Diet during Surgery
Diet in cancer surgery
“Let medicine be thy food and food be thy medicine.” -Hippocrates, 400 BC.
At ZenOnco.io, we believe that eating well is an important part of cancer treatment. While it cannot single-handedly prevent, cure, or control cancer, it plays a crucial role in improving treatment outcomes, enhancing quality of life, and reducing the risk of cancer recurrence. Eating well should be viewed as a component of an individualized integrative plan rather than a standalone therapy.
Cancer treatment commonly involves surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. These treatments put a significant strain on the body as it fights cancer cells and repairs damage to healthy cells. Consequently, the body requires a higher amount of nutrients to support regular bodily functions and repair the collateral damage caused by surgery.
Surgery, in particular, can affect digestion and eating patterns, especially in patients undergoing procedures in the mouth, stomach, intestines, or throat. Some individuals may have difficulty returning to normal eating after surgery and may require alternative methods to receive necessary nutrients, such as feeding tubes or intravenous nutrition. Good nutrition becomes even more essential before surgery for those who are weak or underweight.
The food you consume after surgery can greatly impact your recovery time and overall healing. Eating the right foods can help prevent complications like constipation and provide the essential protein needed for a speedy recovery.
Evaluate Your Typical Diet
One of the first things you need to do is to improve your nutritional status. When you are recovering from surgery, focus on whole foods. This means, choose foods that are “whole” or unprocessed. For example, an apple is a whole food. Apple juice, however, is a processed version of that food.
Aim to obtain most of your nutrition from whole foods, which is essentially a healthy way to eat every day, not just the weeks after Surgery. Processed foods tend to have higher amounts of fat, sugar, salt, and chemical additives, but less fibre and vitamins compared to their whole food counterparts.
Eat Plenty of Fibre
It is important to include fibre in your diet while you are recovering from cancer Surgery. High-fibre foods are healthier than their low-fibre foods because fibre also plays a major role in preventing constipation, a common complication after cancer Surgery. Constipation can gradually increase pain, and the chances of readmission.
Rather than adding a fibre supplement to your day, such as Isabgol Husks, consider adding high fibre foods to your diet and obtaining fibre more naturally. Supplements are not a bad idea, but fibre from food tends to work better to prevent constipation when taken with adequate water.
Nuts are another source of fibre, as well as protein and healthy fat. An observational study of patients with stage III colon cancer, who received Surgery and chemotherapy, reported that a significant association between consumption of two or more weekly servings of tree Nuts and improved disease-free survival and overall survival compared to those who had not consumed any Nuts.
- Whole grain bread: Loaves of bread that use whole grains and are darker in colour. White bread is usually not a good source of fibre.
- Whole grains: This would include corn, oatmeal, and other grains.
- Fruits: Fresh fruits are excellent source of vitamins and fibre.
- Vegetables: Vegetables are an excellent source of fibre and phytonutrients with anti-cancer properties.
Be careful of foods that cause constipation
Constipation is a common complication after surgery, because Pain medications, or opioids, used in the days following Surgery have a known side effect of decreasing the movement of the intestines.
Some foods can help prevent or treat constipation, while other foods can cause constipation. Constipation can increase your Pain and can place additional Stress on your incision; therefore, it is important to avoid constipation whenever possible.
These foods may cause constipation:
- Dried or dehydrated foods
- Processed foods
- Milk and dairy products
- Red meat
- High-fat meats,
- Rich desserts
Importance of Lean Protein
Lean protein can be found in meats, such as chicken and pork. Seafood, including fish, is also an excellent source of lean protein. Red meat is not recommended because of the high level of saturated fat and because it can cause constipation. If you do not eat meat, remember that protein comes from many sources other than meat. Consider nuts, tofu, and beans to supplement your protein needs.
Dairy products are also a source of protein, but they can cause constipation, so they should be used in moderation. If you are having difficulty eating, consider supplementing your diet with protein powder, which can be added to drinks, such as smoothies or water.
Whole Grains versus Refined Grains
Whole grains are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Be sure to choose whole-grain bread and cereals whenever possible, rather than the refined “white” types.
Rice is a great way to add whole grains to your diet. However, many types of rice are too processed to retain its nutritional properties. For both nutrients and fibre, use brown rice or other varieties that are not processed.
Breakfast is an ideal time to add whole grains and fibre to your diet. Choose oatmeal or another whole-grain cereal, whole wheat bread, and fresh fruit for your morning meal.
If you have had Surgery on your intestines, make sure you are allowed to eat whole grains during your recovery, before using them to your diet. Pay specific attention to your discharge instructions regarding what is appropriate to eat during your recovery period.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruit and vegetables contain nutrients and fibre, which are crucial for healing during your recovery from Surgery. Try to eat fresh and organic fruits or vegetables, which are not processed. For example, eat fresh broccoli, and avoid processed variety like canned broccoli soup.
Vegetables and fruits are the most important items in a nutritional plan for healthy eating. Many evidences conclude that foods improve the outcomes of Cancer Treatment and overall health.
Substitute Low-Fat Dairy Products
Dairy products are an outstanding source of protein, which is necessary for healing after Surgery. Many people, however, find that consuming dairy products may lead to constipation after Surgery. If you can eat dairy products without becoming constipated, focus on low-fat items, such as skim milk, cottage cheese, and yoghurt. Cheese, low-fat or not, should be eaten in moderation to avoid constipation.
Trouble Eating After Surgery
Sometimes it is challenging to eat after cancer Surgery because of a lack of appetite. This usually passes a few days after surgery, but it is important to continue eating nutritious foods during this part of your recovery. Failing to eat enough after Surgery can slow healing and delay the closure of your incision. Your body needs protein and other nutrients to build healthy new tissue and heal tissue damaged by Surgery.
If you are unable to consume enough calories after your surgery, try to eat calorie-dense foods whenever possible. Eat foods that contain more calories per bite than others do. For example, a cup of green salad would have low calories per cup, while a cup of avocado would be very high in calories.
A Word from ZenOnco.io
What you eat in the days after Surgery has a great impact on how quickly you heal and how good you feel while recovering. Focus on eating well, choose foods you know to be healthy and nutritious, and be sure to eat enough calories to sustain your body through the healing process.