Pretty much everyone understands the important link between nutrition and staying healthy. Who hasn’t heard the old saying, “You are what you eat”?
Unfortunately, the link isn’t quite that straightforward. But what is certain is that your eating habits influence your health in key ways, and they can play an important role in healing, too.
After surgery, your body has a big job ahead of it. Not only does it still need to perform all its regular functions, but it also needs to support tissue healing and functional recovery.
Not surprisingly, those extra duties put a strain on your body and your metabolism, and to stay healthy — and keep healing — you need to make sure your body is primed even before the day of your surgery.
A top-rated complex spine neurosurgeon, David Chang, MD-PhD, DABNS, helps our patients at our Roseville, Minnesota, practice get ready for spine surgery, giving them the guidance and information they need to make sure they’re ready for the demands of both the procedure itself and the recovery period.
If spine surgery is in your future, here’s how you can tweak your diet for better healing.
Making wise food choices ahead of your surgery sets the stage for optimal outcomes and a faster recovery. Here’s what to add to your diet and what to take out.
Your immune system plays a central role in healing, so focusing on foods that support immune health is a smart move. That includes fresh fruits and vegetables, like blueberries, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, spinach, and citrus fruits.
Avoid processed foods and foods with artificial additives, and cut back on foods with added sugars.
Surgery affects your tissues, too, including your bones, skin, and muscles. You can help these areas heal by adding lean protein, like poultry, eggs, soy, and dried beans to your diet.
Low-fat dairy and canned salmon (including the bones) are rich in calcium for bone healing, and raisins, lentils, and fortified cereals and grains provide a dose of iron to help your blood deliver plenty of nourishing oxygen.
Surgery can leave you feeling tired, and it’s important to give your body plenty of rest so it can focus its energy on healing. The downside: Too much inactivity can lead to constipation (and so can some pain medicines).
To promote bowel regularity, eat plenty of fiber-rich foods before your surgery. Whole grains, nuts, lentils, and fresh vegetables and fruit are all good choices.
Believe it or not, your immune health depends a lot on your gut health, and that means feeding all the millions of good bacteria that call your gut home.
Yogurt (be sure the label says live cultures), kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut are all good sources of probiotics and prebiotics to keep your gut flora healthy. Onions, garlic, and foods rich in fiber provide the nutrients those bacteria need to thrive.
Remember the old saying: “Food is medicine.” While plenty of nutrients support healing, others might interfere with healing or your surgery itself.
For instance, like aspirin, some herbs and minerals can increase the risk of bleeding during your surgery. If you’re taking any vitamins or other supplements, discuss them ahead of time with Dr. Chang, so he can let you know if you need to stop until after your procedure.
A couple more words of nutritional wisdom: Don’t crash diet. If you’re overweight, Dr. Chang will let you know if you should lose weight before your surgery. Crash dieting can leave you with nutritional deficiencies that could make healing harder.
Finally, remember that after your surgery, your activity will likely be limited during the initial stages of healing. Take some time to stock your pantry with healthy foods and do a little meal prep ahead of time so meal-planning won’t be a hassle — and you won’t be tempted to reach for unhealthy snacks.
Healing is a complex process, and there’s no doubt that recovering from surgery puts multiple demands on your body. To learn what else you can do to prepare for your upcoming spine surgery, call us at 651-219-7322 or book an appointment online with Dr. Chang today.