DR MEGAN ROSSI: What to eat to prepare yourself for an operation

We talk about ‘preparing our bodies for the beach’ or even for party season, but we rarely hear of people ‘preparing for surgery’ despite having millions of surgeries each year.

Still, keeping yourself in good shape before any scheduled surgery can make a big difference, with studies showing that it can help you leave the hospital sooner and recover faster.

Even simple adjustments to your diet can help. Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2017 showed that patients who were advised what to eat and were given nutritional protein supplements alongside their regular food not only had lower infection rates, but also left the hospital an average of four days earlier. than those who are not

I saw this effect myself: I was working with patients who had surgery for head and neck cancer in a hospital, and we compared the process of preparing for surgery to preparing for a marathon, because both put tremendous stress on the body. .

We talk about 'preparing our bodies for the beach', or even party season, Dr Megan Rossi writes, although we rarely hear of people 'preparing for surgery' despite having millions of surgeries each year, writes Dr Megan Rossi (pictured)

We talk about ‘preparing our bodies for the beach’, or even party season, Dr Megan Rossi writes, although we rarely hear of people ‘preparing for surgery’ despite having millions of surgeries each year, writes Dr Megan Rossi (pictured)

Because in surgery you often have to endure hours of starvation before surgery, the trauma of surgery – and then recovery has intense energy requirements.

The body also has to feed a hungrier-than-normal immune system as you build more tissue as you heal, while also fighting inevitable attacks. As a result, before any operation, you really need to eat to build up your reserves.

Do you know?

Tannin, a phytochemical found in tea, has both antioxidant properties – so it can protect our cells from damage by environmental pollutants – and has anti-nutrient effects that inhibit your body’s absorption of iron. So tea is good for you, but avoid drinking it at mealtimes if you have low iron levels.

Right now, it’s more vital than ever to feed your gut microbes with foods that help them thrive because you’ll rely heavily on them to keep you well after surgery. Ideally, you start in the weeks leading up to your operation.

Aim to eat four different types of plants each day—think whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (like chickpeas and lentils), nuts, and seeds. They will pay you back by reducing inflammation that can interrupt the healing process and helping to fight infection – they specifically help protect against a leaky gut that commonly occurs around surgery (a leaky gut is a barrier of tight junctions that surround the gut). weakens, allowing disease-causing scum to pass into the blood).

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Another reason to breed germs now is that you will likely be exposed to antibiotics before and after the surgery, which can kill not only the harmful bacteria but also some of the beneficial bacteria in the gut. This can open the door to infections like C. difficile that can wreak havoc in your gut and make hospital patients really sick (less beneficial gut bugs and more harmful ones can start to catch up and take control).

Then, seven to ten days before surgery, it’s worth increasing the amount (and quality) of high-carb foods in your diet to improve your energy and micronutrient stores for what’s ahead.

Carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, a ready source of energy.

Having this source of energy can slow the body’s breakdown of muscle as an energy source and help fight any feelings of fatigue and weakness.

However, not all carbs are created equal – excess glycogen is stored as fat, so this is not the time to start feasting on refined carbs like white bread and biscuits. Instead, look to nutrient-dense starchy vegetables, grains like quinoa, oats and barley, legumes like beans, and whole fruits. This will provide the fuel you need for wound healing, along with essential nutrients like B vitamins, zinc and vitamin C.

As a general guide, aim to add an extra serving or two to your diet at least three to four days before surgery.

You also want good quality protein, because it provides amino acids, which are essential building blocks for new tissue and keep the body in good shape.

Protein quality is based on several factors, including the types of amino acids it contains and how easily the body absorbs them.

Aim to eat four different types of plants each day—think whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (like chickpeas and lentils), nuts, and seeds.  They will pay you back by reducing inflammation that can interrupt the healing process and helping to fight infection – they specifically help protect against a leaky gut that commonly occurs around surgery (a leaky gut is a barrier of tight junctions that surround the gut).  weakens, allowing disease-causing scum to pass into the blood)

Aim to eat four different types of plants each day—think whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (like chickpeas and lentils), nuts, and seeds. They will pay you back by reducing inflammation that can interrupt the healing process and helping to fight infection – they specifically help protect against a leaky gut that commonly occurs around surgery (a leaky gut is a barrier of tight junctions that surround the gut). weakens, allowing disease-causing scum to pass into the blood)

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Typically, the best quality protein comes from animal products such as chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can still get enough of the herbs (see my recipe, right), you may just need to increase your portions a little.

I would focus on your intake of the amino acids arginine (found in fish, poultry, soy and oats) and glutamine (found in eggs, beef and hard tofu). These are ‘conditionally essential’ amino acids – the body can make them but this is dependent on circumstances and the stress of surgery may mean that production cannot meet the requirements.

Aim to eat a quality source of protein at every meal – the recommendation is for 1.2g to 2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day (so if you weigh 62kg this would be 75g to 124g of protein per day), this is the best Absorption Spread in 20g to 40g portions throughout the day to maximize

Here are some of my favorite sources of protein and nutrients for before and after recovery:

  • 200 g yogurt (20 g protein)
  • 100 g salmon (20 g protein)
  • 2 eggs (11g protein)
  • 50 g hazelnuts (20 g protein)
  • 200 g lentils (18 g protein)
  • 100 g firm tofu (17 g protein)

After surgery, aim to eat two or three servings a week of omega-3-containing foods such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel) because these oils have an anti-inflammatory effect.

However, if you lose your appetite, eat what you crave – this is a situation where something is better than nothing. Anesthetic drugs, painkillers, and inactivity after surgery can cause constipation as they slow down the normal muscle contractions of the bowel.

If this happens, 50 g of prunes per day will help restore your normal action. If you’re not a fan of prunes, try eating a few kiwis a day—another great source of gut-stimulating fiber, especially if you eat the peel.

Another thing to consider is to increase your physical activity in the three months before your surgery. Surgery often results in a loss of muscle mass – resulting from greatly reduced activity – so you want to start from a good place. Studies also show that those who are fitter recover faster.

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Before surgery, you can increase your gym visits or try taking 10,000 steps a day—those with reduced mobility may go up and down stairs several times each day—or use the cans in the kitchen cabinet as weights to lift each day.

A 2017 study by King’s College Hospital in London found that even this home-based exercise style prehab can really make a difference in your recovery rate. The goal is to make yourself the best you can be. It will pay dividends.

ask megan

How much damage can chemicals (eg chlorine) in tap water do to our good gut bacteria? Is it advisable to invest in a water filter?

Ed Bowater.

Great question! First, though, it’s worth noting that chlorine is added to the water to prevent the growth of pathogens, thus making it safe to drink. The low levels added to tap water in most countries have been deemed safe by international authorities.

But, as you rightly suggest, these safety checks preceded our understanding of the importance of our gut microbiota.

Researchers at the University of California recently measured the effect of non-chlorinated and chlorinated drinking water on 130 children in urban areas of Bangladesh.

Interestingly, the results reported an increase in some beneficial gut bacteria, such as Akkermansia spp, in those who drank chlorinated water, possibly linked to lower infection rates due to chlorination.

They also found that chlorinated water did not affect gut bacterial diversity, which is often used as a measure of gut health.

Now, this study didn’t compare filtered water, but in my experience in the clinic, when it comes to water, what’s more important to most of us is making sure we drink enough, whether it’s filtered or not.

Try this: ‘Snickers’ smoothie bowl

Skip the ultra-processed protein shakes, this not only provides 18 g of protein and 10 g of fiber, it also tastes like a Snickers bar without added sugar and additives.

1 person

  • 60 g silken tofu
  • 50 g live, dense yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 very ripe banana, frozen
  • 1 tablespoon of optional hazelnut paste
  • 40g zucchini, frozen
  • 2 Medjool dates, pitted

Toppers (optional):

  • 5 g coconut flakes
  • 15 g of granola with no added sugar

Beat smoothie ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth for about one minute (add frozen ingredients first for a smooth blend). Pour into a bowl and add to your preferred container.

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