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Eat, Drink, and Recover! Why Nutrition is Key to a Successful Orthopedic Surgery


If you’re an elite athlete, weekend warrior, someone in between, or none of the above, if you’ve sustained an orthopedic injury that requires surgical correction, a focus on your nutrition is one of the single most important things you can do to aid in your surgical outcome and recovery. Whether the youngest among us or the most aged, studies estimate that malnutrition or the risk of malnutrition affects up to 65 percent of surgical patients.

For the scariest of facts, improperly nourished individuals are at an increased risk of death after surgery. Patients who aren’t adequately nourished before surgery risk significant loss of muscle mass, strength, and flexibility in the post-surgical recovery period. While the elderly patient is especially vulnerable to these facts, it remains true that there is much anyone facing orthopedic surgery can do to enhance their nutrition before entering and after leaving the operating room.

Adequate nourishment and nutrition before orthopedic surgery can help support the surgery itself, ease recovery, shorten a stay in the hospital, and even reduce the risk of complications, such as surgical site infections, that can arise from surgery.

High-Quality Protein – a vital nutrient for helping to manage the stress placed on the body during surgery. High-quality proteins can be found in chicken, beef, fish, eggs, and milk. Plant protein sources are also good, but they aren’t as bioavailable or well-digested as animal-based sources.

Complex Carbohydrates – can help decrease the body’s stress response and insulin resistance during surgery while aiding in the healing of surgical wounds. Complex carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

So you’ve prepared your body as best you can nutritionally before surgery. What about afterward? There is so much you can do after orthopedic surgery to help mitigate the loss of muscle mass, energy, strength, and body functionality while you recover. Nutrients critical to post-surgical healing include:

Vitamin C: Collagen is produced by this vitamin and aids in the healing of tendons and ligaments, as well as the healing of surgical wounds. Consume vitamin C in citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli.

Zinc: This mineral helps to accelerate the body’s healing response. Consume zinc in pumpkin seeds, lamb, grass-fed beef, garbanzo beans, and cocoa powder.

Vitamin D and Calcium: These vitamins aid in repairing bone and rebuilding its fortified structural components. Consume vitamin D and calcium in spinach, kale, sardines, salmon, and white beans.

Although plenty of nutritional and vitamin supplements are on the market today, getting these nutrients from actual food sources is often preferable. The importance of nutrition in the pre-and postoperative phases of surgery cannot be understated, and there is plenty YOU can do. As you await an orthopedic surgical procedure, remember that you are, as always, what you EAT, think, drink, and do!


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