Healing After Surgery

Whether it’s a sports injury, accident or the result of an ongoing health condition many of my clients come to me for support pre and post surgery. Some of the most common scheduled operations are for hip, bone and joint conditions and these often require many weeks or months of recovery.  If you are facing surgery there is a lot nutritionally you can do to speed up the recovery and healing process.

One of the first things to consider is protein. Protein is needed to repair tissue, slow muscle catabolism and decrease the inflammatory phase. Post-operative protein requirements are higher so you may need around 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight depending on your size and the nature of the operation.

After surgery, medications and ongoing pain can make eating more difficult. You may feel nauseous for example or lose your appetite. In these cases you may wish to consider using protein powders. Blend the powder with almond milk, water or coconut water and add some fruit such as banana or berries. Whey is excellent and east to digest but if you cannot tolerate dairy then try a vegan option instead.    Glutamine, an amino acid is also important for recovery. It is found in high concentrations in skeletal muscle, lung, liver, brain, and stomach tissue. The best dietary sources of glutamine include poultry, beef, fish, cabbage, beets, and dairy products but you can also get it as a powder. Surgery can deplete levels of glutamine so an additional supplement can be helpful.

Often inflammation can be evident after surgery. While inflammation is a normal part of the healing process when it persists you can lower it with key supplements. Taking proteolytic enzymes away from meals can help reduce scar tissue and promote healing. Turmeric is another effective anti-inflammatory. Other nutrients to consider include vitamin D, omega 3 fats, matcha green tea, garlic, mushrooms, and probiotics. I often use a product called Wholly Immune or KappArest which contain an array of very effective anti-inflammatory nutrients

In order to keep joints healthy it’s important to feed them with the right nutrients. Healthy joints act as buffers between bones. They allow bones to move freely, without friction. For example the ends of the femur and tibia (or lower leg bone) are capped not in bone, but in articular cartilage, a gelatinous, rubbery tissue that consists largely of water in a matrix of collagen, chondrocytes and proteoglycans. Collagen is an important structural protein that provides a fibrous framework to support proteoglycans, which are large molecules consisting of proteins and sugars. Collagen also provides elasticity and shock-absorption. So you may wish to consider supplementing with a hydrolysed collagen powder.

Vitamin C is another nutrient critical to wound healing and required for the production of collagen. . After surgery your vitamin C needs may be higher so consider supplementing for 1-2 weeks post surgery.

Vitamins A and D are also critical after surgery. Vitamin A supports collagen strength and is necessary for bone development, and vitamin D is important for bone health, muscle mass and lowering inflammation.

Another valuable joint supplement is MSM, a sulphur compound that helps stabilise the connective tissues found in cartilage, tendons and ligaments, and is also believed to have anti-inflammatory action that helps reduce pain and swelling in arthritis and manganese, a mineral essential for normal bone structure and the manufacture of cartilage.

If the operation is involving cartilage or bone, then there would also be value in at least 6 months supplementation of Chondrosamine sulphate

Look at optimising levels of Vitamin K as it is important in cartilage repair. It activates matrix Gla protein, or MGP, a protein essential for new cartilage growth. It also controls bone mineralisation, and supports the development of new bone tissue. Leafy greens – including chard, broccoli, watercress, parsley, and kale – all contain vitamin K.

If antibiotics are given post operation then you may wish to consider probiotics too. Try and include plenty of fermented foods too. Have a look at our recipes for healthy ideas