No one wants to “go under the knife” and be operated on yet, every day thousands of surgeries are performed. Some are truly emergency procedures done to save a life while others are elective surgeries.
An elective medical procedure is one we schedule. Many of these procedures are done to replace a body part that’s worn out, damaged or infected. And some doctors advise their patients to undergo preventative surgeries….
It’s strange that we don’t question preparing for many events in life yet most people don’t prepare their bodies for elective surgery. We spend a great deal of time preparing for a wedding, taking an exam, an important business meeting, or a competitive athletic event. Why then, is it when it comes to surgery, most people never give preparation much thought?
~Anytime the body undergoes an operation it’s being put under added stress.
Recovering from surgery requires more nutrients from our bodies. Being well nourished leading up to surgery, means your body is better equipped to handle surgery and this translates into a faster healing and recovery.
There are steps you can take to mitigate some of this stress, help support healing and make recovery as fast as possible. I have put together some suggestions of healthy foods to eat before surgery and right after surgery. You can avoid eating the horrible hospital food by bringing a small cooler with you full of nourishing REAL foods.
Here’s what to eat before and after surgery
During a surgical procedure free radicals are released. This is why boosting foods rich in anti-oxidants is very important leading up to and after surgery. While fruits are best enjoyed raw or juiced, vegetables are often easier to digest for people when cooked. The point is to eat as many of these health giving foods leading up to and after surgery. I have found consuming raw vegetable juicing to be helpful to begin shifting to a full fast which is required before a procedure. Raw vegetable juices are also very easy to digest and make a good transition back to eating more solid foods once you are back home after surgery.
Good sources of anti-oxidant rich foods include the following:
- Allium sulphur compounds: Leeks, onions, garlic
- Anthocyanins: Eggplant, grapes, berries
- Beta carotene: Pumpkin, sweet potatoes/yams, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, green leafy vegetables, lettuces, parsley
- Cryptoxanthins: Red peppers, pumpkin, mangoes
- Flavonoids: Tea, green tea, citrus fruits, onion, apples
- Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale
- Lutein: leafy greens, spinach, kale, collard greens, green beans
- Lycopene: Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon
- Manganese: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
- Polyphenols: Thyme, oregano, pepermint
- Selenium: Seafood, lean meat
- Vitamin C: Oranges,lemons, limes, berries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, peppers
- Vitamin E: nuts, avocados, seeds
- Zinc: Seafood, lean meat, nuts
The body is 80% water. The detoxification process relies on water to sweep away toxins and convert fat soluble nutrients to water soluble nutrients. And, since medications must be processed through the liver staying hydrated before and after surgery is essential to clearing these substances from the body. For most people drinking 60+ ounces of water per day is a good goal. While recommendations are to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day, this is extremely difficult for most people. If you feel thirst, you are dehydrated. Start the day with a glass or two and then just keep sipping throughout the day. Remember that filtered water is best since there are many contaminates in tap water. Since hospitals do not use filtered water, I advise bringing your own filtered water to the hospital to drink as you await release to go home.
- Strengthen the GUT and optimize absorption of nutrients
It’s standard procedure to be given anti-biotic as a preventative measure before or during and sometimes after surgery. Anti-biotic kill both pathogenic and beneficial bacteria in our GUTS. The problem with this is that since 75-80% of natural immunity resides in our GUTS, this actually reduces our natural protective barrier.
There are foods rich in probiotics you can eat to help keep your GUT integrity strong and also guard against leaky GUT. Some of these include:
- Kefir (both dairy and water)
- Apple cider vinegar or other traditionally fermented vinegars
- Naturally fermented vegetables; sauerkraut, kimchee
- Fermented beverages; beet kvass, kombucha
- Fermented bean and legumes
- Naturally fermented chutneys and salsas
~ A word on probiotic supplements and surgery
I recently had two surgeries and discussed my concern about antibiotics destroying all the good bacteria I had with my surgical doctor. I asked if I could continue my probiotic supplementation leading up to surgery. She was very understanding and supportive and approved of my doing so. As long as your doctor approves this, and frankly, most doctors do not seem to have objections to probiotics these days, taking your probiotic up to and after surgery is very helpful.
- Easily digestible foods
Bone broths are one of THE VERY BEST foods you can eat leading up to, and immediately after surgery. Making your own bone broth is easy and it’s a delicious and very comforting food to sip on right after surgery. You can add fresh vegetables to the broth and make it into a nourishing soup and bring it to the hospital in a thermos like I did.
Homemade bone broth is a rich source of minerals. Bone broths contain collagen and gelatin that benefit gastric ulcers, as well as proline which is used for the formation of collagen. Bone broths also contain glycine which improves digestion by increasing gastric acid secretion as well as helps prevent the breakdown of protein in muscle. Glycine also helps the body detoxify and induces sleep. Broths are also a rich source of another amino acid called glutamine that is very healing to the lining of the small intestine and commonly used to help heal leaky GUT.
Bone broths are excellent for anyone who is ill or recovering from surgery or who have any kind of serious health concern, such as an autoimmune disease. Broths are truly food as medicine!
If you need more help uncovering what foods are supportive and which are not for your health condition, I can help. Let’s talk! Contact me here!
1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings
* Trader Joes sell a package of drumsticks that works well.
gizzards from one chicken (optional) – I do not use these as I don’t care for the flavor. I also remove most of the skin as I don’t like the chicken fat.
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons unpreserved apple cider vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley
*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Convetionally-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.
If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. (If you are using a whole chicken, remove the neck and wings and cut them into several pieces.) Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley.
Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 4 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.
Remove whole chicken or pieces with a tongs or a spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, sandwiches or curries.
Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.
***Please remember to check pre-surgery supplement guidelines you will receive from the hospital or your doctor prior to surgery as many supplements may interfere with the anesthesia or other medications you may be given. It is very important to follow these instructions for stopping certain supplements usually two weeks prior to surgery unless otherwise approved by your physician.
References and further reading:
Links to fermented recipes: