You’ve decided to go forward with spine surgery, and now you want to do everything you can to make sure that you’re ready. It’s smart to be thinking about all the things you need to do to smooth the process, making plans for getting to and from the procedure, having help around the house and taking off work – all those things are important. But there’s one other thing you can start doing immediately to make sure you are in the best possible position for recovery, and that is taking a look at your nutrition.
No matter how skilled your physician is, spine surgery puts your body through a certain amount of physical stress. The fuel that you provide in the weeks before any operation can play an active role in your recovery and how quickly you heal. Certain foods can help strengthen your immune system and circulatory system, and making sure that you are getting the right nutrients is something that you can take control of. Here are several steps you can take to make sure you are in the best possible condition for recovery.
• Depending on how much time you have before your surgery and what your physical condition is, you may want to try to lose a little weight. Some studies have shown that when surgeons need to cut through fat, it can cause inflammation. This does not mean that you should go on a crash or fad diet – nutrition is important and you want your body strong. But having extra weight on you can put strain on your body, increasing your blood pressure and your health. If you have time, ask your physician whether you should try to lose weight.
• Concentrate on a healthy diet that is rich in protein, calcium, Vitamin D, iron, and fiber. Protein will help your tissues heal and minimize the formation of scars, while calcium and Vitamin D will help with bone healing. Iron supports the red blood cells that fuel your recovery, while fiber will help you avoid the constipation that often follows surgical procedures. Make sure that you are eating lean meat, poultry and fish; green leafy vegetables; beans and lentils; and fresh fruits and vegetables. You may also want to eliminate potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant, as they contain compounds that cause anesthesia to stay in your body longer than they have to.
• Supplement with vitamins and minerals, but check with your surgeon first. The best way to get the nutrients you need is from the foods that you eat, but if you are concerned that your diet is lacking, talk to your physician. He or she may want you to take supplements, or may warn against them. Do not take supplements or vitamins prior to your surgery without talking to your doctor. Where some may boost your immune system and ability to heal, others may interfere with blood clotting.
• Add probiotics and prebiotics to your diet, as the healthy bacteria found in foods like fresh sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles, yogurt and kefir can boost your immune system and help prevent infections following surgery.