Nutrition for surgery healing

March 30, 2017

I recently had a major surgery that left me bedridden for 6 days. I knew the recovery time would take about a week, so I planned and prepped accordingly. There are some obvious check off  the to-do list such as gathering your last will and testament, stacking your favorite books and DVDs together, doing laundry and prepping meals that are healing and easy to reheat. Let’s talk about pre and post surgery nutrition.


Easy to digest foods should be on the docket for at least a week, if not longer depending on the type of surgery you have undergone. These include COOKED vegetables, soups, stews, and water for at least the first few days. Appetite is usually low, so the introduction of soft foods helps the gut and body heal. Cooked vegetables and crock pot meats are easier to digest, allowing our body take a break from our digestive system while its focusing on healing. Digestion can be very taxing on the body, so anything to decrease the workload can go towards healing.


Bone broth was on the top of my list of the most healing, nutrient dense and easy to digest foods. It is now found in the freezer section of many stores or Youtube/ Google search recipes on how to make your own bone broth. Bone broth is essentially broken down minerals, collagen, and protein from a variety of different animals. You can use cow bones, chicken or turkey carcass and even fish. Not only is this another way to honor the animal by using everything from the nose to tail, but the minerals from the bone structure are very healing. When our bodies take nutrients from other properly prepared nutrient dense sources, we heal faster. I like to use the broth in soups and stews. Consuming bone broth also lowers inflammation.


Collagen in is the most abundant protein in the body. I personally use Vital Proteins collagen powder in my coffee, water and/or smoothies. It’s tasteless and also contains a lot of protein per serving. Did I mention it’s allergen free? Many protein powders on the market today have added whey, sugar, eggs and other ingredients people react to. Collagen helps build the structure of your body. Think skin, fascia, scar and bone repair. 


Organ meat! Liver, heart, kidneys and adrenals are just a few. Make sure you only consume grass-fed, pasture raised meats. These are vitamin rich super foods that aids your body in healing. 


My anesthesiologist gave me 10 drugs just to go under the knife! And that doesn’t include the pain meds I was on post surgery. My poor little liver was over burdened by processing and trying to eliminate  all of those prescriptions. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate is key! Especially if you are on opioids that cause constipation. Make sure you get a straw for your water bottle so you don’t have to engage areas that might cause pain.


Nightshades such as potatoes, eggplants, peppers and tomatoes contain inflammatory agents that your body has to defend against ramping up the immune system. Let your body heal during this time, so take a break from these foods. 


Supplements should be taken under your doctors supervision at all times, especially pre surgery. They will give you a list of what to avoid about a week before the big day. There are some supplements that will compliment your healing such as Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Avoid cheap supplements that contain sugar (anything ending in -ose, -ase, malt, and/ or syrup), soy, corn or wheat. Applying Vitamin E and/or Arnica to your incisions will help with scarring.


Speaking of avoiding sugar, wheat, corn and soy, avoid these foods before and after surgery. Better yet, avoid them all together. These foods cause inflammation, depletes the body of minerals, causes digestive upset and actually decreases healing time. It takes 56 molecules of magnesium to break down 1 molecule of sugar! Think about that the next time you guzzle down a 7UP when you have sore throat. Sugar is very inflammatory to the immune system- the very backbone that keeps our healing on track. 


Allow your body to sleep as much as it needs to. Laundry, cooking, work and the to-do list will need to happen later. Sleep is one of the most resourceful ways to heal, if not the first line of defense mechanisms for all attributes of health. You MUST prioritize sleep and healing on the top of your to-do list. 


Once you have established function back into the real world, know that your body still is healing. Be gentle on yourself. Start back with walking, light weights, and low impact activities. Healing only happens when you progress slowly back into your routine. 



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