Operative Diets: What you eat before and after cosmetic surgery determines how you heal

Posted on the 16 April 2012 at 14:12

Patients need to be especially vigilant about what they eat before and after surgery. Here I will discuss how diet helps patients to heal.

Surgery places numerous stresses on the body. Good nutrition is essential for expediting wound healing, reducing risk of infection and scarring, and optimising desired results.

In aesthetic medicine, surgery is usually elective, allowing preparation time. Unless your patients eat a consistently exceptional diet, they are unlikely to meet the recommended daily intake for macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Increased demand for nutrients during and post-surgery requires optimal nutrition through diet and supplementation. Preparation for surgery should start at least one month before the procedure.

Protein deficiency impairs wound healing, as protein is needed for fibroblast proliferation, new blood vessel formation and collagen production. Apart from wound healing, proteins are essential to the function of the immune system and the central nervous system.

Women should aim for 1.2g protein per kg (ideal) body weight per day and men should aim for 1.5g protein per kg (ideal) body weight per day as a minimum. The best sources are lean organic meats, wild fish, eggs and vegetable sources such as nuts, seeds, soya products and quinoa.

The stress of surgery increases free-radicals that can damage tissue and slow down healing. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin, A, selenium, CoQ10 and manganese provide protection against free-radical damage. Fruit and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants, and patients should consume a minimum of five a day of organic fruit and vegetables. It is also worth supplementing a quality antioxidant complex.

Foods high in refined sugar or with a high glycaemic index such as carbohydrates can suppress immune function and promote inflammation and should be avoided.

One week before surgery: certain foods can interfere with anaesthesia, bleeding time, immune function and healing time.

  • Omega 3s can increase bleeding time. Patients should either decrease intake of oily fish high or balance it with lean red meat, which has arachidonic acid and counteracts blood thinning.
  • Vitamins E, C, K, B, fish oils and all herbal supplements should all be stopped one week pre-surgery (including the multivitamin).
  • Green tea, cayenne, ginkgo, garlic, ginger, flaxseed, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant may affect anaesthesia or bleeding time.
  • Neurotoxins such as alcohol, caffeine, aspartame and MSG should be avoided.
  • Aspirin and all other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that thin the blood should not be taken.

Post-operative: The goal of optimal post-surgery nutrition is to promote quick healing, lessen the likelihood of infection (through a well-supported immune system) and reduce pain, inflammation and swelling. Scientific studies have established that requirements for certain nutrients can increase by up to five times during the healing phase after surgery. Lack of nutritional support during this crucial period can adversely affect recovery from cosmetic surgery.

Pre-operative supplement regimens may be resumed, while sugar, caffeine, and alcohol should continue to be avoided. To improve recovery, foods eaten 72 hours post-op should be bland, soft and easy to digest, as digestion is compromised during periods of stress.

Soups and smoothies containing protein are ideal. For the first week after surgery the one week pre-surgery protocol should be followed.

Foods high in monounsaturated fats can be added to diets, such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, tart/sour cherries and blueberries, which have a profound anti -inflammatory effect. Foods that increase inflammation, including saturated and trans-fats and refined sugars should be avoided.

Supplements such as arnica, glutamine and probiotics can be continued. Consumption of vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins, fish oils, and a multivitamin can resume three days post-op. The post-op protocol should be followed until the patient has fully recovered from the operation.

These recommendations will assist in achieving optimal results from surgery by promoting healing of surgical wounds, supporting the immune system to prevent infection and reducing inflammation and scarring.

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