Nutrition For Healing Post-Surgery

Spinal surgery is often required to relieve pain, improve daily function, and regain one’s quality of life. The ability to heal efficiently after surgery is essential to ensuring a good outcome. Unfortunately, surgery, by its very nature, causes stress and trauma to the body. Surgery can result in local tissue damage and inflammation as well as metabolic stress and weakening of the immune system. Maintaining a proper diet both before and after surgery can help reduce these side effects and help you heal faster.

After surgery, people often neglect their diet, yet optimal nutrition is essential during this time to aid in recovery and recuperation as well as for preventing loss of muscle mass during this period of inactivity. Healing requires that the body create new tissue, repair injured tissue, and produce cells that repair wounds. These complex processes cannot occur efficiently if one’s diet is short on essential nutrients. Even though after surgery you are often inactive for a while and require more rest than usual, this is not the time to be cutting calories. Your body goes into a hyper-metabolic state after surgery where the body’s metabolism increases, resulting in the breakdown of muscle protein, fat tissue, and neurotransmitters.

The breakdown of these tissues provides energy for the increased metabolic needs that aid in the healing process. Therefore, it is important to eat enough calories to provide the extra nutrients to sustain the hyper-metabolic activity needed to promote tissue healing after surgery. You should strive to eat 10-12 calories for every pound of your ideal body weight. If are currently overweight, you can use the BMI chart to determine your ideal body weight (BMI between 18.5-25) to determine the appropriate calories you will need to consume during the healing process.

Because the post-surgical hyper-metabolic state stimulates tissue breakdown, it is also important to increase the intake of protein at this time as well. Protein is a key building block of our body and is necessary for tissue growth and repair. Adequate protein recovery is extremely important for rebuilding tissue, fighting infection, slowing down muscle loss, and helps to decrease the inflammatory phase.

Read the full article in the Fall 2015 Journal.


Susan Brady, MPT