Healthy Tips & Advice

Preparing For My Surgery… The Importance of Food

Posted on October 11, 2017

A frequent question from patients that have an upcoming surgery, “Is there any way I can prepare for my surgery”.   For example, we will have patients come to us for total knee replacement “Pre-Op” therapy so we can address range of motion, strengthening and flexibility.  Most therapist will focus on that body part so its “ready” for the surgical procedure. 

We are now not only looking at the body part being “fixed” but also the body and how to best prepare for an invasive procedure. 

We stress to our athletes the importance of nutrition, hydration and rest to maintain optimal performance and recovery but seem to forget this message to our “traditional” patients.

Recovery from surgery (as in athletics) requires more nutrients from our bodies.  Surgery is very stressful on the body and we need to provide a well-nourished environment if we except excellent results.

There are a few steps you can take to mitigate some of this stress, help support healing, and make recovery as fast as possible. 

  1. Eating foods rich in Antioxidants

Surgery is trauma to the body.  Your bodies reaction to this is to release chemicals and free radicals.  Free radicals are basically unstable molecules that damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. These free radical molecules contain an unpaired electron that’s makes them very unstable.  This may not sound like a big deal but this process sets off a chain reaction as these molecules steal electrons from other cells damaging them in the process.  Antioxidants are unique in that they remain stable when they donate an electron thus stabilizing and removing from the body.

                                                                     Food high in Antioxidants

  • Anthocyanins – Found abundantly in berries, eggplant, red cabbage, red grapes and other richly colored foods
  • Beta Carotene – Found in the reddish orange pigment of carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, mangos, spinach, squash.
  • Lycopene – Found in the bright red pigment in tomatoes, watermelons, papayas
  • Vitamin C – Found in red and yellow bell peppers, kiwis, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries and all the citrus fruits like oranges and lemons.
  • Vitamin E – Found in Sunflower and safflower oil, green vegetables, nuts, seeds.
  • Selenium – Is an essential mineral that our bodies do not produce naturally. Good sources come from brazil nuts, button and shiitake mushrooms, lima beans, chia seeds and brown rice.
  • Flavonoids – Found in Tea, green tea, citrus fruits, onion, apples
  • Manganese – Found in Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
  • Polyphenols – Thyme, oregano, peppermint
  1. Hydration

Your body is approximately 80% water. Water assists in detoxifying your body.  General anesthesia and medications must be processed via your liver.  Being well hydrated before and after surgery is essential in assisting the liver in this process.  It’s generally accepted that females should consume about 2.7 liters of water per day while males 3.7 liters.  Filtered water is the best since many sources have some contaminates.


  1. Gut Health to optimize nutrient release

Most, if not all, hospitals are concerned with infection following medical procedures.  It’s standard to be given anti-biotics before and after surgery to decrease this risk.   Anti-biotics kill both pathogenic and beneficial bacteria in our GUTS. The problem with this is that since 75-80% of natural immunity resides in our GUTS, this reduces our natural protective barrier.

                                                                    Foods rich in Pro Biotics include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir (both dairy and water)
  • Apple cider vinegar or other traditionally fermented vinegars
  • Naturally fermented vegetables; sauerkraut, kimchee
  • Fermented beverages; beet kvass, kombucha
  • Fermented bean and legumes
  • Naturally fermented chutneys and salsas

If you have any questions or concerns about probiotic usage before surgery make sure you ask your doctor if they have any concerns.  Also, if you take supplements, bring a list to your doctor for review as some may interfere with anesthesia and other medications that may be necessary during your procedure.

We hope this information is helpful.  Remember, treat your pre-operation and recovery like athletes.  Strive for optimal performance and recovery

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