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 Nutritional Medicine: Nutritional Programs for Pre- and Postsurgery (and Injuries)  

I usually do not recommend that people fast or make any major diet revisions prior to surgery; rather, they should maintain a nutritious diet with some shifts toward the healthier practices mentioned above. If possible, people should be close to, or just above, their ideal weight for surgery. Obesity increases surgical risks (infection, poor healing), while underweight people often do not have sufficient energy reserves to heal rapidly.

Of course, I recommend a wonderful diet all of the time, but it is a good idea to begin increasing protein intake and adding the healing nutrients a few weeks before surgery to build up both the strength and the tissues. Usually, the diet can be a little lighter a few days prior to surgery, emphasizing more fruits, vegetables, and liquids along with the nutritional supplements. This will help lessen digestive organ stress.

Recovery from surgery takes time. The diet should be a little lighter initially, and low in fats. With any abdominal surgery, often a liquid or soft diet is necessary for a while. This is where protein and/or nutrient powders are useful. There are also more healthful suggestions than the bouillon, jello, coffee, and colas that might be served. Some examples are vegetable and meat broths, fresh juices, light soups, pureed carrots, squash, mashed potatoes, bananas, applesauce, or other fruits or vegetables, progressing to oatmeal, cream of rice cereal, and richer soups.

After surgery, it is sensible to eat foods as tolerated and as suggested by the doctor or the nutritionist, gradually resuming the nourishing, presurgery diet. Then after two or three months, when most tissue healing is complete and the body is stronger, a mild cleansing and detoxification may be initiated, especially if general anesthesia was used during the surgery or other potentially toxic drugs were used afterward.

This fine art of administering potentially lethal drugs to reduce pain, induce unconsciousness, and yet maintain life has progressed significantly in the past century. Many procedures are possible now that were only fantasies generations ago. Yet, many people realize that the anesthesia is often more difficult to recover from postsurgically than the actual cutting of tissues. Thus, I suggest using the least amount of drugs and the simplest anesthetic procedure possible; clearly the toxicity of anesthesia can be worse with suboptimal nutrition. Local anesthesia is clearly a big advance in medicine of recent years. Before general anesthesia, it is wise for people to nourish themselves well first with a high-nutrient diet containing good quality protein foods, and by taking supportive supplements to strengthen tissues and create nutrient reserves. The antioxidant nutrients (vitamins C and A, selenium, zinc, and L-cysteine) are suggested. Vitamin E can be taken, but in lower doses (100–200 IUs) so that it does not affect blood clotting or tissue healing.

Most books on medical dietetics include many specific diets for various types of surgery. The program suggested here is more general and, I assure you, more healthful. The current hospital diet might make more economic sense, and it is probably the way that the bureaucrats who create these diets eat anyway, but it is not in the best interest of the patients. Our hospitals need to provide more nutrient-rich, healing diets, with more wholesome foods and liquids to help revitalize and nourish (and heal) the patients so that they can return to their normal lives as quickly as possible. Hospitals should also provide a hypoallergenic (low in wheat, yeast, corn, eggs, or milk) and low-chemical (no additives, binders, artificial colors) diet. If, as dieticians believe, "we do not need supplements if we eat a balanced diet," they should then clearly provide a chemical-free, hypoallergenic and wholesome diet. However, the RDAs do not apply to hospitalized and surgical patients; these people need more of most nutrients due to the stress and possible inadequate digestion and assimilation. In addition, the RDAs do not include many important nutrients, such as manganese, selenium, chromium, boron, and vanadium. Hospital diets should also be providing supplemental electrolyte powders to provide additional magnesium, and protein powders to support patients’ healing and to prevent muscle wasting. I suggest, as Dr. Robert Haas does in his book Eat to Succeed (New American Library, New York, 1986) that people take their own nutritional supplements to the hospital; bring (or have family and friends bring them) good food, drinking water, and fresh juices; and encourage hospitals to provide more natural foods prepared with little or no saturated fats, salts, and chemicals or preservatives.

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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