You’ve been injured or will be having surgery. Now you must prepare your body for the healing process ahead. Your body needs nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water) to support the repair process. Here are a few tips to speed your recovery and make things a little easier to handle.
Now is NOT the time for weight loss! When people are immobilized, they worry about gaining weight. However, you should NOT decrease your calorie intake because you will be inactive. In fact, your calorie needs are now greater than usual because your body requires energy from nutritious foods to fuel the healing process. You will need to consume about 15-20 calories per pound (using your current body weight). If your overall energy and protein needs are not met, body tissues such as muscles and ligaments will begin to break down. This will compromise healing and may prolong your recovery period.
Normally, it is important to drink at least 8 cups of water or non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages every day. If you do not drink this much fluid each day, now is the time to get into the habit. Drinking enough fluid is essential for maintaining adequate hydration and allowing your body to heal. You may need more fluid depending on the type of medication you are taking or the extent of your injury. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. By then, you’re already dehydrated! Have a water bottle handy and plan for plenty of refreshing beverages throughout the day to keep your body in fluid balance.
Eat well-balanced meals and a wide variety of foods to obtain all the nutrients your body needs for tissue repair. Your body requires more protein and calcium during this time, so take careful note of the daily recommendations and food sources listed below. Compare your diet with the Food Pyramid to see if you’re meeting your daily nutrient requirements (see additional handout). Consider taking a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement if you do not get the recommended balance of foods each day. Cut back on junk food. You want most calories to be packed with nutrition value.
Here are a few essential nutrients that your body will need before and after surgery or injury:
|Nutrients||Helps with:||Found in:||Per day|
|Protein||healing, tissue repair and regrowth||meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, legumes, soy products, nuts, seeds|
|Carbohydrates||energy for healing and preventing protein/muscle breakdown||fruits, vegetables, legumes, breads, cereals, rice, pasta, grains|
|Lipids (Fats)||absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, immune response, energy||oils (e.g., olive, canola, sunflower), nuts, seeds, avocado, salad dressings, margarine, butter|
|Calcium||building/maintaining bones and muscle contraction||milk, cheese, yogurt, soy products, turnip and mustard greens, collards, kale, broccoli, almonds||1500mg|
|Iron||forming hemoglobin and carrying oxygen
**best when eaten with vitamin C rich foods
|liver, lean red meat, poultry, fish, iron-fortified cereals, legumes, dark leafy greens, dried fruit||18mg men
|Zinc||helps in wound healing, component of enzymes||meat, liver, eggs, oysters and other seafood||15mg|
|Vitamin A||helps in wound healing and growth, maintenance of skin||carrots, sweet potatoes, dark yellow or green leafy vegetables, milk, cheese, liver, egg yolk||5000 IU|
|Vitamin D||helps in bone healing and calcium absorption||fortified milk, butter, margarine, fortified cereals, liver, fatty fish, egg yolk||400-800 IU|
|Vitamin E||antioxidant/disease-fighting properties
(do NOT take supplements 7-10 before surgery)
|vegetable oils (e.g., corn or sunflower), beef liver, milk, eggs, butter, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals||30 IU|
|Vitamin K||helps wound healing response and blood clotting||green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, liver, vegetable oils||80µ men
|Vitamin C||building connective tissue, essential nutrient for healing||citris fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, greens, raw cabbage, melon||60mg|
If you're having surgery, plan ahead. If you’ve been injured, ask for help with these suggestions: