Surgery is a stress on the body and it often takes time and nutrients to heal and recover fully. It is worth preparing yourself physically and mentally, as well as planning for any post surgery requirements such as help at home to a well stocked fridge and freezer.
Here’s a checklist for pre and post surgery we hope you find useful!
Preparation is key. Getting logistics in order will help you go into the surgery on the day feeling more in control and relaxed.
Of course, every surgery is different and the recovery will vary between different types, but here are some tips which apply for any kind of operation in which you receive a general anaesthetic.
- Arrange for someone to take you and collect you from hospital. After an anaesthetic you will likely feel groggy and will be advised not to drive. If you are staying in for a few days it’s still useful to have someone collect you and settle you back into your house. Also consider if you need any help at home in the early days and organise for this.
- Before you go into hospital have fresh linen on your bed, clean towels and a clean, tidy, well ventilated space to return to. Reduced stress levels and good sleep is crucial to recovery and having a calm restful home to return to will definitely help.
- Prepare post op meals & get a well-stocked fridge and freezer to enable you to eat well post surgery when you may not feel like cooking. Try batch cooking in advance and freezing in meal sized portions that are quicker and more nutritious than ordering a takeaway. Ideas for batch cooking include soups, stews, cottage pie, lasagne, meatballs etc.
- Consider your role on a daily basis and what will happen if you are out of action for a few weeks - can someone take the dog for a walk, can you ‘pause’ your gym membership (and any other membership) to save a little cash, can you get your newspaper delivered, can you do some online shopping, if you care for someone else, can you arrange cover, can you get someone to help you clean your house for a bit?
- Speak with your medical team and make sure medications and supplements are declared in advance. It may be that they want you to stop some supplements around the time of surgery. Some nutrients can influence blood viscosity and blood clotting time (vitamin E) so are better paused during this time. Your medical team will advise you on your medication schedule for the operation - and if they don’t, please ask!
- Recuperation may become quite boring or lonely; plan some activities for this time and keep to some routine. Get some books or puzzles at the ready, consider knitting, call a friend or have a friend over, learn a new skill or refresh a language. If you can be mobile, plan movement such as walking into your day. It’s also good to keep a consistent sleep and wake time during this time, to maintain energy levels and allow for restful sleep.
Basic nutrition principles after surgery
Of course, after the surgery follow the advice of your Doctor.
Don’t underestimate the healing process - although skin incisions may appear to have healed on the surface in a week or two, it can take months for the operation site to fully heal, as the underlying muscle and tissues continue to repair and bind together. Therefore, following the tips below for a good few months will support your healing journey.
Water aids in detoxification & therefore will help clear any medications given to you in surgery and after surgery.
- Aim for 1.5-2 litres of water per day or consider herbal teas such as dandelion & nettle, which are rich in micronutrients (nettle contains iron, useful if you have had any blood loss).
- Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol & sugary/sports drinks that will stimulate you, put further stress on the liver and act as a diuretic (you will need to wee more frequently).
Eat healing foods
- Vitamin C & Zinc are crucial for the wound healing process. Vitamin C helps make new collagen and protein for bones, skin, capillary walls and connective tissue, and zinc supports collagen and protein synthesis, membrane stability and clot formation. Eat bell peppers, parsley and broccoli for vitamin C, and fish, red meat, lentils and seeds for zinc.
- Increase your intake of collagen and gelatin which can be used directly at any incision site to help heal the tissues. Try bone broth made from chicken or beef bones, or buy it here, or consider a collagen or gelatin powder to add to soups and stews - and you can even make homemade jelly from gelatin powder.
- Eat protein with every meal. Protein is the building block for repairing tissues. Include eggs, mackerel / sardines, nut butter or yogurt for breakfast, and choose some fish, meat, eggs, tofu, quinoa, edamame beans (these are great bought frozen and sprinkled on the top of meals), peas or lentils with your lunch and evening meal.
Support your digestive function
Supporting digestive function at this time helps nutrient absorption, supports immunity and promotes regular bowel movements.
70% of immune cells are found in the gut hence the connection with the immune system, and during this time we want to be strong against any viruses. Medications, such as painkillers, can slow down gut motility leading to constipation, as can lack of movement, hence eating foods to keep things moving can be beneficial at this time.
- Eat probiotic foods - live plain yogurt, kefir, apple cider vinegar, fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut.
- Avoid consumption of refined sugars, trans fats, alcohol, high dairy, lots of red meat and refined grains (found in cereals) which can lead to inflammation.
- Include a minimum of 5 vegetables per day (onions and garlic count) - these provide fibre as well as a range of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
- Include fibre in your diet regularly in the form of oats, seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, ground flaxseeds), lentils, beans (black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans), fruit and vegetables.
Fill up on antioxidants
Antioxidants can aid the healing process as they ‘mop up’ free radicals that are released during surgery (& day to day life). Antioxidants are found in a variety of food sources including fruit, vegetables or certain fish, nuts & seeds.
Specific foods with high levels of antioxidants include: spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, sardines, garlic, turmeric, asparagus, onions and citrus fruits.
All the best with the surgery and recovery period!