Nutrition plays a big role in any surgery you may have. Nutrition has a powerful effect on the surgery and on your pain and recovery time. March is National Nutrition Month, and it is an opportunity for me to share some information with you about nutrition. If you know me at all, you know that proper nutrition is important to me. Like other athletes, I am invested in the
benefits of good nutrition.
No one can predict the time of an accident, but most of us have a good bit of control over our elective and non-emergency surgery. In the time leading up to your surgery and after, nutrition has a significant effect on the success of the surgery, the level of pain experienced after surgery, and the length of the healing process. This post is not adequate to present or explain nutrition studies that underlie these recommendations. I would like, however, to share these nutritional recommendations with you.
Any surgery adds stress to your body. The operation itself might be considered a minor assault to your body. The anesthesia affects your body. The surgeon slices into flesh and underlying tissues. And something inside you will likely be removed or altered. The body needs the right nutrition to recover. Several classes of foods will prepare your body and speed your recovery.
- Anti-oxidants. During surgery your body releases “free radicals.” To counteract their effect, you should eat foods rich in anti-oxidant rich. This list shows what you need to eat and the foods that contain them:
- Allium Sulphur compounds: Leeks, onions, garlic
- Anthocyanins: Eggplant, grapes, berries
- Beta carotene: Pumpkin, sweet potatoes/yams, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, green leafy vegetables, lettuces, parsley
- Kryptoxanthin’s: Red peppers, pumpkin, mangoes
- Flavonoids: Tea, green tea, citrus fruits, onions, apples
- Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale
- Lutein: Leafy greens, spinach, kale, collard greens, green beans
- Lycopene: Tomatoes, pink grapefruit , watermelon
- Manganese: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
- Polyphenols: Thyme, oregano, peppermint
- Selenium: Seafood, lean meat
- Vitamin C: Oranges, lemons, limes, berries, kiwi, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, peppers
- Vitamin E: Nuts, avocados, seeds
- Zinc: Seafood, lean meat, nuts.
- Hydration is important because it clears toxins from your body through the liver. Being well hydrated before and after an operation is very important. The popular recommendation is that you should drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Most people find this difficult. Doing the best we can to drink as much water as possible before and after surgery will help your body eliminate toxins from your system. Studies indicate that those who are well hydrated before surgery tend to have less pain and nausea.
- Strengthen the Gut. Many medications typically used in surgery, including antibiotics, can kill the beneficial bacteria in the gut. As much as 75% of our” natural immunity” lives in the gut, forming a protective barrier. To counteract this effect and to strengthen your gut, you need to take in probiotics. These are in the following foods:
- Kefir (dairy and water)
- Apple cider vinegar or other fermented vinegars
- Naturally fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchee)
- Fermented beverages (beet kvass, kombucha)
- Fermented beans and legumes
- Naturally fermented chutneys and salsas.
- Foods easy to digest. After surgery, eating easily digestible foods speeds the healing process.
It is believed by some nutritionists and surgeons that a shorter fasting period before surgery, muscle strengthening prior to surgery, and carbohydrate loading before surgery will speed up the recovery process after the operation. Higher intake of protein will help the body heal from the procedure. Another study found that reducing fat intake prior to surgery helps to reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent infection.
It can be difficult for most people to get enough of the needed proteins, vitamins and minerals through diet alone. Taking dietary supplements may help you prepare for and recover from surgery. Always talk with your doctor before taking supplements as some might not be compatible with medications you are taking or that will be given to you during surgery.
Surgery is never fun. Understanding the role of nutrition for surgery and making dietary changes beginning three weeks before a procedure can make the operation and your recovery faster and less painful. Dietary changes are often easier than we think, especially for a limited time. While the nutrients listed in this article are considered generally helpful, your doctor might have additional suggestions based on the type of surgery you will have.
To your health!