There are many components to preparing for and healing from surgery. We often talk about the role of proper wound care, medications, and therapy, but proper nutrition is also a very important factor that can affect how well you recover after surgery.
According to Registered Dietitian Kate Collins, adequate nutrition is essential for recovery, and can aid in the healing process. You should begin incorporating healthy foods into your diet prior to surgery for maximum benefit. She recommends you eat the following both before and after your surgery:
Why? Protein is an essential macronutrient for wound healing.
How? Protein is found in animal-based products like meat, eggs, and dairy (milk and cheese). It also can be found in non-animal sources such as protein powders (soy, whey, pea), nuts and nut butters.
Why? Iron is a critical component of blood, which can be lost in surgery.
How? Red meats (beef, lamb) and leafy greens (spinach, kale) are particularly high in iron. Cooking your food in a cast iron skillet can also increase its iron content.
Why? Vitamin C helps our bodies absorb iron.
How? Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, like strawberries, oranges, cantaloupe, and tomatoes are all high in Vitamin C.
Why? Zinc, like protein, has been shown to improve wound healing.
How? While found mostly in red meats and poultry, zinc can also be obtained from beans, nuts, and some seafood (oysters, crab, lobster); as well as from whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.
Why? Calcium, together with Vitamin D, helps keep your bones strong.
How? Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are high in calcium. Dark leafy greens and cereal are also good sources of calcium.
Why? Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium to make our bones strong.
How? The best source of Vitamin D is the sun, but it can also be found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna), and fortified milk.
Why? Drinking plenty of water helps prevent dehydration, which can help keep your kidneys functioning well. It also helps to prevent constipation, a common problem after surgery. Water is also another important component in rebuilding your blood supply when you lose it like in surgery.
How? Regular still or sparkling water is best. However, other drinks including juice, tea, coffee, and milk, when used in moderation, can contribute to hydration. Caffeine has a diuretic effect, meaning it can make you urinate more and lose more water, so it’s best to drink a cup of water for each cup of tea or coffee you drink. If you don’t care for plain water, there are many flavoring options like Gatorade or Crystal Light or a similar powder that you can mix with water for a more flavorful beverage.
Overall, a good rule-of-thumb is to “eat the rainbow” after surgery. The more colorful the food, the more it is packed with vitamins and minerals. Look at your plate and be sure it’s not all brown, white, and beige foods. Also, try to include at least one fruit or vegetable with each meal or snack to nourish your body and speed up your healing.
If you would like to see a dietitian while you are in the hospital recovering after surgery to discuss your individual needs, please let us know. We would be happy to consult the nutritionist for you.
By Oklahoma Shoulder Center PLLC
June 15, 2020