After you’ve had spine surgery and you’re back in the comfort of your own home, you’ll need to focus on recovery. Part of this process involves being mindful of how you plan your meals. Ideally, you should consume more healthy calories and enjoy foods that are rich in beneficial nutrients. If you need some help fine-tuning your post-surgery meal plan, here are five tips to follow.
As you heal after spine surgery, your metabolism increases because your body needs more energy—which is what calories are—to heal. However, you shouldn’t opt for comfort foods that contain mostly empty or unhealthy calories. Luckily, there are many healthy and tasty sources of extra calories that can be a part of your post-surgery meal planning. Some of these include:
• Whole grains
• Legumes (e.g., lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts)
• Citrus fruits
• Green leafy veggies
Some of these healthy sources of extra calories have additional benefits for a healing spine. For instance, foods rich in vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin A can minimize the risk of post-surgery infection. Some of these foods include tomatoes, cabbage, liver, egg yolks, milk, seafood, certain meats, and cheese.
Protein plays a key role in tissue repair. This process is especially important after having spine surgery. A good source of protein is lean meat. If you don’t eat meat, you can still get plenty of protein from:
• Kidney beans
• Lentils, nuts, and seeds
• Low-fat dairy products
Once you fully recover, you can go back to three square meals a day if that’s your normal routine. However, surgery and medications sometimes affect digestion. It may be easier on your digestive system if you go with 4–6 smaller well-balanced meals during your recovery period. Some healthy small meals for your consideration include:
• Instant cereals
• Frozen veggies—when fresh options aren’t available
• Instant soups
• Canned tuna
• Yogurt cups or instant pudding
Also, don’t use your spine surgery recovery period as a time to lose weight. Yes, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight for optimal spine health. However, you also need a steady influx of nutrients. If your post-procedure pain meds are affecting your appetite, talk to your Santa Monica spine surgeon to see if adjustments can be made.
It’s not always possible to get all the nutrients you need from diet alone as your spine is healing. If this is the case for you, consider supplemental shakes or smoothies. There are plenty of readymade products available.
Another option is to make your own shakes with milk, yogurt, soy milk, or another type of high-protein beverage or food as the base. High-protein powders mixed with milk or another beverage such as juice can serve the same purpose.
It’s not uncommon for spine surgery patients to have issues with constipation during the recovery process. Pain meds sometimes worsen the problem. One way to naturally counteract these effects is by increasing your intake of water and fiber.
Water is particularly important because it gets rid of unhealthy toxins while boosting the delivery of essential nutrients to your healing spine. Don’t wait until you get thirsty to drink water. Instead, keep a refillable water bottle with you throughout the day. As for fiber, you can get plenty of this plant-based nutrient from:
• Pears, bananas, and apples
• Beets, lentils, split peas, and kidney beans
• Air-popped popcorn
• Dried prunes or prune juice*
*If you’re not a fan of prune juice, try adding some lemon juice to it.
Whether they have spinal fusion surgery or a total disc replacement, Santa Monica
spine surgery patients can help their recovery go as smoothly as possible by following the tips listed above. For more information about how to prepare for a safe, healthy recovery, reach out to the experienced professionals at The Spine Institute. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.