Best Healing Foods After Surgery

Many people will have surgery during the course of their lives. No matter how routine or simple the surgery is, the patients will need a period of time to recover and heal. Fortunately, there are healing foods after surgery that a patient can eat to speed up the recovery time and reduce the risk of complications like infections. In order to identify the best healing foods, patients are advised to speak with their doctor.

Healing Foods to Eat After Surgery

1.   Protein-Rich Foods

The body needs protein to rebuild tissue. Protein contains amino acids which serve as the raw material the body uses to heal. Protein can boost the immune system, which reduces the chance of infection. Lastly, a protein-rich diet will help the body regulate the blood sugar levels and provide long-term energy. Foods that have a lot of protein and amino acids include: egg whites, chicken, beans, seafood, turkey, legumes and dairy.

2.   Vitamin C-Rich Foods

Vitamin C is one of the go-to vitamins for helping you recover, this is because vitamin C has powerful antioxidants which are great at fighting disease and protecting cells from free radicals. Luckily, there are many foods loaded with vitamin C: citrus fruits, tomatoes, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, and vitamin-enriched foods, such as cereal.

3.   Whole Grains

Whole grains are the healing foods after surgery because they not only provide the carbohydrates your body needs to run itself, but also contain other valuable nutrients such as fiber. Fiber is good for regularity of bowel movement – the digestive system is often slowed down due to the surgery. And since whole grains contain less refined sugar, they improve your energy levels following surgery. Types of foods that contain a lot of whole grains include: popcorn, wheat breads, brown rice, and barley soups.

4.   Probiotic Foods

During and after surgery, patients will receive a preventative dose of antibiotics. The purpose is to reduce the chance of infection, but one of the drawbacks is that the good bacteria and yeast located in your digestive system are also killed off. This can cause digestive problems, such as reduced nutrient absorption. Good sources of probiotics include kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt and kombucha. When choosing a probiotic-rich food, make sure the foods contain live cultures.

5.   Fiber-Rich Foods

The healing foods after surgery include those high in fiber. Fiber reduces constipation and promotes overall good health. We previously mentioned whole grains have a lot of fiber, and other sources include:

  • Fruits such as apples, raspberries and bananas
  • Beans such as lentils and black beans
  • Vegetables like artichokes and broccoli

6.   Vitamin D and Calcium-Rich Foods

In order to repair bones after surgery, a diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D is essential. Calcium is a primary building block for healthy bones and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Many dairy foods such as milk and cheese, contain calcium and are also enhanced with extra vitamin D.

7.   Vitamin E-Rich Foods

Vitamin E plays a critical role in boosting your immune system and combating free radicals. Not only do free radicals contribute to disease, but they also slow incision healing, which can mean surgery recovery takes longer. Vitamin E is great for the skin, which can also help healing. Look for seeds and nuts that have a lot of vitamin E.

8.   Zinc and Iron-Rich Foods

Zinc helps the body repair itself, so it’s not hard to see why it is one of the great healing foods after surgery. Great sources of zinc include seafood, dairy and chicken. Iron supports the body’s creation of hemoglobin which is needed for the blood to carry oxygen. Oxygen will be needed for the body to repair itself. In order to get more iron, patients can eat liver, seafood, legumes and dark leaved vegetables and specially fortified cereal.

9.   Mushrooms

Recent scientific research has shown the benefits of mushrooms in helping the immune system. Specifically, the Shiitake mushroom has been shown to help T cells work more effectively to reduce inflammation in the body. Other mushrooms that have similar benefits include Maitake and Reishi mushrooms.

10.   More Foods

Other healing foods after surgery include:

  • Good Fats. These help with the immune system and assist in vitamin absorption. Good options include olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and avocados.
  • Fluids, such as water, milk and fruit juices. Being dehydrated makes it harder for your body to utilize medicine and absorb nutrients.
  • Vitamin A. This vitamin helps the body heal wounds and regenerate skin. Sources of vitamin A include carrots, liver, dairy and egg yolks.
  • Vitamin K. It is needed to help the blood work properly. To get more vitamin K, try to eat more fish and green vegetables.

The healing foods may vary among people, depending on the type of surgery, your health status, etc. Please be sure to consult your doctor for advice before eating them.

Foods to Avoid After Surgery

Just like there are foods to focus on after surgery, there are also foods to avoid, such as:

  • Food with refined sugars
  • Processed foods
  • High-fat red meat
  • Alcohol
  • Soda
  • Foods high in sodium, like potato chips

How to Combat Poor Appetite

Many patients will have no appetite following their surgery as a side effect from medications and anesthesia.

  • Try eating more meals with smaller portions, every two to three hours.
  • Reduce the amount of fluid intake close to meal time.
  • Make mealtime a more fun event.
  • Getting enough exercise, assuming surgery allows, can help trigger an appetite.
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