Perioperative Nutrition: Supporting & Stimulating Recovery from Surgery

If you’re undergoing surgery—even a minor procedure—you’re probably wondering what you can do to help your body heal quickly. Perioperative nutrition is the practice of supporting the body with the right foods before and after surgery.

Nutrition plays a crucial role in helping your body heal. Consuming the right balance of amino acids, minerals, fiber, fatty acids, and vitamins can offer beneficial effects for surgical outcomes. It’s about supporting your body so it can function at optimal levels to repair.

Perioperative Nutrition for Better Outcomes

What is the secret to better surgical or perioperative outcomes? While perioperative nutrition doesn’t offer a quick fix for instant healing from surgery, it does support health and wellness. The right perioperative nutrition sets the body up well for any surgical procedure and helps you recover faster from injury. So what do you need to know about eating before surgery?

There are four critical nutritional considerations when patients are in a perioperative state:

  1. Nutrition needs will vary according to your injury, proposed length of recovery, and health history. Meaning—eating for recovery and nutritional status can look a little different for everyone.
  2. Nutrition needs will fluctuate as your ability to engage in activity increases, and over time, you may need to increase or change certain nutrients. You may see significant differences in your nutrition needs before surgery and after.
  3. Focusing on a diet rich in a variety of foods is always important, but it becomes even more crucial during recovery. Variety offers the right balance of vitamins, amino acids, and other nutrients to support healing.
  4. Nutrient density matters! This means choosing foods high in protein, fiber, omega 3s, vitamins, and minerals per calorie and low in added sugars, sodium, and trans or saturated fats.

Often you might not need to change your diet completely before surgery, but you can add certain foods and take away others to help you get the right balance. A licensed nutritionist can help you set the ideal perioperative nutrition plan that fits your needs and lifestyle.

Using Nutrition to Rebuild the Body

You’ll likely feel better when your body gets the right nutritional balance. Undergoing a surgical procedure is taxing on your body’s resources. As a result, you may feel tired, run-down, and struggle to regain your stamina and energy. You may also experience pain and discomfort. While these are often normal parts of the healing process, it’s essential to offer your body the foods you need to rebuild so you can feel as well as possible.

Remember that food is fuel. Our bodies get energy in the form of calories from the foods we consume. We also get nutrients. All foods contain nutrients, which can be grouped into six main categories:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

Vitamins and minerals can be further categorized into micronutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, which support a variety of bodily functions, including metabolism, nervous system functioning, and bone health. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which help the body build muscle and fuel the growth of cells and tissue. Fats also help with cell growth, while carbohydrates offer energy and support digestion and other bodily systems.

Proper nutrition sets your body up for better health in all conditions, especially when your body is healing from injury or recovering from surgery during the postoperative period. So, what does it look like to rebuild the body smarter, not harder, with nutrition support?

  • Preparing a pre-operative nutritional plan can help reduce the length of stay in the hospital and help the body begin to heal straight away.
  • Developing a post-operation nutrition plan can prevent muscle loss and strength declines.
  • Sticking to a consistent perioperative nutrition protocol can enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation.
  • Building sustainable nutrition habits and learning how to fuel your body for activity will help you avoid future injuries, so you can keep doing what you love.

The bottom line is that working with a Registered Dietitian can help the recovering athlete or patient find their proper perioperative nutrition plan to outline calorie, protein, hydration, and potential supplementation needs that address their concerns and set them up for success.

Do you need a Performance Dietitian to help you get back to 100%? To begin a Pre-op/Post-op plan today contact Sara Hillring