Vitamins and Surgery: The Real Story
by Andrew W. Saul, Editor
Over 100 million Americans will undergo surgery this year, and I was one of them. Not a big deal: a routine outpatient hernia repair, caused by sure-I-can-lift-that-extremely-heavy-box syndrome, the tendency towards which is almost certainly carried on the Y chromosome.
In their personalized how-to-prepare-for-surgery instructions, both the surgeon and the hospital made a point to order me to stop taking vitamins. They wrote the following:
“Discontinue all nutritional and herbal supplements one week prior to surgery. STOP taking the following medication(s) on the date(s) listed:
multivitamin (multivitamin)1 tab(s) Oral once a day
ascorbic acid (vitamin C)500 Milligram Oral once a day.”
This is unedited. The capital letter emphasis on “stop” was THEIRS.
What silly advice. There is not a nutrition textbook ever written that does not say how important vitamin C is for wound healing. And therefore we should stop taking even a measly 500 mg/day of vitamin C, for a full week before surgery?
Perhaps it is just as well that they did not know that I continued to take tens of thousands of milligrams of vitamin C per day, every day, in preparation for the procedure. Twelve hours before surgery, I took nothing, as directed and necessary, because the stomach must be empty for anesthesia safety. And, I stopped taking vitamin E 800 IU/day and my omega 3/fish oil supplements about 8 days before, as these are known to increase clotting time, and extra incision bleeding you do not need. But to order a halt to a daily multivitamin, which contains so very little of either E or omega 3s? Ridiculous.
Assuming that you, and your family, and the rest of the nation will likely receive similar instruction, we have 100 million borderline-scorbutic surgical patients every year. This guarantees postoperative complications, some of which are life-threatening.
There is no way I am willing to risk infection, slow healing, or even excess pain: in the first 23 hours postop, I took 150,000 mg of vitamin C. Even at that amount, I did not reach bowel tolerance, the indicator of oral-dose saturation. The next day, I did . . . at 120,000 mg. My C intake for the next two weeks was about 70,000 to 90,000 mg/day, which kept me just below bowel tolerance. These daily totals were in divided doses, of course, but I was still taking thousands of milligrams per divided dose.
Vitamin C is the best friend a surgeon will ever have. Most do not know that. Even low-dose supplementation is immeasurably better than nothing. But for that crucial week before surgery, they tell you to stop even 500 mg/day. Fortunately, Dr. Robert F. Cathcart, a surgeon, disagreed and recommended the doses that I took. If you’d like a true second opinion, reading his work is well worth your time.
It worked for me.
To learn more:
Orthopedic surgeon Robert F. Cathcart III successfully treated over 20,000 patients with very large doses of vitamin C, sometimes administering over 200,000 mg per day. A short biography of Dr. Cathcart is posted at http://orthomolecular.org/hof/2008/cathcart.html .
Video of Dr. Cathcart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkkWDDSti_s or at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKD3BXL8ESA if you scroll in about 5 minutes.
Key Papers by Dr. Cathcart:
The method of determining proper doses of vitamin C for treatment of diseases by titrating to bowel tolerance. Australian Nurses Journal 9(4):9-13 March, 1980. Also in: Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry 10:125-132, 1981. http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/1981/pdf/1981-v10n02-p125.pdf (Note the date. This treatment approach has been ignored for 35 years. OMNS urges every reader to hand a printout of this important paper to their doctors.)
Vitamin C, titration to bowel tolerance, anascorbemia, and acute induced scurvy. Medical Hypothesis 7:1359-1376, 1981. http://www.doctoryourself.com/titration.html (Bowel tolerance is the indicator of the effective dose of vitamin C needed for healing.)
The third face of vitamin C. J Orthomolecular Med, 7:4, p 197-200, 1992. http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/1992/pdf/1992-v07n04-p197.pdf and also at http://www.doctoryourself.com/cathcart_thirdface.html (Why vitamin C is effective as an antibiotic and antiviral if you use enough of it.)
Hickey DS, Roberts HJ, Cathcart RF. Dynamic flow: A new model for ascorbate. J Orthomolecular Med, 20:4, p 237-244, 2005. http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/2005/pdf/2005-v20n04-p237.pdf (On why dividing the dose of oral vitamin C is so important.)
Links to additional writings by Dr. Cathcart:
Saul AW. Vitamin C high-dose therapy for major diseases. http://www.doctoryourself.com/ckorea2008.html (Summary of doctors who have used large doses of vitamin C to treat pneumonia, hepatitis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other serious illnesses.)
For many more papers on vitamin C therapy as used for many years by many physicians: http://www.seanet.com/~alexs/ascorbate/
About the Author:
Andrew Saul is, with Abram Hoffer and Steve Hickey, coauthor of Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter, Safer Hospital Stay. As Dr. Cathcart has been deleted from Wikipedia since 2007, Saul was honored to have participated in inducting Dr. Cathcart into the Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame in 2008. http://orthomolecular.org/hof/2008/cathcart.html
Wikipedia: Articles for deletion/Robert Cathcart. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Robert_Cathcart)
Other Wikipedia deletions of physicians who use nutritional therapy: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v06n18.shtml