hibiscus or mulberry leaf, which may lower blood pressure or blood sugar, at least seven days before surgery.

Supplements for Pre-Op: 

Leading up to your surgery, treat your body to supplements and herbs that will lead to faster healing overtime. Taking care of your body before gender-affirming surgery is key to a positive recovery. These supplements can help get you there.

    1. Vitamin D: Having your vitamin D and iron levels tested during your pre-op blood work can give you more information on whether or not you should supplement with the two. If you do decide to supplement with vitamin D, take 2000-5000 IU per day with food if not included in your multivitamin.
    2. Zinc: Taking 30-50mg of zinc per day with food for four to six weeks leading up to your surgery can speed healing post-op.

 

  • One month before your surgery, begin to take:

 

    1. A multivitamin with 25-50mg of B vitamin complex to boost immunity and reduce stress on your nervous system.
    2. 50mg of CoQ10 a day to reduce the stress of surgery on the heart and improve recovery.
    3. 500-1000mg of vitamin C a day to aid with wound healing.
    4. Milk thistle to detox the liver to prepare for successful anesthesia.
  1. Probiotic: Two weeks before surgery, begin taking a probiotic blend with acidophilus and bifida to reduce the risk of post-surgical infection.

Supplements for Right After Surgery: 

Help your body heal as fast as possible with these three herbs and supplements, taken right after surgery if your surgeon allows, or as soon as you get home.

  1. Dramamine Natural: Dramamine Natural is just super concentrated ginger, which studies show can be just as effective as metoclopramide, a common anti-nausea drug, at reducing nausea.
  2. Vitamin C: Take 500mg of vitamin C to help flush out the anesthesia and encourage collagen growth and repair. 
  3. Tea: Make a nourishing post-surgery tea of nettles, oatstraw, horsetail (equal parts), and rosehips (pinch); full of nourishing vitamins and minerals that speed healing.

Supplements for Post-Op: 

Check with your surgeon about when to begin taking supplements after surgery. Some surgeons will recommend waiting a few days before restarting supplements and herbs. This supplement plan should last for one month post-surgery, unless otherwise noted. After your supplement plan, return to your regular supplements and herbs as recommended by your healthcare providers. Don’t take anything that interferes with your regular medications and don’t stop taking your regularly prescribed medications around surgery unless your surgeon directs you to do so.

    1. Herbs for constipation: If you’re dealing with constipation, senna, aloe, and burdock are all gentle herbal supplements for post-op. You can take them with your surgeon prescribed stool softeners.
    2. Fennel: Drink fennel tea for gas pains.
    3. Vitamin C: Take 300mg-1g of vitamin C per day to help with wound healing. Vitamin C is required by the body to make collagen, the connective tissue in the skin that helps healing and prevents blistering. It also helps to strengthen the immune system and fight off infection. A good way to get vitamin C is through rose hips and camu camu berries. You can stop taking this after two weeks, unless it’s already part of your regular supplement regimen.
    4. Selenium: Eat a brazil nut everyday to give your body selenium, which is necessary for healing.
    5. Bromelain: Take bromelain for inflammation and bruising. It boosts the immune system to reduce pain, bruising, tenderness. Bromelain should be taken in doses of 1000-1500mg three times a day on an empty stomach, which is necessary. You can stop taking this after two weeks.
    6. Quercetin: Another anti-inflammatory supplement is quercetin, which can be taken in 1000mg doses up to two-three times daily to reduce swelling and reduce the tendency to develop hypertrophic scars.
    7. Willow: valerian, kava, and poppy teas can help ease pain, although they shouldn’t be combined with pain medication.
    8. Tea: Make a post-surgery tea of burdock (to aid with constipation, skin healing, lymph circulation, and liver detox), red root and cleavers (to help with lymph circulation, skin healing, and swelling), horsetail (silica for skin healing), gotu kola (for circulation), nettles, and echinacea. 

 

  • CoQ10: 100-200mg, aids in rebuilding cell walls and protects the skeletal muscles in the body.
  • B6: 250mg two times a day to reduce swelling (or use a multivitamin). This can be stopped one week post-surgery, unless it’s already part of your regular supplement regimen.
  • Milk thistle: to detox anesthesia from the liver; do not take at the same time as other medications or herbs.

 

  1. Zinc: 30-50mg per day for wound healing. You can stop taking this after two weeks.
  2. Probiotic: with acidophilus and bifida to reduce the risk of post-surgical infection.
  3. Omega 3s: 2000-3000mg of omega 3, like fish oil, per day to reduce inflammation and improve circulation. This should be lowered to 500-1000 mg per day after two weeks.
  4. Arnica: 30C of homeopathic arnica five times a day to reduce pain, bruising, and swelling.
  5. Vitamin D: 2000-5000 IU of vitamin D per day with food.
  6. Healing skin salve: Make a healing skin salve to use after stitches are gone of aloe, calendula, comfrey, plantain leaf, selfheal, yarrow, rosemary, and sage

Remember: If you can’t eat, drink, and/or urinate, or have a fever, chills, an infection, trouble breathing, unusual bleeding, redness, feel unwell, or have a hot feeling in the surgical site, call your doctor or go to the emergency room. Ask your surgeon what signs you should look for regarding post-surgical complications.

Get acupuncture home visits in Berkeley, Oakland, and the greater Bay Area to improve your recovery: www.prismacupuncture.com/appointments

This information is for educational purposes only, please consult a healthcare provider before exercising and always follow your surgeon’s advice.

a woman with beautiful curly hair
hair loss, Menopause and Beyond, PCOS, Prism Blog, Transgender Wellness

Stop Hair Loss in Its Tracks

I recently taught a workshop on healthy hair care and preventing hair loss and I just want to share a few tips from the class with you!

Hair loss can have several causes, from stress to genetics to autoimmune disorders. Some of these are easier to solve than others, but treating our hair (and bodies) well can help slow -and in some cases reverse- hair loss no matter what the cause.

Some amount of hair loss is a natural part of the hair cycle. It’s normal to lose between 50-100 hairs on days you don’t shower, and up to 200 hairs on days you do. Which should tell you right away that if you’re concerned about hair loss you should be showering less often!

At any given point, about 90% of your hair follicles should be in the active growing phase and 10% should be in the dormant or falling out stage. Hair loss can involve either an imbalance in the number of active vs inactive follicles, or a change in the growth of active follicles so that they no longer produce hair of the original color, length, or texture. If you’re concerned that you’re losing too much hair, take about 60 hairs between two fingers and gently pull. If you get more than 5-8 hairs you likely have an imbalance in the number of active vs inactive follicles.

The most common form of hair loss is also the most well-known. Commonly called ‘male-pattern baldness’ or androgenic alopecia, it actually occurs in all genders. While there is certainly a genetic component to this type of hair loss, it can also be mediated with herbs and hair care -if you catch it in time. Hair loss that has been present for 3-5 years or more becomes very difficult and sometimes impossible to resolve. This type of hair loss typically presents as a receding hair line or thinning of hair along the part or crown of the head. It is generally caused by DHT, a form of testosterone that is also responsible for many prostate issues, which essentially ‘attacks’ hair follicles. Luckily, DHT can only function in low-oxygen environments, so by increasing circulation to the scalp we can prevent this type of hair loss.

Androgenic Alopecia: Saw Palmetto as an herbal supplement blocks DHT, and topical rosemary oil (like Prism’s Hair Growth Serum) blocks DHT directly in the scalp. 7 Star Treatments, like Prism’s Hair Restoration Treatment, also increase circulation to the scalp, blocking DHT.

The second most common form of hair loss is called ‘telogenic effluvium’, which literally means your hair is falling out. There’s no change in your hair follicles, simply too many of them are in the dormant vs growth stage. This is usually caused by hormonal stress like starting or stopping birth control, HRT, or hormone blockers, after birth, menopause, or even just a stressful time in your life. Yes, you can actually stress yourself out so much that your hair falls out! Besides tackling whatever caused this problem in the first place (getting acupuncture and a custom herbal formula to balance hormones and reduce stress, practicing mindfulness meditation or other stress-reduction techniques), the best thing you can do is to be gentle with your scalp to prevent as much hair loss as possible.

This also applies to hair loss caused by chemicals, heat, or other types of physical damage to the hair and hair follicles. This is most likely the case if you suddenly notice your hair refusing to grow more than a few inches long and then breaking off.

Care for Your Hair Follicles:

Beauty Routines:

  • Prevent sun damage: wear a hat or scarf to cover hair and scalp
  • Switch plastic brushes for a pure boar bristle brush or a wide tooth comb, only use on dry hair
  • Air dry hair or use a hair wrap instead of blow drying. Heat protectant sprays do not help because wetting hair before drying actually increases damage!
  • Wash hair only 1-3 times per week

Avoid drying, damaging, and toxic product ingredients (organic products generally do not contain these ingredients and are a good choice):

  • Silicone
  • Ethanol, isopropane, propanol or isopropyl alcohols (fatty alcohols like lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol and behenyl alcohol are ok)
  • Aerosols (use pump sprays only)
  • Sulfates (organic coco-sulfates and sulfonates are gentler)
  • Parabens
  • Fragrances (essential oils are ok)
  • Zinc Pyrithione and Coal Tar (in dandruff shampoos, use an organic dandruff shampoo instead)
  • Sodium laurel/laureth sulfate (SLS), aka ammonium laurel sulfate, sodium dodecylsulfate, sulfuric acid, sodium salt sulfuric acid, A12-00356, Akyposal SDS, Aquarex ME, and Aquarex methyl
  • Proplyene glycol (PG), PEG, or Polyethylene
  • Salt Sprays (too drying)

Try these hair-safe products instead:

Avoid chemical and heat styling and harsh dyes. Check out salons that use organic products and ammonia and paraben-free dyes:

Hair breakage (and hair loss) can also be caused by malnutrition, either not getting enough nutrients your hair needs to grow, or something is preventing you from absorbing those nutrients. Most commonly this is due to anemia. Make sure to get checked out by a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause!

Nutrition for Hair Health:

  • Hair and Skin from Nature’s Way
  • Hair, Skin, and Nail Support from Gaia Herbs
  • A prescription formula from Prism, tailored to your individual constitution
  • Omega Plus from Thorne, or:
    • Omega-3 from salmon, mackerel, tuna, white fish, sardines, walnuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds
  • Basic Nutrients (if you don’t need iron), Basic Nutrients IV (with iron), or Basic Prenatal from Thorne, or:
    • Vitamin C from oranges, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, strawberries, grapefruit and kiwi.
    • vitamin D from halibut, mackerel, eel, salmon, whitefish, maitakes and portabellas.
    • Vitamin A from Sweet Potato, pumpkin, Carrots, Peaches, Kale
    • Vitamin E from Fish, Beans, Leafy Greens, Meat, Nuts and seeds, Whole grains
    • Biotin & B5 from chicken, avocado, legumes, nuts
    • Niacin from Fish, lean meats, Portabellas, Sunflower seeds, Avocado, Mushrooms, Tuna, Nuts
    • Iron from spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, navy beans, black beans.
    • Zinc (especially with autoimmune alopecia) from oysters and other seafood, Whole grains, Legumes, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin
    • Selenium from brazil nuts and other nuts and seeds, oysters, tuna, mushrooms
  • Collagen from bone broth; or boost your own collagen production with dark leafy greens and red fruits and veggies like cherries and beets
  • Lycopene from guava, papaya, grapefruit, asparagus, purple cabbage
  • Avoid Inflammatory foods like dairy, red meat, trans-fats (like margarine), gluten, alcohol, coffee, eggs, bananas, mango, pineapple, watermelon, nightshades (eggplant, paprika, peppers, potatoes, tomatillos, tomatoes), and soy.

If you’re not sure what kind of hair loss you’re experiencing, a dermatologist can examine your hair under a microscope and determine this for you. Beware the Rogaine they may prescribe, however, as it can often cause hair growth in unwanted places! Rosemary oil on the scalp (like Prism’s Hair Growth Serum) has been shown to be as effective as Rogaine and does not have this side effect.


All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.


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