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Surgery, Illness and Calories

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Old 06-27-2006, 06:19 PM   #1
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Default Surgery, Illness and Calories

I was thinking about posting this in Nutrition, but hardly anyone checks that forum and I just wanted a bit of feedback.

Does your body need more calories to fight off illness or heal after surgery?
I just had some surgery and haven't been able to exercise and I was wondering if I should up the calorie intake from 1200 to maybe 1500 or so. My basal is 1600. Should I try to keep to basal or what? I don't want to gain weight as a result of decreased mobility and I also don't want to use my surgery as an excuse to pig out either. So, I guess I just need a bit of advice with regard to how much energy I should be taking in in order to provide my body with proper nutrition but also at the same time to still continue to safely take off the extra weight.

Any advice????
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Old 06-27-2006, 06:31 PM   #2
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Charlotte, I found that if I kept my calories to the amount as I was eating pre-surgery, I didn't gain even though I couldn't exercise. I think my body needed those extra exercise calories for healing. I didn't change the kinds of food that I was eating though, and really emphasized protein since that's what repairs tissue.

One thing that I wish someone had told me - stay off the scales for a few weeks!! After surgery we tend to retain fluid and it can look like you've gained ten pounds overnight. (but it's just water)

Here's to happy healing!
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Old 06-27-2006, 06:51 PM   #3
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I was wondering the exact same thing. I just had my gallbladder taken out, and then went right back into the hospital because I had bile spilling out into my abdominal cavity (peritonitis and sepsis). So, an extra week in the hospital, a few extra scars, and some un-natural hardware installed has left me feeling less than perky. I can sit around, and I can still work with my resistance bands (even while laying in bed) but my cardio routine is suffering.
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Old 06-27-2006, 08:55 PM   #4
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Oh Jane! Sorry to hear about that

I found that after surgery, I really didn't want to eat much (haha, to bad that didn't last!). Unlike Meg, I found that I lost weight. I ate pretty much the same foods in small, frequent meals like I did pre-surgery. By the time I was back to light workouts, I'd lost about 7 pounds. I was back to doing light cardio and lights weights about two weeks after surgery- but it probably should have been three weeks.

As Meg said, your body need the nutrients to heal. Make sure that you are getting enough protein for tissue repair, and enough other healthy food that your body doesn't strip itself of muscle looking for protein!

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Old 06-27-2006, 11:10 PM   #5
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I had hernia repair and adhesions surgery 7 weeks ago. I was very worried that not being able to exercise for first 3 weeks would cause me to gain, but it didn't. I actually have lost 11 lbs. since surgery. I kept my eating the same with plenty of protein. Good luck and well wishes.
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Old 06-28-2006, 07:12 AM   #6
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Lillybelle- I guess your body does need the calories to heal!

I guess I'm the odd woman out.... When had my ankle put back together after breaking it (really bad), I lived alone at the time, so I was at the mercy of my friends who had their own busy lives. I was on the One Fast Food Meal A Day Diet and some days I couldn't even stomach that. I'm not sure if the anasthesia (sp?) messed with my system, but I dropped about 35 pounds in 2 months. While it was motivating, it certainly wasn't fun. THe next time around, though, my mom came and helped and cooked- a lot. And I didn't gain back any of the 65 pounds that I lost at the time.
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Old 06-28-2006, 10:15 AM   #7
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I had my gall bladder out, and then a few months later I was in a car accident. Thank goodness I my gall bladder surgery went fine with no horrible complications like Jane's.

The gall bladder took about a week for my stomach muscles to feel sort of ok again, and the car accident is requiring major major healing. I agree with what others have said. I kept my calories the same as much as I could. There were times that I didn't feel like eating because of pain medicine and had to force myself to drink protein shakes. I unintentionally lost weight, but then gained some back (I think due to lots of swelling, I think). After the accident, when I was finally able to deal without painkillers, my normal hunger came back and I fed it within reason.

I'd say aim to keep calories the same unless you find yourself hungry all the time (and you if you know it's really hunger). Exercise if you feel like exercising and it doesn't hurt (and your doctor says it's ok). Don't be too hard on yourself if your body is already doing a lot of work to get you back to being healthy again. A nurse told me that healing requires lots of water and protein. If you're concerned about your specific calorie intake, ask your doctor.
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Old 06-28-2006, 11:37 AM   #8
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It's not just protein you need when healing. You also need plenty of vitamins and minerals, so your body can build the things it needs to heal. Here's a breakdown of a nutritional supplement that is sold to help people heal from surgery quicker:

Vitamins and Minerals: A full-spectrum of essential vitamins, minerals, and trace elements activate numerous enzyme systems that support healing.

Antioxidants: The non-acidic Vitamin C Ester helps promote collagen production, which is vital for wound healing and repair and growth of tissues damaged by surgery. Vitamin C also eliminates toxins, protects the body from infection by enhancing the immune system, and counteracts tissue-damaging free radical molecules generated during stressful situations.

B-Vitamins: Complete, high-potency B-complex. Supports proper protein metabolism and cellular energy production, crucial for healthy tissue repair and efficient cellular function.

Vitamin K: Vitamin K helps reduce post-operative bruising and internal bruising.

Bromelain: A natural pineapple enzyme that helps reduce post-operative bruising and swelling, lessen postoperative pain, and help accelerate healing.

Bioflavonoids: Quercetin, rutin, and other plant flavonoids help protect capillaries against damage, strengthen tissues, and minimize bruising.

Enzymes: Protein-specific enzymes such as bromelain and papain assist the body’s natural ability to control inflammation and swelling.

Amino Acids: Certain amino acids, especially L-arginine and L-Glutamine, are crucial for healthy tissue formation during healing.

Zinc: Zinc promotes the healing of wounds, plays a big role in the repair and maintenance of healthy cells, and enhances the effectiveness of the immunity system regulating production of immune cells.

When my son was healing from severe appendicitis, I did my own research and bought most of those things individually for him, after he had some complications arising from inadequate nutrition. These things helped helped him heal better. It's cool that they offer it for sale, now, as a package. If you google the words "nutritional supplements surgery healing", a link to post surgery vitamins will pop up on the right side of the screen.


It's also important to replace the microorganisms in your gut with the right kind after antibiotic use, so the wrong kind don't get established there and make you ill. Everyone in my family always takes an probiotic pill now, filled with good bacteria, after being on antibiotics. It helps the gut start working right fast. Most health food stores carry many different formulations of probiotics.
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Old 06-28-2006, 12:56 PM   #9
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I was just in the hospital last week for a procedure and I was so shocked that my weight went up several pounds overnight even though I wasn't allowed to eat anything while I was there. I joked with my BF about getting the calorie content of the IV drip (he was not amused).

Maria - Thanks for that info. It is interesting that I specifically craved (and luckily bought beforehand) pineapple.

Regarding the vitamins - I agree that it is important to make sure you get enough, but definitely discuss what you are taking with your doctor. I wasn't supposed to take vitamin E for at least 5 days after the procedure and some supplements can have conflicts with certain medications.
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Old 06-28-2006, 04:11 PM   #10
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That supplement package for sale specifically said that it didn't have "E", but I didn't know why until you just said that! Thanks. As far as doctors go, I had asked my son's surgeon if there was anything he could take to speed healing, and he didn't have ANY suggestions. It was only after my son developed a "seroma" a large blister like fluid filled pocket below the incision and they had to open him back up again that I started looking up stuff on my own. I found all sorts of info and gave him the supplements and he healed correctly the second time around. I think his body simply didn't have the right materials to make everything he needed. Poor kid! He was fine until he was taken off antibiotics after a month. The *wrong* bacteria got started in his gut, and he had to go on antibiotics again. The doc never mentioned probiotics. Again, I did my own research and found out the best sort of bacteria and had to order from two different places online to get the kind he needed. The second time he went off antibiotics, I had him take that stuff several times and he was fine.

The reason I bring up my son's case is the fact that due to vomiting and diarrhea for 5 days before they decided he had ruptured appendicitis, and the fact that his only food was an IV for 9 days after the surgery, he was pretty malnourished and didn't heal well.

I'm assuming that hard dieting would be almost as bad... but I don't know for sure.

I am sure you need plenty of building blocks available when building new cells and connective tissue, and if you aren't certain how much nutrients you are getting, then it's safer to eat more while healing- if you can.
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