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NUTRITION AND SURGERY

Research consistently shows that what you eat before and after surgery affects your outcome.

June 30, 2022

WHAT IS NUTRITION?

 

Nutrition is the sum of the foods and drinks we consume.  It involves decisions at every meal, but your overall nutrition is better defined by what you eat and drink over weeks or months.  Nutrition doesn’t necessarily involve counting calories or assessing your weight on a scale.  Quality nutrition is a lifestyle choice, so rather than approaching it as a short-term or “crash” diet to lose weight or prepare for surgery, consider making long-term changes to how you approach food.

WHO BENEFITS FROM QUALITY NUTRITION?

Everyone!  Nutrition affects our mood, energy, sleep, and concentration.  Quality nutrition promotes healthier skin, teeth, and eyes.  It allows us to build stronger muscles and bones.  The immune system - which is the system in your body that helps to fight infection - is influenced by what you eat and drink.  Proper foods also lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.  Your digestive system also benefits from quality foods.  Better nutrition affects every aspect of your life, and you are empowered to change it today.  It is a zero risk, high benefit change that is available to everyone, whether you are having surgery or just want to live a better life.

MALNUTRITION

 

Malnutrition occurs when we don’t consume enough nutrients to fuel our activities. This affects our everyday lives but becomes more important when we stress our bodies with surgery.   Malnutrition before surgery patients has been called a “silent epidemic.”  Nearly half of all patients who are admitted to the hospital are at risk for malnutrition. Many people who are malnourished are not aware of it.  This condition occurs when either not enough food is consumed or too many foods with low nutritional value are consumed.  Surprisingly, many people who are overweight are actually malnourished because they are eating the wrong foods.

QUALITY NUTRITION BEFORE AND AFTER SURGERY IMPROVES OUTCOMES

 

Nutrition for patients having surgery has been studied extensively and some interesting findings have surfaced.  Compared to patients with quality nutrition, patients with poor nutritional status have decreased function after surgery, more infections, difficulty healing, more complications, more readmissions, longer hospital stays, and higher overall cost of care.  Malnutrition is one of the few risk factors associated with poor surgical results that we can change before surgery.  If we improve our nutrition before surgery, we recover better and see better results.

WHAT SHOULD MY DIET LOOK LIKE BEFORE SURGERY?

Shoot for consistency with your diet, not perfection.   Your primary care doctor or a consultation with a nutrition specialist is a great place to start if you need advice for your lifestyle and medical conditions.  There are some key foods you should target if you are planning surgery.  The most important are:

1.  Protein:  Protein is critical for healing after surgery.  Aim to eat foods that are high in protein such as fish, poultry, beans, eggs, poultry, tofu, soy, and nuts.  

2.  Vegetables: 

3.  Fruits:

4.  Healthy fats and omega-3's:  Some surgery research supports eating foods high in omega-3's including several types of fish, ground flaxseeds, and chia seeds. 

5.  Foods and drinks to avoid:  The average American eats far too many carbohydrates and simplle sugars.  In general, you should try to avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, fried foods, highly processed foods, and simple carbohydrates (pastries, desserts, cookies, candy, soda, and ice cream) before and after surgery.   These foods and drinks offer little nutritional value, can increase your excess body fat, and might adversely affect the outcome of your surgery.

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