Tips for Healing After Surgery part 2: Sleep & Nutrition

nutritionGuest Blog by Corey Schuler, MS, DC, CNS, LN

Continuing our series on how to help your body heal after surgery, here are some tips on how to help your body recover after surgery from Dr. Corey Schuler.

Resist Skimping on Sleep

Your body heals when you sleep. You need to be able to fall sleep, stay asleep, and have sufficient hours of sleep each night. Sleep disturbances are common after surgery. If you are in a cast or appliance after the procedure, you can expect some difficulty sleeping. It isn’t so easy to assume your normal and habitual sleeping position when you are propping up a leg or an arm. Natural sleep aids such as valerian root, magnolia, and melatonin can be helpful before resorting to prescription medications.

Eat a Nutrient-Rich, Recovery Diet and Supplement Where Necessary

After an operation, you will lack energy and feel fatigued. Battling through the day with inauthentic energy stimulants like coffee and sugar-laden foods is an unhealthy solution. This method will certainly inhibit the healing process by slowing the immune system and further depleting the body of precious nutrients such as B-vitamins and minerals.

To meet all of the needs of repair and rebuilding, therapeutic multivitamins in addition to an individualized diet plan is essential. Certain medications and conditions prohibit certain foods (e.g. Coumadin use and dark green leafy vegetables), but for the most part a diet ultra-rich in the following will give you the energy resources your body needs:

  • Plant nutrients including vegetables from various parts of plants (roots, stems, leaves, seeds)
  • Nuts
  • Starchy vegetables like yams and beans

Recovery can give you the opportunity to change your diet to a healthier plan. Proteins and healthy fats should not be forgotten. Lean meats, eggs, beans, and protein supplements can offer important building blocks for tissue repair. Many nutritionists recommend at least 0.5 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight after surgery. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you may consider 100 grams of protein per day. Most meat contains 6-8 grams of protein per ounce. Eggs provide about 6 grams per egg. Fatty fish offer additional benefits such as omega-3 fatty acids.

Surgeries involving bone tissue may need additional minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Vitamin D should also be supplemented to reach target optimal blood levels of 50+ ng/ ml. While this is especially important in regards to bone health, most integrative practitioners are now suggesting this for everyone due to vitamin D’s role in all sorts of physiologic functions including the immune system, cardiovascular system, and blood sugar regulation.

Stay tuned for more tips for healing after surgery next week!

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Lance Silverman, MD

Orthopaedic Surgeon and founder of Silverman Ankle & Foot. Treating Minnesotans with Ankle & Foot problems since 2004.

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