If you’ve scheduled a plastic surgery procedure with my Indiana plastic surgery practice, you might be wondering if there are any dietary restrictions associated with your procedure. Although there are no specific recommendations either before or after cosmetic surgery, I do have some suggestions that can contribute to your sense of well-being during recovery, and that can increase your comfort and speed healing!
- Lean Protein
Collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, plays an important role in knitting tissue back together. Typical protein intake is around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. But, after surgery, the demands for protein are much higher, especially if you have incisions to repair. Aim to get 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, target 102 to 136 grams of protein per day. That’s 25-30 grams per 3 meals and 14-23 grams per 2 snacks.
Getting extra protein doesn’t have to mean eating red meat. Excellent lean protein sources include eggs, fish, turkey, beans and legumes. Whey protein is a tasty and convenient way to boost your protein intake and is easily mixed with water (or regular milk, juices, soy, almond, rice or cashew milk) or incorporated into a smoothie.
- Fermented Dairy
Antibiotics are routinely prescribed after surgery to prevent infection. While antibiotics kill bad bugs, they also decimate the beneficial bacteria that line your digestive tract. Beneficial bacteria help digest your food and manufacture vitamins plus play a key role in immune system function. Repopulate your digestive tract with fermented dairy products like kefir and yogurt. Kefir is ideal because a small serving provides upwards of 8 to 12 species with over 10 billion live and active cultures. Yogurt provides fewer species and a lower bacterial count. When choosing, read labels as the sugar content and calories are higher with flavored products.
Pain medications, anesthetic agents, alterations to diet, dehydration, stress and reduced physical activity after surgery can work against your body’s normal route of elimination. Aside from drinking plenty of water, popping a few prunes each day will help get things moving along. Prunes are a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fiber which softens and adds bulk to stool. Other foods that are high in fiber include beans & legumes, apples, pears, bran flakes, oatmeal and flaxseed meal.
- Deeply Colored Fruits
The stress of surgery along with the drugs that are used during the procedure generate an increased oxidative load on the body or free-radical production. While your body uses antioxidants to reduce or eliminate these harmful molecules, the requirements are significantly higher after surgery. Boost your antioxidant intake after surgery by eating deeply colored fruits like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, and pomegranates. These fruits contain anthocyanidins, compounds that not only enhance the effects of vitamin C, but improve capillary integrity and stabilize collagen matrix.
- Orange Fruits & Veggies
Sweet potatoes are a superb source of beta carotene or pro-vitamin A which the body converts into vitamin A as needed. Vitamin A is needed for the repair and maintenance of soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin so significantly boosting your intake (up to 10,000 IUs of vitamin A and another 15,000 IUs of beta-carotene) around the time of surgery makes sense. Unlike its distant cousin, sweet potatoes aren’t as starchy and provide almost 4 grams of fiber per serving. Just clean and slice a sweet potato into 1” half moons. Toss with a bit of olive oil, season with pepper and salt and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Other excellent sources of beta carotene include carrots, dark leafy greens like kale, cantaloupe, mango and dried apricots.
- Bell Peppers & Citrus Fruit
Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, providing 340 mg per medium pepper. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that helps cross-link collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and if you’ve had an incision, this protein is crucial to proper wound healing. Stress depletes vitamin C stores so getting extra after surgery is recommended (upwards of 900 mg a day in divided doses). Other excellent sources of vitamin C include guava, kale, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, and broccoli.
- Cruciferous Vegetables
Having a robust immune system ensures that your body wards off infection after surgery. Vegetables that contain indoles, phytonutrients that boost immune health, include Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. Have bad childhood memories of these veggies? For great flavor and quick preparation, try roasting brussel sprouts or cauliflower and use mashed cauliflower in place of potatoes for a perfect post-surgery food that is low carb and nutritious.
- Fungi – Mushrooms
Mushrooms also support a healthy immune system. A recent study showed reductions in inflammatory proteins in participants that ate a 4 oz serving of Shiitake mushrooms daily. Other immune boosting mushrooms include Maitakes and Reishi. Mushrooms are great stir fried or grilled, as well as in soups.
- Nuts & Seeds
Pumpkin, squash and sesame seeds are an excellent source of zinc. Zinc is necessary for proper immune system function. The body requires zinc to develop and activate cells that are involved in immunity. Zinc is also important to wound healing as this mineral is necessary for protein synthesis and cell growth.
- Pineapple & Papaya
Pineapple and papaya contain protease enzymes that the body uses to breakdown and digest proteins. As it turns out, these enzymes also help reduce swelling and inflammation.
Next time you head to the grocery store, make sure you include these foods on your grocery list so that you can heal faster after surgery! Purchase in advance and prepare your meals and snacks to avoid cooking them during recovery.
To your health and beauty,
Gus Galante, MD, FACS
Board Certified Northwest Indiana Plastic Surgeon