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Top 10 Lifestyle & Healthy Eating Tips for Before & After Surgery

4th September 2018

Written for OA Knee Pain by Registered Dietician Nichola Ludlam-Raine. Nichola works as an NHS, freelance and private dietician and has appeared on BBC breakfast a number of times to provide her expert opinion. Here she tells us about the top 10 lifestyle and healthy eating tips for before and after surgery.

All surgery puts a strain on the body and if you want to facilitate and speed up recovery then adjusting your diet and lifestyle accordingly will help. Read on for my top 10 healthy tips for before and after surgery.


1) STOP SMOKING - If you smoke, stopping before your surgery is one of the best things you can do for your health. Most surgeons advise that you stop several weeks before an operation in order to give your lungs and immune system time to recover. Stopping smoking reduces the risk of breathing problems and infections during the operation as well as afterwards.

2) GET ACTIVE - Your heart is a muscle and the only way it can be strengthened is by using it. If you’re struggling with joint pain try non-weight bearing activities such as swimming, the seated bike or even seated arm exercises with tins of beans or bottles of water.

3) EAT YOUR 5 A DAY - Fruits and vegetables are bursting with antioxidants, as well as vitamins and minerals which help to aid recovery and keep your immune system strong i.e. keep infections away. Vitamin K in particular helps your blood to clot and promotes wound healing. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, vegetable oils and cereal grains. Eat up before your surgery so that your body is in tip top condition for after surgery in case you don’t eat as well as usual for a few days.

4) HEALTHY WEIGHT - Losing weight if you’re carrying an excess could be beneficial not only for your surgeon who is carrying out the operation but for your post surgery recovery too as there will be less pressure on the joint in question.

5) CONSIDER A MULTIVITAMIN - If you know that your diet could be better, and that you’re not hitting your 5 a day every day then it may be worth taking a daily multivitamin and mineral. Choose one that contains at least 10mcg of vitamin D if it’s autumn or winter time or if you don’t spend much time outside with your skin exposed to the sun in summer.


6) SLEEP WELL - Sleep is the time when our body recovers and repairs and it is essential for post-surgery recovery as well as overall wellbeing. Adults require around 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night and if you struggle getting to sleep you should avoid caffeine (tea and coffee) after 4pm and establish a helpful bedtime routine which involves no screen time for an hour beforehand, as well as a dark and cool bedroom. A 20 minute walk outside in the morning may also help you to sleep better as it helps to reset your circadian rhythm, in addition to timing your pain medications so that you’re not in pain when trying to drift off.

7) REST & MOVEMENT - A balance between the two is essential; resting if you need it but not neglecting your post-surgery exercises as recommended by your surgeon or physiotherapist. Try to move your body on a daily basis to reduce the risk of blood clots and to aid the flow of oxygen and nutrients around the body.

8) ADEQUATE PROTEIN - Protein is known as the building blocks of life, and in order to aid recovery it’s essential to include a source of protein every time you eat. Good sources of protein include meat, fish, milk, cheese yoghurt, eggs, lentils, beans and tofu. If you don’t feel like eating why not whip up a banana and milk smoothie and serve it over ice.

9) DRINK ENOUGH- An adequate fluid intake is essential to prevent dehydration which can cause headaches, electrolyte imbalances, as well as constipation. If you’re not a fan of water you could have tea, coffee or no added sugar squash.

10) FILL UP ON FIBRE - Your bowels may be affected by the surgery and so it’s essential to keep your fibre intake up. In addition to fruits and vegetables, whole-grains (rather than ‘white carbs’) are an excellent source of fibre with two ‘hero foods’ for constipation being oats as well as linseeds, which you can sprinkle on top of porridge.

Written for www.oakneepain.co.uk by Nichola Ludlam-Raine (née Whitehead) Visit her blog here.

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