Nutrition and Recovery from Surgery

10 Oct 2016

After surgery your body needs plenty of support to heal and recover. This can include resting, medications and physiotherapy, but what you may not know is how important nutrition is in your recovery process, in particular for wound healing.

For a wound to heal, we need healthy cells in our body to reproduce and replace the damaged tissue in the wound. The building blocks for all our cells comes from the food we eat. Without proper nutrition on board, our recovery cells can become sluggish, meaning that wound healing takes a lot longer to occur.

Our body requires some very specific nutrients to heal wounds, these include:

Protein: Proteins are the building blocks of our body and as such are an important nutrient for wound healing and for the repair of body tissue. Eating adequate protein can assist wound healing and muscle strengthening after your operation.  The amount of protein your body needs increases when you have a wound, and often the larger and deeper a wound is, the more protein your body requires. Good sources of protein include red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes/lentils, nuts and dairy products.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an important nutrient involved in the formation of skin cells, in particular the formation of collagen. Vitamin C also assists with the absorption of iron, which is important in the prevention of anaemia. Most fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, but in particular citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables are an excellent source.

Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is involved in the formation of new tissue and skin. Studies have shown that people need to increase zinc intake when they have a wound and that poor zinc intake and impair wound healing. Good sources of zinc include meat, shellfish and dairy products.

Managing your appetite: After surgery, you may find that you have an impaired appetite due to reduced mobility or due to side effects from medications such as antibiotics or pain killers. It is important that you eat small, frequent and highly nutritious meals during this time to make every mouthful count towards your bodies recover. If you continue to struggle with your appetite, you are losing weight or your wound is not healing, you may need to speak with an Accredited Practicing Dietitian who can assist you to meet your nutrient needs during this time.