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What to Take After Surgery

Medicine is messy. One of the reasons researchers experiment on animals is they can create uniform, standardized injuries to test potential remedies. It’s not like you can just cut open 50 people and see if something works better than a sugar pill. But, wait a second, we cut people open all the time. It’s called surgery.

In my video Speeding Recovery from Surgery with Turmeric, I discuss a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study that investigated the efficacy of turmeric curcumin in pain and post-operative fatigue in patients who had their gall bladders removed. Fifty people were cut into and given either curcumin or an identical-looking placebo, along with rescue analgesics—i.e., actual painkillers to take if the pain became unbearable. Even though it’s just laparoscopic surgery, people don’t realize what a toll it can take. (You can be out of commission for a month!) In India, turmeric—found in curry powder—has traditionally been used as a remedy for traumatic pain and fatigue, so the researchers decided to put it to the test.

According to the study, in the weeks following surgery, there was a dramatic drop in pain and fatigue scores in the turmeric curcumin group, with p-values of 0.000. Those are my kind of p-values! The “p-value” refers to a measure of the strength of evidence. The smaller it is, the stronger the evidence is that the result they found didn’t just happen by chance. By convention, a p-value under 0.05 is considered small enough for a result to be considered statistically significant. This means that you’d only expect to find a result that remarkable simply by coincidence 5% of the time, or in 1 out of 20 cases. So a p-value like the one in the study, <0.000, suggests you’d have to run the experiment thousands of times before you’d come up with such a dramatic result just by chance.

It’s hard to come up with objective measures of pain and fatigue, but drug-wise, the curcumin group was still in so much pain they were forced to take 7 of the rescue painkillers. In the same time period, though, the control group had to take 39 pain pills. Of course, it’s better not to get gallstones in the first place, which you can learn more about in my video Cholesterol Gallstones, but the researchers’ conclusion was like no other I’ve ever read in a drug trial.

“Turmeric is a natural food ingredient, palatable, and harmless.” Okay, so far so good. It continued: “It proves to be beneficial as it may be an ecofriendly alternative to synthesized anti-inflammatory drugs which have a definite carbon footprint due to industrial production.” Since when do surgery journals care about the greenhouse gas emissions from drug companies? I just had to look up the reference in the journal Surgical Endoscopy entitled “Journey of the Carbon-Literate and Climate-Conscious Endosurgeon Having a Head, Heart, Hands, And Holistic Sense Of Responsibility.” I don’t know what’s stranger, seeing the word “holistic” in a surgical journal or the name of this guy’s practice: “Dr. Agarwal’s Surgery & Yoga.”


The benefits of turmeric are clear—and not just as a remedy for pain. The spice also serves as a potent treatment against cancer, as I explain in these videos:

Turmeric is effective at fighting many other health conditions, too, as is evident in these videos:

Finally, you may be wondering whether turmeric is best taken as a supplement or in whole food form. I invite you to watch Turmeric or Curcumin: Plants vs. Pills and find out.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

 

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


83 responses to “What to Take After Surgery

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  1. A man who helped me with my house for years just had another type of surgery and has Cancer, which they opened an area of his body up and it wasn’t good news.

    In this study, they were putting turmeric in capsules?

    Okay, I am missing how many turmeric capsules helped them drop that much in pain.

    Maybe I need to read it again.

  2. I am assuming they filled capsules, because it says identically looking versus tasting.

    Does turmeric lose its potency over time?

    Can I buy packets of pre-ground turmeric or a spice bottle or is it stronger if you grind your own?

  3. are there flavors which you can pair with turmeric which might hide the flavor better?

    I tried turmeric tea and need to use chai to almost hide it, sort of. Chai hides Dandelion tea very well, but not turmeric tea.

    1. I add a stub of turmeric root to a mango green smoothie and think it tastes great. I also make Dr. Greger’s vegetable smoothie, and it works well in there.

      1. With all of these healthy foods you’re eating, how do you feel daily? Eating healthy is not only about staving off chronic illness, but also simply feeling good.

      2. Brian, I am like you. I eat the tumeric root raw. I don’t mix it with anything. I sprinkle a little pepper on the wetted down raw root and “take it on down”. I eat for health and not for pleasure.

    2. Deb,
      Looking at the source article, patients were either given 500 mg capsules of turmeric every six hours, or asked to take identical pills containing dextrose. It was double blinded, so no one knew who was in which group until the end of the study.
      I have filled turmeric capsules myself because it’s cheaper, but the stained fingers and time it took were annoying, plus I had no idea how much turmeric was in each capsule. So instead, now I buy 150 capsules that each contain 500 mgs of turmeric from Target for $10.
      I’m recovering from a rib injury, so will increase my daily tablet to once every six hours!

      1. Debra, I’m recovering from a fractured rib & have been taking a 1/4 tsp a day incorporated into my food (no capsules) & have very little to no pain.

        I also have a few other small bone fractures (from the same accident), & I’ve been off the pain meds (naproxen & a muscle relaxer) for nearly 3 weeks now. The accident was a month ago.

        1. Forgot to mention that I also had a badly sprained knee, ankle & foot. My foot & ankle are pretty much back to normal. I have little or no knee pain but have some stiffness & swelling when I walk on it too much, even with a knee brace.

          But considering all the trauma I had, I’m feeling pretty good. It was a month ago yesterday. Is it the turmeric? I don’t know for sure. Is it my WFPB no added oil diet? I’m sure it’s helped my body deal with the inflammation & is helping me heal faster than if I were on the SAD.

          1. That is so great to hear Nancy!

            I have a close friend who has been on meds for years and years after back surgery, and I sent her this study.

            She is doing essential oils and said that peppermint helps with her headaches, but not her back.

            She went Keto to try to lose weight and because her Diabetes isn’t stable. I have spoken to her about vegan, but that would be a far reach for her and she is in so much pain.

            Maybe turmeric can come to the rescue.

            1. Deb, turmeric & a WFPB diet w/no added oils would go a long to helping your friend. If she had T2 diabetes, it would probably get rid of that as well. She would have no trouble at all keeping her weight down.

      2. Devra, thanks for looking the information up for me. That is very useful.

        I have a brother with prostate cancer who won’t eat turmeric and I don’t think he will do tomato sauce every single day either.

    3. Deb, I usually add a 1/4 tsp each of turmeric, cardamom & cinnamon, with a few shakes of freshly ground black pepper to my morning oatmeal or corn grits. I also add a cup of chopped mangoes (fresh or frozen) & a tbsp of flax seeds & a little plant or nut milk. Lately I’ve been adding a 1/4 c of mashed up beans to it as well. Cannellinis are my favorite for this.

    4. Deb, I try to get 1/2 tsp. of turmeric 2x a day. In one of his talks Dr. Gregor recommended that dose per day.

      Ways I use it, add it plus cinnamon, cardamom and raw cocoa powder to my morning coffee. At night make a drink with almond milk, the turmeric, 1/2 tsp each ground ginger and cinnamon. Can, of course, add honey to either drink if you choose.

      I add it to any tomato base sauces, or tomato base veggie juice I make, and always add it to hummus.
      Good with scrambled tofu, or a tofu stir-fry with either, or both, chili-garlic sauce or Asian black bean sauce.
      If you use siracha sauce can put it in that.

    1. Hi Ashley! It is recommended to consume at least 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric per day. Just a pinch of black pepper increases the bioavailability of the curcumin, which you can learn more about in this video!

  4. I just got released from the hospital for gastric bleeding. I want to caution those of you on blood thinners to not take tumeric or omega 3’s etc. I didn’t even think of it, but a 4 day stay in the hospital is a lesson, well many lessons including how hard it is to eat PBWFNO in a hospital. I’m still light headed and dead tired.

    I think flax seeds and hemp seeds may also cause problems.

    BTW, I was on effient 5 mg and aspirin 325 mg daily.

    1. Hi Jon
      Are you suggesting that turmeric (or similar) adds to the blood thinning properties (opp of a Vit-K antagonist) of warfarin & similar?

        1. WebMD is pretty helpful with spice/drug interactions.

          And yes it says that

          “Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with TURMERIC
          Turmeric might slow blood clotting. Taking turmeric along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

          Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.”
          https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-662-turmeric.aspx?activeingredientid=662&activeingredientname=turmeric

          The amount will make a difference though. This is why the standard advice is to always consult your MD/phrmacist before taking supplements if you are on medication or have a diagnosed medical condition.

          1. I am a silent reader/follower of this site and blogs for sometime now . I am interested in a related topic of microbleeds and thought of posting my questions.

            I experience headaches as well as bleeds in eyes when I tried DHA supplements (Deva Omega3) and was forced to stop within a day.
            I used to be fine with few walnuts a day but now-a-days even walnuts give me mild headaches (suspect microbleeds in brain)
            I am trying to understand the root causes of micro bleeds in blood vessels. Has anyone come across a study which might answer some of the following questions I have:
            – Could microbleeds be due to frgile blood vessels possibly due to any nutrient defiency even though there are no plaques ?
            – Could microbleeds be related to some defect in endothelial function ?
            – I am under the impression that ALA/DHA can cause only blood thinning but cannot cause micro bleeds unless blood vessels are weak- is that correct?

            Has anyone come across any literature/study supporting specific foods for avoding microbleeds?

            (I have mild CKD and do take 1 tsp turmeric everyday and follows mostly vegan diet with white rice -no brown rice since it is high in phosphorous )

            1. Hi I’m a RN health support volunteer with nutritionfacts.org. Thanks for your great questions. Dr. Greger recommends pubmed.gov as the best place to look for studies on any subjects he hasn’t specifically covered. I took a quick look and it looks like at least one study showed EPA and DHA did not cause bleeding:
              https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24472372
              I would think micro-bleeds could be multifactoral. Have you had an check up by a Dr. and had some basic blood work done? The other thought is are you taking the recommended vitamin b12 supplement if you are eating plant based?

              Hope that gives you a starting point. All the best to you.
              NurseKelly

      1. This is just anecdotal and perhaps of little value. I used to be on low dose aspirin, bruised easily and occasionally had broken blood vessels in my eyes. For the past two years I have been on a medically prescribed blood thinner, on WFPB diet, have one half teaspoon of turmeric with pepper in my soymilk every morning and have not suffered from the above illeffects any more. Perhaps I am running a risk? My healthcare provider has no opinion when it comes to health foods.

        1. WebMD describes it as a “moderate interaction” and recommends some caution.
          https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-662-turmeric.aspx?activeingredientid=662&activeingredientname=turmeric

          However, Indians and people eating Indian foods regularly consume turmeric with no obvious ill effects. Eaten as food, as in your case, there don’t seem to be major issues (unless perhaps you are on high dose blood thinners) and your doctor is presumably monitoring your blood work Large amounts and curcumin supplements may be another matter though.

  5. Perhaps I need to take more, but I’ve been taking 2 Turmeric capsules each morning to prevent joint pain (especially knee pain) for about a year and i really don’t see much difference. I use the ones by Puritans Pride since I trust that brand. I’ve also been following a vegan diet for nearly 3 years. Why isn’t it working very well?

    1. Bonnie, are you taking store bought supplements?

      Or are you filling your own capsules?

      Dr Greger did a video that the food is more powerdul than the supplements.

      1. Thanks you so much for your advise. I forgot about the pepper, and I’ll definitely watch the video about the sesame seeds as well as the other videos on osteoarthritis. This gives me some direction on where to go to deal with this knee pain. Bonnie

  6. “I don’t know what’s stranger, seeing the word “holistic” in a surgical journal or the name of this guy’s practice: ‘Dr. Agarwal’s Surgery & Yoga.'” How about seeing Dr Greger in the kitchen dressed in his doctor’s white coat with a stethoscope trapped over his shoulders?

    1. Ha ha, nothing strange there.
      Having practiced as a registered nurse for 35 years and still going strong, I have been privileged to see the practice of medicine change slowly from hack and burn and throw meds at the problem toward this perspective:

      “Let’s think of human being beings as complex, whole and with a great capacity to heal themselves with supportive resources that can be accessed to continue their continuity or wholeness.”

      That perspective makes it a duty for all of us in the health and allied sciences and the client, to ensure the wholeness and wellness of the individual and if possible, their support systems.

      I Say, “Yes!”, to more holistic surgeons and lifestyle physicians, nurse and allied professionals!
      Off to the chair-based yoga that I teach to heart bypass patients.

      And that is why I support Dr. Greger’s work with monthly donations.

  7. I so love this work and that is why I support it monthly. Each day I can read information that has been scrutinized by the medical and scientific professionalism of Dr. Greger and his team. What a gift!

    As to the tumeric, I am finding so many wonderful ways to put it in what I ingest daily. Beverages of all sorts, soups, anything with a tomato sauce and of course, delicious curries.

    It just feels great to know that I have on board an anti-inflammatory antidote given the free radical damage that is part of life.

    A proud and healthy monthly supporter of Nutritionfacts.org

    1. Curcumin is the most biologically active substance in turmeric, making up about 5% of turmeric. Often it is referred to as “turmeric curcumin”. This is not to be confused with cumin. Each study gives either amounts of turmeric (generally ground) or, if they studied the curcumin isolated from turmeric, they given the amount of curcumin studied.

      Sorry it’s so confusing!

      Dr Anderson, Health Support Volunteer

  8. Look at Dr. G. Daily Dozen. He lists 1/4 tsp daily of Tumeric. Easy to do! Look at his cookbook and make his spice mixture. I have this in a shaker in my bag and on the shelf in my kitchen. It includes Tumeric. Delicious! So readily available and so easy to put on or in foods, at home and on the road. The thing is to USE it everyday and every way and you will be doing good things for your body. Yes, we like mg and numbers but we are all individual, size, age, weight, eating pattern and foods– so it is very difficult to determine how much will help an individual. The study presented is wonderful. I’m in my 80’s and walk (no aches, pains). Daily use is automatic, taste grows on you and the mixture is wonderful. If permitted, I can put his recipe (on this site) for the mix from his wonderful , so good, cookbook. Be well friends!

  9. I’m on blood thinners and probably have to be for a while (post stent and now WMH)….I have been told that you can’t use turmeric when on blood thinners…you tell us all this amazing stuff about it!! but what if you can’t take it? Please could you do a blog on this problem. Thank you. Elizabeth

    1. The amount of blood thinner can be adjusted (if your MD is willing to entertain the idea) for the turmeric (or curcumin). Routine testing can easily show how you individually respond to small doses of your current drug regiment + turmeric; and the amount of blood thinner can be reduced to account for it. You repeat this process until you are taking the desired amount of turmeric (ie: have acceptable pain relief). This is basic pharmacology – unless your doctor is not amenable to the idea.

    2. See my comment above. I believe you are correct. I’m 3 months post stent and the 4 days I just spent in the hospital have made me rethink some of the foods and supplements. They are fine for healthy people, but do interact with medicines that are necessary for some of us.

  10. Wow, THANKS everybody! You have given a lot of fabulous ideas!

    I have to buy his recipe book again to get the spice mixture.

    I think his smoothie has a video.

    Tomato sauce and the vegan cheeses seem good places to try next.

    Thanks again!

  11. Sorry to rain on this parade but I suspect were are seeing the strength of the placebo effect, rather than the magic of curry powder.

    1. Gillian, I think that Dr Greger was pointing to the 0.000 to show it wasn’t likely to be the placebo effect. He didn’t use that exact sentencd, but the amount of pills taken was radically improved.

      I am not a statistics person, but I havd found Dr Greger points to the placebo effect when it is there. For instance, the Casein and Autism study.

      He has pointed it out so often that I trust his procedure.

      I am not going to entertain the thought of placebo effect unless someone with a really good grasp of statistics reads the study and points to it.

      He has earned that much respect from me in that area.

      If you are basing your comment on a mathematical evidence, please tell us. I am open to hearing another argument, but trust Dr Greger to point things like that out.

      Which now I don’t trust 97% of doctors and probably 99.99999% of people

    2. Gillian, you are right to wonder about things like placebo effect whenever you read any study results and if you find out the Dr Greger is wrong, you can politely disagree and give why.

      When I first came to this web site, a lot of people were putting Dr Greger down in his character and shots at his medical understanding and I grieved about that, because even if he gets anything wrong, surely he has gotten so much right and is giving the proceeds of his book away.

      He deserves respect and I know you have been respectful this whole time and I am grateful.

      The community is getting kinder and more respectful to each other and that is going to make it a stronger community.

      I feel like you just didn’t fully read the post and that is not a big deal.

      I just don’t want people who need pain relief to get discouraged already.

      When I started researching natural products to get rid of Cancer and Disbetes, the Internet is riddled with false information and people get hurt by it.

      I love that people are bringing up the contraindications, because that adds to the discussion in such a useful way.

  12. I experienced a Total Thyroidectomy recently. I understand that Turmeric acts as a blood-thinner or anti-coagulant. I stopped all use of Turmeric 2 weeks prior to Surgery and resumed it today, 2 weeks Post Op.
    My question is: isn’t it so that Turmeric is contraindicated before and following surgery?

    1. Great question. There was a randomized, controlled trial of turmeric to see if there was clinically significant inhibition of normal blood clotting leading to higher bleeding risk, and they found that there was not. Holding turmeric is not listed in the preoperative guidelines by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, and this newer trial suggests that it need not be held. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28732813

      Dr Anderson, Health Support Volunteer

      1. the study was done on aspirin which works differently from blood thinners like clopidogrel, prasugrel etc…are there any studies that look at those drugs combined with curcumin?  elizabeth

  13. This is just anecdotal and perhaps of little value. I used to be on low dose aspirin, bruised easily and occasionally had broken bloodvessels in my eyes. For the past two years I have been on a medically prescribed bloodthinner, a WFPB diet, have one half teaspoon of turmeric powder and pepper in my soymilk and have not suffered from the above ill effects any more. Perhaps there are individual differences. My healthcare provider has no opinion when it comes to natural food additives. Am I running a risk?

  14. I’ve no substantive word on whether turmeric root or powder interacts with drugs, or whether curcumin is the problem, the food being self-correcting– as is so often the case.
    For what it’s worth, Trader Joe sells Ginger-Turmeric tea bags, which I’ve served to people quite unfamiliar with such healthy teas, and with quite enthusiastic response from people otherwise uninterested in health matters. It wouldn’t be hard to imitate the tea from the 2 ingredients.

  15. I used to take 1,150 mg of Tumeric per day. Coincidentally my estradiol became very elevated (230-250 for post menopausal woman). I was scanned and probed with nothing significant. I ended up stopping the Tumeric and my estradiol returned to normal within a month. Has anyone heard of such a relationship between estradiol levels and Tumeric consumption?

  16. Hi! I hope you can answer this question for me Dr. G, I am very curious about Monk Fruit as a sweetener. I’ve noticed it has gained popularity in some foods and am wondering about its’ safety.

    Thank you!

    1. Christine,
      Thank you for your question. Monk Fruit is a nutrient dense whole food. The sweetener that is being marketed is an extract; not a whole food so missing key nutrients and fiber. Date sugar is probably a better alternative since it is a whole food just ground up and retains its nutrients. See the following video on sweeteners. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-healthiest-sweetener/

  17. Okay, I made blue corn tacos with black beans added into the veggie crumbles, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, go veggie vegan Mexican cheese, taco seasoning and drum roll please, turmeric.

    it was only a little bit of turmeric.

    Not enough to taste it.

    But that made it even better

    Now, I can slowly increase until I get used to it.

    Hooray!

    Thanks to everybody!

  18. My daughter was born by ceaserian surgery. I ate macrobiotically at that time, so no meat, no dairy but fish and a lot of oil and rice sirup. I got very ill from the pain medication so I didn’t take it anymore. And guess what? I had no pain at all, one day after surgery.
    Last two years I ate a normal diet, with meat and dairy and I got breast cancer. I switched to a WFPB diet and had my breast removed by surgery. After surgery I didn’t take any pain medication and guess what? I had no pain at all!

    Margriet

    1. Margriet, that is a cool story.

      Sorry about the breast cancer and I know that having a breast removed is a big deal, but not having any pain after that type of surgery is so great!

      Maybe it is all those foods, which aspirin come from on top of the turmeric or something?

      1. Maybe ist’s the PH of the blood which is causing the pain. When you eat meat and sugar your PH raises. When you eat WFPB you have a healthy PH. That’s also why you heal better and faster.

  19. A week after a small benign lesion was removed from my liver in 2015, I tried a supplement with a proprietary curcumin blend. I’d read it would speed healing and reduce pain. After 3-4 days, I had internal bleeding. My surgeon said the supplement was too much,too soon. However I found I did not need much narcotics as the pain became manageable. Just a warning that this stuff is powerful after GI surgery.

  20. Hubby has had two total hip replacements. One on SAD, and the second 10 years later on WFPB with turmeric. The second one’s recovery was MUCH quicker even though he was older and he only used pain pills for one week. It’s just one person, but he’s MY person. From now on, we will always do turmeric with surgery (or without it)!

  21. I’m having laparoscopic hernia repair next week what’s the dosage of turmeric I should take post op and what brand is the best? Should I take it Pre op too? Thank you.

  22. Hi I’m a RN health support volunteer. All of here at NF wish you a speedy recovery.

    Turmeric is a health promoting spice so there is no harm in taking it pre op or all the time. TDr. Greger recommends 1/4 teaspoon daily for everyone on his Daily Dozen
    https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dr-gregers-daily-dozen-checklist/

    There is not any research comparing different brands so there is no information on that. Just take 1/4 teaspoon every day. More if you like. It won’t do any harm.

    All the best to you.
    NurseKelly

    1. Thank you so much. I’m a registered nurse from MA and would also love to get involved in NF. I’ve met Dr Greger at the Boston Veg Feat a couple times. Very inspiring. A local store has the root for sale. I may take a small serving in my smoothie of fresh turmeric root. If there are any need for wellness nurses in your organization please reach out to me. Thanks.

  23. As one of the NFO support volunteers, I did a search through PubMed to answer your question and it does not appear that any studies confirm or even have investigated reversal of gall stones through diet, although one study using dogs seems promising for future exploration; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2930356
    Reversal of pigment gallstone disease in a canine model.
    For now the standard therapy is use of laparoscopic surgery:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24866215
    Surgical and nonsurgical management of gallstones.
    While the research demonstrates appropriate diet can reduce risk of stones, (https://nutritionfacts.org/video/cholesterol-gallstones/) once gall stones develop and cause ongoing acute pain not improved by a reduced fat diet, surgical treatment to remove stones is usually necessary.

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