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Herbal Supplements before Cosmetic Surgery May Cause Trouble

You know that natural herbal supplements are supposed to boost your immune system, give you more energy, and improve your health. What you may not know is that these dietary supplements may cause side effects during cosmetic surgery or problems afterwards.

Half of All Cosmetic Surgery Patients Use Supplements

One 2013 study, published in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, showed that people who opt for cosmetic surgery are likely to use herbal supplements. Researchers in that study surveyed 200 patients undergoing facial cosmetic surgery and found that 49 percent were using at least one type of supplement.

Out of the 200 participants in the survey, 35 were taking supplements linked to an increased risk for bleeding. This means 17.5 percent of patients in the survey might have experienced bleeding problems if the doctor had not suggested the patients stop using the supplements two to three weeks before surgery. Those supplements included bilberry, bromelain, fish oil, flaxseed oil, garlic, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), selenium, and vitamin E.

A 2006 study of 100 patients and 100 participants from the public also showed that people who opt for cosmetic surgery are more likely to use herbal supplements, with 55 percent of plastic surgery patients taking supplements compared to only 24 percent of the public. Eighteen percent of supplement users said they used chondroitin, another 18 percent said ephedra at 18 percent, 14 percent used echinacea, and 10 percent of participants said they used glucosamine.

Common Supplements and the Problems they Cause

Chondroitin is a popular supplement for the treatment of arthritis. Chondroitin may increase your risk for bleeding, especially when used in combination with blood-thinning drugs.

Ephedra was a weight loss medication, now banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because it could raise blood pressure and heart rate, and might ultimately cause heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, stroke, and death.

People use Echinacea to prevent or treat infections, chronic wounds and arthritis. This supplement can cause poor wound healing and increase risk for infection.

Glucosamine is often with chondroitin to improve joint function. Glucosamine contains insulin-like chemicals that can artificially lower blood sugar to dangerous levels after surgery.

Can’t I Just Keep my Supplement Use to Myself?

Sixty to 80 percent of people do not tell their doctors that they use herbal supplements, according to the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates. This is a problem for all patients, as supplements can interfere with medications and increase the risk for side effects in surgical procedures. Warfarin is the most common prescription drug known to interact poorly with herbals. Doctors report more adverse drug effects associated with St. John’s Wort than any other herbal product.

Furthermore, some herbal supplements that are fine at recommended doses may have toxic effects at very high doses. Ginseng and licorice are particularly associated with toxicity at extremely high levels.

To reduce the risk for these side effects and others, plastic surgery patients should supply a list of all medications, including vitamins and supplements, to their surgeons. Most surgeons suggest stopping many herbal supplements before surgery to reduce the risk for complications. Talk to your plastic surgeon about the safety of herbal supplement before your cosmetic procedure.

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