What to Eat for Faster Spine Surgery Recovery?

KIEV, UKRAINE - 2020/08/01: In this photo illustration, cucumbers marinated according to an ancient Taiwanese recipe at Tell Me About China Restaurant. (Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - 2020/08/01: In this photo illustration, cucumbers marinated according to an ancient Taiwanese recipe at Tell Me About China Restaurant. (Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Eating enough calories may be the last thing on your mind as you begin spine surgery recovery, but a healthy diet is essential. Your body repairs itself during recovery and needs the right conditions to heal smoothly.

Nausea is expected in the days after surgery — prescription painkillers and anesthesia can ruin your appetite and cause stomach upset. However, before you know it, you’ll be hungry again. Of course, your food selections matter at that time.

Your doctor should review the recommended food plan before and after your procedure to inform you what to eat to recover faster from surgery. Although there isn’t a set plan for post-operative diets, you might take this general guide as an approach to meal planning.

A Healthy Diet Essential for Spine Surgery Recovery

Doctors perform a whopping 500,000 lumbar spine surgeries annually in the United States, with 80% of patients reporting post-operative pain.

However, spinal surgeries are commonly successful with a reputable surgeon. According to one study, 77.1% of spinal patients felt satisfied with the results of their back following a minimally invasive procedure. Nevertheless, all surgeries require recovery time to get back on your feet.

Understanding how diet plays a role in healing can speed up recovery. For instance, you should consume foods and beverages that contain B vitamins and vitamins C, D and E to manage inflammation. These essential nutrients — along with protein, iron and antioxidants — promote tissue and cell regeneration. Many will boost your immune system, too.

6 Foods to Eat After Spinal Surgery

As the adage goes, food is thy medicine. You must know what to eat to recover faster after having surgery on your spine. A healthy, well-balanced diet is crucial in repairing damaged tissues and cells. Here are six foods to eat more of during post-operative spinal surgery recovery.

1. Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries aid surgery recovery by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Berries also contain compounds that fight free radicals, which can damage your cells.

Make mixed berries your go-to daytime snack during spinal surgery recovery, or incorporate them into meals by tossing them over oatmeal or salad. You can also use them in shakes and smoothies to start your day.

2. Lean Protein

Amino acids from protein are some of the most vital macronutrients for rapid surgery recovery. Dietary guidelines recommend that 10% to 35% of total calories are derived from protein-rich foods.

As you recover from spinal surgery, remember to eat plenty of lean protein like poultry, seafood and eggs. You can also receive protein from plant-based foods like lentils, legumes, almonds and tofu.

Getting enough protein in your diet will help you rebuild your muscle strength so you’re back on you’re feet in no time.

3. Probiotics

Research has long shown that probiotics aid post-op recovery by speeding up wound healing, reducing the risk of infection — including urinary tract infections and pneumonia — increasing immunity and helping digestive problems.

In fact, probiotics reduce the risk of infection by 50%, ensuring it’s a suitable preventative strategy for complications and restoring gut microbiome diversity.

Excellent sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, olives and fermented foods. Of course, you can always supplement probiotics with a vitamin.

4. Leafy Greens

Bold-colored leafy greens are possibly the most jam-packed with nutrients for after surgery — one cup of kale has 33 calories and a high amount of vitamins A, B6, C and potassium to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

You don’t have to limit yourself to salads to ensure a healthy dose of greens. Incorporate them in a wrap or sandwich at lunchtime or as a side dish for dinner. For instance, sauteed spinach goes very well with grilled chicken or salmon.

5. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel contain ample omega-3 fatty acids for spine surgery recovery, helping to reduce inflammation around the surgical site.

In one study, researchers found that 22.67% of patients taking omega-3s had post-op fevers, compared to 82.67% of those who weren’t supplementing omega-3s. Additionally, only 17.33% of patients experienced wound discharge — indicating infection — compared to 74% who didn’t take omega-3s.

If fish isn’t your favorite go-to meal, supplement it with an over-the-counter omega-3 vitamin instead.

6. Water and Fiber

Although water isn’t exactly food, you should drink as much water as possible during spine surgery recovery. Water cleans out toxins, carries food nutrients throughout the body and prevents dehydration, fatigue and headaches.

Many people experience constipation from pain medication. If this is you, drinking a glass of water as soon as you awake and throughout the day will help to alleviate discomfort. However, fibrous foods also aid constipation by forming a gel-like substance in your intestines — this makes for an easier, less painful bowel movement.

Water and fiber-rich foods could include cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, flax seeds, beans and dried fruit.

Other Diet Tips for Spine Surgery Recovery

Your spinal condition may differ from the next person, but patients typically have one common goal: Figuring out what to eat to recover faster. Filling your post-op diet with healthy, nutrient-packed foods will speed up the process, but getting in enough of the required calories may be challenging for some.

You may find the following tips to be helpful:

Stock up on foods that require low preparation before surgery
Eat several small meals daily, especially if you have digestive issues
Make smoothies and shakes to supplement essential vitamins and minerals from produce
High-protein powders stirred into milk or another liquid can make up for lost protein

Vitamins and supplements are also practical following surgery, but check with your doctor first. They may restrict certain dosages or recommend a specific type of brand.

Recover Quickly From Spinal Surgery With a Healthy Diet

Patients can expect discomfort after spinal surgery, but you can do yourself a favor by eating a well-balanced diet that speeds up recovery. Create a post-op diet plan by stocking the refrigerator and pantry with healthy ingredients and snacks that provide your body with what it needs to heal.

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