Here at ProOrtho we know our patients are concerned about recovery after orthopedic surgery. Which makes sense, because recovery involves predicting the future, and last time we checked human beings are less than stellar at predicting future events. In other words, the unknown is scary!
So to put everyone at ease, we decided to focus on what patients can control to improve their chance at returning to life as-normal after orthopedic surgery: their diet. That’s right, it’s time to (properly) eat your way to the most complete and speedy recovery possible post-op. Let’s go!
Protein—The Building Blocks for Recovery
Proteins are one of the most crucial ingredients in post-operation diets. The amino acids in proteins heal the immune system, build muscle strength, and provide key nutrients for healthy bones. So throughout recovery, supplement each snack and meal with lean sources of protein like chicken, fish, eggs, legumes (think black beans, chickpeas, green peas, and peanuts), and low-fat dairy products.
Oh, vegetarians and vegans, never fear! Supplementing meals with tofu, tempeh, quinoa, lentils, and plant-based protein powers is just as effective.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids—The Inflammation Suppressors
While inflammation is a natural part of the healing process, prolonged inflammation can delay recovery and increase discomfort. So grab a hold of some omega-three fatty acid-rich foods like salmon, trout, or sardines. Granted, fish might not always be on the menu, so feel free to work in some alternatives that are regularly available like walnuts, flaxseeds (easy to incorporate in a homemade protein shake!), chia seeds, and avocados.
Vitamins and Minerals—Bolstering The Body’s Defense System
Adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is crucial to accelerate recovery and boost the immune system. To promote wound healing and tissue repair, load up on vitamin C-imbued citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and leafy greens. Why? It turns out vitamin C plays a vital role in collagen synthesis—and collagen provides both structural support to tissues and the proper signaling between cells to expedite tissue repair.
Along with vitamin C, ensure sufficient intake of vitamin D and calcium (yogurt and other dairy products are a handy way to do that) as well as magnesium and zinc (choose meat, fish, poultry, whole-grain breads, and nuts to hit that zinc goal) to support both overall bone health and healing of any fractured bones.
Hydration—Recovery’s Unsung Hero
Water supports various bodily functions, including circulation, nutrient absorption, and waste removal. Proper hydration also helps prevent constipation, a common side effect of pain medications and decreased mobility.
Aim to drink at least eight to ten glasses of water a day (roughly 64-80 ounces). While that may sound like a ton, this common recommendation factors in water, other beverages, and food (about 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food—the rest comes from drinks), so it’s not quite as daunting a task as one might think at first glance.
Note: avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol as they can contribute to dehydration and offset all that hard hydrating work!
Other Healthy Habits For A Speedy Recovery
While nutrition plays a vital role in the healing process, it’s essential to complement a healthy diet with supporting healthy habits. Engaging in physical activity as recommended by ProOrtho’s physicians can help improve circulation, enhance flexibility, and prevent muscle atrophy. Meanwhile, adequate rest and sleep provide time for your body to repair and regenerate tissue. And don’t forget the power of a positive mindset and emotional support! Mental health professionals, friends, and loved ones can help you find hope and possibility throughout your journey to recovery—you don’t have to go it alone.
ProOrtho Is Here To Help
A well-balanced diet provides the nourishment you need for the most complete (and speedy) recovery possible after orthopedic surgery. As do other healthy habits like light exercise, rest, and a positive mindset. If you’d like to learn more about post-operative recovery, or how to move without pain or fear of injury, reach out to ProOrtho today — we’re happy to help!