Diet for Recovery

Diet for Recovery from surgery
As a culture, we’re addicted to new studies about preventative eating—studies dictating trends in foods that are healthy and aimed at minimizing health risks, but we have much less exposure when it comes to information on what to eat during recovery from surgeries. The first thing people recovering from surgery need to overcome is the fear of gaining weight. Hand in hand with healthy eating studies is a cultural fixation with being thin, but when your body is recovering from something as traumatic as a surgery, you need calories.

Helping you Get Back to your Pre-Operation Self

This is not to recommend calories for the sake of calories, or empty calories, but nutritional ones: extra protein, calcium, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and even calories from fats. With a reduction in calorie intake, tissues such as ligaments and muscles will not be able to heal and your recovery period could be prolonged. Since muscle is usually moved or cut open during surgery, the body immediately tries to heal that damaged tissue. In order to re-grow it, you need protein. Add meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, beans, and nuts to your diet for a quick boost in protein. For snacks, try: peanut butter, granola, yogurt, nuts, or cheese. If allowed by your doctor, you may be able to add nutritional supplements similar to those used by weightlifters as another way to give your body more protein. Unfortunately, some surgeries restrict certain grains and nuts, so be sure to consult your doctor about what is not allowed. For vegetarians and vegans: tofu, peanut and other nut butters, and beans are generally the highest-packed protein options.

As mentioned above, you need vitamins and minerals as well as protein to heal. Vitamin C helps with soft tissue repair, calcium rebuilds bone, vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, and vitamin D maintains bone and other organ health. While it is possible to benefit from vitamin supplements, natural food sources are best. If you didn’t regularly eat fruit and vegetables before, after surgery is a great time to start. Citrus, berries, kiwi, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are all packed with Vitamin C. Milk contains both vitamin D and calcium. Also, try adding avocado, sunflower seeds, spinach, greens, and almonds to your diet for a boost in vitamin E. It is important, however, not to take vitamin E supplements a week to ten days before surgery. Vitamin E is associated with production of red blood cells, which means a higher possibility for increased bleeding during surgery.

Beyond the food you eat it is also important to stay hydrated. Drink at least eight cups of water per day beyond your consumption of caffeine-containing beverages and alcohol. Gatorade and other sports drinks keep your body hydrated and filled with electrolytes so if you feel you can’t drink eight cups of plain water; Gatorade could be a helpful alternative. For those seeking to gain quick calories, switch to full-fat dairy products such as whole milk.

Regardless of surgery, your post-surgery diet will greatly influence your recovery time so it is important to take it seriously. Countless studies have maintained that when working out, a nutritional diet is half the battle to maintaining the body you want, and the same can be said with surgery. The way you move through the recovery period towards healing can determine the overall success of the surgery, the need for additional or repeat surgeries, and the ultimate result.

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