All surgery — whether it’s traditional open surgery with long incisions or minimally invasive robotic surgery with short incisions — traumatizes your body. That’s why it’s important to give your body all the support you can before your procedure.
One of the most important elements of presurgical self-care is ensuring you take in the highest amount and best quality of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and macronutrients possible. Good nutrition gives your body the ingredients it needs to heal and rebuild after your operation.
In the weeks before your scheduled surgery, our colorectal experts at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford help you improve the nutrient content of your meals so you’ll be in optimal shape for your procedure. Here’s what you can do, starting now.
Cut out the zeros and negatives
First, eliminate foods, beverages, and habits that either add no nutrition or actually deplete your cells of nutrients. In the weeks before your surgery (and afterward, too), cut out:
- Recreational drugs
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Processed foods
Foods that aren’t whole and natural may spike your blood sugar. High blood glucose levels make it more difficult for your body to heal. Smoking cigarettes slows down blood flow and dehydrates your cells, which again complicates the healing process.
Fuel up with protein
High-quality protein is a macronutrient your body needs to rebuild tissue, including muscle tissue. Eat at least 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day, divided evenly between three meals. High-quality protein sources include:
- Grass-fed or pastured meats
- Pastured eggs
- Wild-caught fish
- Sprouted or cooked grains and legumes
Concentrate on foods you already know you digest well and easily. Even nutritious foods aren’t good if they irritate your gut. For instance, if you’re lactose intolerant, you might want to avoid dairy or try goat or sheep dairy instead of cow dairy. You can also ask us about enzyme supplements that aid your digestion.
Fill up on fiber
Natural foods filled with fiber give your gut bacteria the food they need to keep your colon in the best shape possible. Fiber also helps you move your bowels completely at least once or twice a day.
Even better, fiber comes packaged in nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, and starches that provide your body with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Some choices include:
- Sweet potatoes or yams
- Raw green, leafy vegetables
- Cooked vegetables
- Fruits with skin removed
You can also eat well-cooked whole grains, such as oatmeal or the pseudograin quinoa. The vitamin C in fruits and vegetables helps your body heal.
Supplement with supplements
You don’t have to rely on food alone to give your cells the ingredients they need to mend your body. Either by working with us or with a nutritionist, consider taking supplements such as:
- Fish or krill oil
- Vitamin B complex
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Free-form amino acids
However, a few days to weeks before surgery you must eliminate any supplements or herbs that thin your blood, including garlic, ginkgo biloba, and ginger. We give you a full list of all medications, herbs, and supplements to avoid.
Shortly before your procedure
Your surgical team wants you to transition to a liquid diet a few days before your surgery, so that your colon and rectum are clear of feces. Still, it’s important to keep your nutritional level high. Choose nutrient-dense liquids, such as:
- Yogurt, pudding, or milkshakes without sugar
- Cream soups
- Sugar-free gelatin or popsicles
- Well-cooked hot cereals, liquified
- Nutritional shakes
After your surgery, you may first transition to a clear liquid diet and then add nutrient-rich liquids, such as these. As you recover, it’s important to introduce foods slowly, to avoid irritating your gut.
Up to two hours before surgery
Two hours before your surgery, don’t take anything by mouth unless your medical team advises it. Until that time, however, you can continue to hydrate your cells and provide nutrients by drinking clear liquids. Staying well hydrated helps control nausea after your surgery. Choices include:
- Tea without anything added
- Strained fruit juice
- Clear broth
- Fruit ice
If you have any questions about your presurgical diet and eating schedule, be sure to reach out to our team at 860-242-8591. If you have gut pain, suffer from IBD, or suspect you need colorectal surgery, schedule an appointment online at the office nearest you today. We have locations in Bloomfield, South Windsor, Enfield, and Plainville, Connecticut.