Eating Healthy After Surgery
March 29, 2018 • Food for Thought
from Melissa over at recipe-barn.com. I hope to be back in the kitchen soon!!!
Eating healthy after surgery can be a challenge, especially if your meds make you feel nauseated. However, it is important to consume the proper nutrients to help speed the recovery process and make you feel better sooner. In fact, you should begin eating well leading up to the surgery to build up your nutrient levels and strengthen your immune system so that your body is prepared to heal itself.
Before and after surgery, focus more on whole foods and avoid eating processed foods. Although it may be tempting to opt for more convenient packaged foods after surgery, these often contain more fat, sugar, salt, and additives, whereas whole foods like fresh produce and whole grains contain higher amounts of fiber and vitamins. Set aside some time before the surgery to stock up on whole foods and make several meals to put in the freezer so you don’t have to worry about cooking while you’re recovering.
Some specific nutrients that facilitate the healing process include fiber, probiotics, antioxidants, collagen, vitamin A and C, and zinc. Fiber helps prevent constipation, a common post-surgery complication that can increase pain and your chances of returning to the hospital during recovery. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fresh and dried fruit are all excellent sources of fiber. Avoiding too much dairy and red meat can also help prevent constipation.
You will likely receive prescriptions for antibiotics after your surgery to prevent infection. Unfortunately, these necessary medications kill the good bacteria along with the bad. The beneficial bacteria in your body help digest food, manufacture vitamins, and keep your immune system functioning. To repopulate your beneficial bacteria, consume fermented foods like apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and yogurt. Choose plain yogurt, which is free of refined sugar and other additives, and add fruit to make your own flavored yogurt. You can also choose to take a probiotic supplement—just make sure to discuss this with your doctor and follow the instructions on the label.
In addition, surgical procedures often cause an increased oxidative load on your body, or free radical production. To help reduce or even eliminate these harmful molecules, increase your consumption of antioxidant-rich foods both before and after surgery. A few examples of these include green leafy vegetables, berries, and green tea.
The most abundant protein in your body, collagen is another extremely important nutrient to consume before and after surgery, as it helps knit your tissues back together. Therefore, your body will require more protein than usual: about 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight every day. Consume lean protein sources like legumes, eggs, fish, and poultry to increase your collagen intake. Because vitamin C helps cross-link collagen, eat plenty of citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli as well. Try risotto with orange shrimp or pasta with salmon and broccoli.
Like collagen, vitamin A is necessary to repair and maintain your soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. Your body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, so opt for orange fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, and mango. Dark green leafy vegetables also contain plenty of beta carotene.
Zinc is another nutrient important for wound healing and immune function. Your body uses zinc for protein synthesis and cell growth. Foods rich in zinc include squash seeds, sesame seeds, and oysters. Cruciferous vegetables—things like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower—as well as mushrooms, pineapple, and papaya also aid in post-surgery recovery. Cruciferous vegetables and mushrooms support a healthy immune system, and pineapple and papaya contain enzymes that help reduce swelling and inflammation. Try simple recipes like sweet potato and cauliflower mash or mushroom and kale risotto.
Staying hydrated is also essential when preparing for and recovering from surgery. Water helps remove toxins from your body, move medicines through your system, and convert fat-soluble nutrients to water-soluble nutrients. You should aim for at least 60 ounces of water per day, or as much as half your weight in ounces (e.g., if you weigh 140 pounds, drink 70 ounces of water).=
If you experience a lack of appetite after your surgery, focus on high-calorie and, if nausea is the problem, easily digestible foods. Smoothies are an excellent high-calorie option, as they are drinkable and can be made with nutrient-dense foods like plain yogurt, fruit, and even some leafy greens. Make and freeze some bone broth before the surgery for a comforting, easily digestible food that contains plenty of minerals and collagen. Bone broth also contains glycine, which helps your body detoxify, induces sleep, improves digestion, and prevents the breakdown of protein in your muscles.
When you don’t feel good, it’s important to give your body what it needs in order to heal. Reduce the physical and mental stress caused by surgery by being prepared. Eat well leading up to the surgery, and stock up on whole foods to eat while you recover so that you can relax post-surgery and get better quickly.
Melissa is a freelance writer and food blogger at recipe-barn.com, passionate about cooking, creating and sharing unique recipes or just simply cooking good food. Melissa is also interested in developing in a variety of other things including healthy diet and traveling in new places around the globe to experience different cuisines and learning different cultures.