Kinder, Gentler Surgery

Going under the knife? Lessen the toll on your mind and body before and after with these holistic approaches.

Kinder, Gentler Surgery
Pin it Matthew Wakem

Talk to your doc about vitamins Weil recommends taking two 1,000-milligram doses of vitamin C daily for at least a week before and after surgery to aid healing. Zinc and magnesium may also be helpful (especially if you’re preparing for bowel surgery) and certainly are not harmful, Gerbstadt says.

Seek inner peace “Yogic practices can help you keep your mind clear about surgery, but I’m not talking about asanas,” says Gary Kraftsow, San Francisco area-based founder and director of the American Viniyoga Institute and author of Yoga for Wellness (Penguin). He would know—he’s had three major brain surgeries related to a tumor discovered in 2004. “Meditation, chanting and prayer are helpful because they distract the mind from obsessive thinking,” Kraftsow says. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of prayer, try working with an affirmation (it can be as simple as “it will be all right”) or a mantra. “ ‘Om suryaya namah’ is a good mantra that evokes the healing radiance of the sun,” Kraftsow says.

Learn self-hypnosis Research associates targeted hypnotic suggestions with less bleeding and nausea, fewer surgical complications, faster recovery times and shortened hospital stays, says Carol Ginandes, Ph.D., an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston with a special interest in medical hypnosis. “I see a lot of people who go into surgery feeling disempowered and prepared to be traumatized,” she says. “With a little training, you can learn how to go into that place of calm absorption we call trance. It can really help you manage anxiety.” There are several self-hypnosis products on the market, including Ginandes’ Smooth Surgery, Rapid Recovery ($70;