Proper nutrition before surgery helps you heal faster and can shorten your stay in the hospital.
Good nutrition helps reduce infection and speed healing. That’s why, at Geisinger, we’re prescribing nutritional drinks to prepare our patients for surgery, and even encouraging some to enjoy them in the hours before.“It is never too late to change your diet. People don’t realize that improving their diet for even a week or two before surgery can improve their chance of a fast and safe recovery,” says Anthony Thomas Petrick, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Geisinger Medical Center. “Preparing for surgery by concentrating on good nutrition, with special nutritional drinks or a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, can help with recovery and be the first step toward lifestyle changes. And those changes might help avoid any complications or additional procedures. Food as medicine — it’s a powerful concept.”
Hydration, exercise and self-care are keys when preparing for surgery
Staying hydrated is also important. Drinking at least six 8-ounce glasses of water a day is recommended even if you’re not preparing for surgery. Your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. If six glasses of water sounds like a lot, remember water can be found in vegetables like watermelon, tomatoes and lettuce, too.
Getting in better shape physically by adding a little exercise to your routine can also help with recovery. Some conditions would prohibit this, so be sure to ask your doctor first. But since there’s a good chance you’ll be encouraged to get up and get moving — with assistance — soon after surgery, you might as well prepare yourself for it beforehand.
“Just like our diet, physical activity helps in the recovery process,” says Dr. Petrick. “And if you’re carrying a few extra pounds, any weight you lose before surgery takes strain off your body, decreasing risks for blood clots and respiratory problems.”
If you smoke, it's never too late to quit. Smokers have much higher risks of problems breathing and healing their wounds after surgery. Just like a good diet, even a of couple weeks without smoking will reduce your risk of breathing problems afterward.
It’s also a good idea to practice the post-operative exercises your doctor recommends before you go in for surgery. You’ll be doing them during and after your time in the hospital, so why not get good at them beforehand, when your body isn’t trying to recover?
Some of our doctors make doing your post-operative exercises easier by connecting you with apps like Force Therapeutics™. This app lets you follow along with demonstrations, log your progress and communicate with your doctors, physical therapists and other members of your care team online or through your mobile device.
Preparing yourself emotionally is every bit as important. The thought of an upcoming surgical procedure can be stressful. Find a friend or relative to act as your coach or cheerleader. They can help you remember your instructions and get you through your recovery. Relaxation exercises, deep breathing, visualization and imaging techniques can all be helpful ways to manage anxiety and stress even when you’re not anticipating surgery.
But most of all, stay positive. “Think about how much better you are going to feel when the procedure is over — especially if you continue eating a healthy diet and exercising in ways that are right for you,” says Dr. Petrick.
Things to pack in hospital bag
Whether you’re having outpatient surgery or will be staying for a couple of days in the hospital, having what you need will make everything go more smoothly. Here are some items to include on your hospital packing list:
- Comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
- Glasses case or contact lenses case and supplies, if you need them
- Your inhaler, if you have asthma
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, robe, PJs and slippers for overnight stays
Before you know it, you’ll be out of surgery and on the road to recovery. Follow your doctor’s orders, do what your physical therapist recommends and stick to a healthy diet and you’ll feel better faster and be back to your regular life sooner.