Nutrition Before Surgery
Your doctor wants you to recover well from any type of surgery – and good nutrition will help prepare your body before, heal better after and help fight infection. It’s important to eat enough calories, protein, vitamins and minerals because fueling your body the right way will help speed your recovery. Thankfully, getting the right nutrients doesn’t mean following a special diet, and it’s just as important for your everyday health.
Support your immune system. This powerhouse is responsible for keeping you well and it has many ways of defending your body. It protects against viruses and bacteria and helps you recover when you do get sick. Good nutrition that supports your immune system can help your recovery go smoothly.
One way to support a health immune system is increase your intake of antioxidants that come from the vitamins and minerals in the foods you eat. Antioxidants remove harmful free radicals in the blood stream that result from the body turning food into energy. These free radicals can change your DNA and keep your immune system from working at its best.
- Vitamin C plays a role in making a protein called collagen. It’s used by the body to repair ligaments and tendons, make connective tissue – and heal surgical wounds. Since surgery can cause the body’s metabolic rate to increase (and vitamin C levels to drop), it’s important to supplement your diet with this key vitamin. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, but there are other great sources including baked potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, kiwi fruit and strawberries.
- Calcium and Vitamin D are crucial to bone health. For people with stress fractures or any type of orthopedic surgery, this combo should be on your radar. The best sources of these nutrients are low-fat dairy foods. Check labels to be sure you’re choosing options fortified with vitamin D.
When it comes to getting your body’s necessary vitamins and minerals, where can you get the most bang for your antioxidant-rich buck? Fruits and veggies! One simple way to pick foods loaded with antioxidants is to reach for color! Foods that are bright red, yellow, orange and green are your best bet. Try apples, berries, broccoli, carrots, cranberries, red grapes, spinach and tomatoes – sounds like a yummy salad right there!
Pack in the protein. When people think of protein, muscle building often comes to mind. But it’s not just for bodybuilders. Protein is key ingredient in bone building and it contains all the essential amino acids that aid in wound healing. The bonus? It also helps keep your immune system going strong. High quality protein options include low-fat cheese or cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, and baked chicken. Vegetarian options for protein are soy-based foods, tofu, almond milk and legumes (beans). Almonds, walnuts and peanut butter also do the trick!
Fill up on fiber. The American Heart Association recommends you should eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day from food, and most adults average 15 grams a day. This matters even more before surgery because the pain medicines commonly prescribed after surgery or an injury can cause constipation. Black beans, lima beans, peas, broccoli and Brussel sprouts are all good options to increase your fiber intake and keep things moving. If berries are more to your taste, raspberries and blackberries pack 8 and 7.6 grams per cup respectively. One simple way to sneak in more fiber is to add flaxseed meal or chia to oats, smoothies or yogurt. Stewed prunes are great to alleviate constipation and are also high in vitamin C.
What to Avoid. Before surgery, it’s best to avoid foods that can cause inflammation in the body. Some foods thought to increase the inflammatory response in the body include refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour; saturated fats from red meat; trans fats from commercially baked sweets like cookies, pastries and cakes; and alcohol.
When preparing for surgery, filling your body with healthy foods can help your body handle the stress. Keeping up good nutrition after you’re home helps you regain your strength, fight infection and get back to your best.
Please be sure to follow your doctor’s orders about any specific foods to avoid or any dietary restrictions to follow either before or after surgery. Some foods can interact with medications or may not be well tolerated with some procedures. Certain medical conditions – like diabetes, Crohn’s disease and kidney disease – have special dietary requirements.