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Proper Diet and Nutrition After Major Surgery

Major surgery should be taken lightly. Whether a planned or emergency surgery, your body needs time to heal and recover. Part of the recovery process is ensuring you eat the right foods and get the proper nutrition.

Why Nutrition is Important After Surgery

Proper nutrition is important for everyone, but it’s especially important if you’ve just had surgery. That’s because your body needs even more nutrients to help heal when you’re sick or have an injury.

Good nutrition can speed up the healing process and help you to feel better sooner. It can also help prevent complications after surgery. For example, eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce your risk of developing an infection after surgery. These foods contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help boost your immune system.

What to Eat After Surgery

After surgery, you might feel like eating less. That’s normal. But it’s still important to eat healthy foods when you can. Start with small meals and gradually increase how much you eat as you start to feel better.

Focus on getting plenty of protein, which is essential for healing wounds. It would help if you also aimed to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals that can help boost your immune system.


Protein helps build and repair tissues in your body, including wounds. Protein also helps your immune system to function properly, which can help prevent infection.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Lean meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Tofu


Fruits are packed with nutrients that can help your body to heal after surgery. They are a good source of vitamins A and C, which are both important for wound healing. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, which can help protect your cells from damage.

Fruits are also a good source of fiber, which can help to prevent constipation. Constipation is a common problem after surgery, so eating foods high in fiber can be helpful.

Some good fruit options to eat after surgery include:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe


Like fruits, vegetables are also packed with nutrients that can help your body to heal after surgery. They are a good source of vitamins A and C and fiber. Fiber can also help to prevent constipation.

Some good vegetable options to eat after surgery include:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

healthy diet

Recovering in a Medical Facility

If you’re recovering from surgery in a medical facility, the staff will ensure you get the nutrition you need. They will likely give you a special diet to ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs to heal.

The staff will give you a menu to choose from if you can eat solid foods. If you cannot eat solid foods, they will provide you with a liquid diet. A liquid diet can help ensure you get enough calories and nutrients while your digestive system is healing.

If you’re on a liquid diet, you’ll likely be given supplements to ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs. These supplements can be in the form of shakes, soups, or juices.

Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)

If you cannot eat or drink, you’ll be given nutrients through an IV. This is called total parenteral nutrition (TPN). TPN provides all the nutrients your body needs, but it can cause some side effects

Side effects of TPN can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Constipation
  • Swelling of the ankles or legs

If you are experiencing any side effects, be sure to tell your doctor or nurse, so they can help you manage them. When you’re ready to leave the medical facility, the staff will give you instructions on how to care for yourself at home. They will also give you a list of foods to eat and avoid. Be sure to follow their instructions carefully to help ensure a smooth recovery.

Surgery Due to Cancer

If your surgery is due to cancer, your doctor will likely refer you to a cancer center for treatment where they have teams of specialists who are experienced in treating cancer. They will develop a treatment plan specifically for you based on the type of cancer you have, as well as your age and overall health.

A proper diet is also included during cancer treatment. Your doctor or a dietitian can give you more information about how to eat during and after your cancer treatment or surgery. The typical diet after your surgery will be similar to the diet described above for people with other types of surgery.

Some cancer treatments can cause side effects that make it difficult to eat. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend receiving nutrition through a tube directly into your stomach or intestines. This is called enteral nutrition, which can help ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs.

When to Eat After Surgery

It’s also important to pay attention to when you’re eating after surgery. If you’re taking pain medication, for example, it might make you feel nauseous or cause constipation. To avoid this, take your pain medication 30 minutes before or after a meal rather than with a meal.

Also, try to drink only a little fluid at a time. Sipping small amounts of fluids throughout the day is best. This will help prevent nausea and vomiting. And drinking fluids with meals can also help prevent constipation. It helps to lubricate the food as it moves through your digestive system.

Finally, try to avoid lying down right after eating. This can cause heartburn or make you feel nauseous. Wait at least 30 minutes after eating before lying down. If you’re having trouble with nausea, try snacking on crackers or ginger ale throughout the day.

Keep Your Recovery Healthy

After surgery, your body needs time to heal. You can help by eating nutritious foods and getting enough calories daily. Ask your doctor or dietitian what kinds of foods are best for you. At home, take it easy at first and do more as you start feeling better. With some patience, you’ll be back and about in no time!

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