Read time: 8 min.
Issue 09 * 27 January 2024

Pre-Surgery Diet: Key Foods for Speedy Surgical Recovery

Discover the Power of Pre-Surgery Nutrition for a Smooth Recovery. Learn About Key Foods and Dietary Tips for a Speedy Surgical Healing Process.

Claudia le Feuvre

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The Impact of Pre-Surgery Diet on Recovery

When you're gearing up for surgery, diet might be the last thing on your mind. However, what you eat before your procedure can significantly impact your recovery. A well-balanced diet can strengthen your immune system, reduce the risk of infection, provide essential nutrients for tissue healing, and potentially shorten your hospital stay. In this article, we'll delve into pre-surgery nutrition and highlight the best foods to include in your surgery diet to promote a smooth and speedy recovery.

Key Components of a Pre-Surgery Diet

As you prepare for surgery, try to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups. This approach ensures you receive the full spectrum of nutrients necessary for healing. The key components of your pre-surgery diet should include:

  • Healthy proteins: Incorporate lean proteins such as fish, chicken, eggs, beans, soy, tofu, nuts, and avocado. Protein supports tissue repair and boosts your immune system.
  • Grains and legumes: Choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and wholemeal versions. These provide essential carbohydrates for energy. Legumes and beans are also a great source of fibre to support colon health.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Aim for at least five portions of fruits and vegetables each day to provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also an excellent source of dietary fibre.
  • Healthy fats: Include sources of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. These fats are essential for overall health and can aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Fermented foods: Enjoy foods with healthy bacteria such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi, miso, and live yoghurt. These foods support your microbiome which can ease digestive discomfort and enhance your assimilation of nutrients.
  • Avoid sugar: High sugar consumption can provide empty calories and may lead to issues like insulin resistance and elevated blood glucose levels, which are associated with diabetes. Elevated blood glucose levels can impair healing and increase the risk of infection for surgical patients.

Tailoring Your Diet to Your Surgery

As your surgery date approaches, you may receive specific dietary guidance during your pre-operative assessment. Depending on your circumstances, you may be advised to make adjustments to your diet. Here are some common considerations:

  • Achieve a healthy pre-op weight: Some people may need to reach a specific pre-operative weight. While weight loss might be recommended for some, others may be encouraged to gain weight to optimise their nutritional status. Being closer to an ideal body weight can reduce the risk of wound infections and enhance post-surgery mobility and recovery.
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated is essential. Ensure you drink plenty of fluids in the days leading up to your surgery to prevent dehydration.
  • Specialised pre-op drinks: In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend specialised carbohydrate drinks like Nutricia Preop and Ensure Pre Surgery. These can be beneficial when used as advised.
  • Protein intake: Increasing your protein intake before surgery can assist your immunity, promote wound healing, and help preserve muscle mass. Adequate protein is crucial for healing and recovery.
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Post-Surgery Dietary Considerations

After surgery, the type of diet you should follow depends on the kind of surgery you had and any existing health conditions you may have so it is always worth asking for advice. For example, if you had bowel surgery, you might need a low-fibre diet to help your digestive system heal properly. People with kidney or liver issues may be advised to limit their protein intake. Conditions like diverticulitis or intestinal stricture may require you to avoid hard-to-digest foods like nuts. In some cases, like after dental surgery, you might need to stick to liquids and soft foods for the first few days to ensure a comfortable and smooth recovery. A diet after heart surgery should include foods that are rich in protein, antioxidants (fruit and veg), and omega-3 fatty acids (oily fish).

As a general rule, to prepare for a successful recovery, plan to consume healthy, plant-based foods rich in fibre, including beans, fruits, lentils, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables. After surgery, the combination of pain medications and reduced physical activity can often lead to constipation. Consuming these high-fibre foods and staying properly hydrated can help.

After surgery, patients often receive antibiotics as part of their treatment. Taking probiotics can help restore the balance of beneficial gut bacteria that may be disrupted by antibiotics. This can help support a healthy gut microbiome, reduce the risk of infections, alleviate digestive issues, and support a faster recovery overall.

The Role of a Well-Nourished Body in Effective Recovery

A well-nourished body is better equipped to handle the stress of surgery and recover effectively. Prioritising a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet with an emphasis on healthy proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help boost your immune system, facilitate wound healing, and contribute to a smoother recovery.

Wishing you the very best of health!

Sources and further reading

1. My All American Care. (2019, December 21). Foods to Eat Before or After Surgery to Promote Healing. []

2. Ramsay Health. (n.d.). Pre-op and post-op diets for weight loss surgery patients. []

3. Forté Elements. (n.d.). Pre Surgery Nutrition, The Key To Promote Healing. []

4. Granite Bay Cosmetic Surgery. (n.d.). Eat These Foods for a Faster Recovery - Granite Bay Cosmetic Surgery. []

5. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (n.d.). Pre- and Post-Surgical Nutrition for Preservation of Muscle Mass, Strength, and Functionality Following Orthopedic Surgery. []