10 Food Tips for Rapid Surgery Recovery

1 – Supply your body with plentiful antioxidants for repair at the cellular level.  Use the phytonutrient colour checklist to make sure you are getting a varied rainbow of vegetable and fruit plant nutrients every week.  Get the phytonutrient checklist here (hint this will also help you with vitamins, minerals, ‘good’ carbs, fibre and make eating fun!) :

TIP! Aim for mostly low GI (glycemic index) fruits such as berries, avocado, green apples and pears. 


2 – Your body now needs extra protein for repair.  If you eat meat go for lean grass-fed beef, organic free range chicken and fresh fish from clean waters.  Avoid the fatty bits of meat for now.  Other sources of protein include tempeh (soy) and eggs.  Some people will tolerate tofu but it is not recommended if you have any signs of estrogen dominance.

TIP!  How much protein is enough?  Take your weight in kg as the minimum grams per day.  Add 40g to this to get your max.  E.g. a 60kg woman needs anywhere from 60g-100g protein per day.  Recovering from an operation, she would need the higher end of the range.  You can check the food labels/ back of packets for protein amounts, or if you get stuck, google ‘g of protein in e.g. egg’


3 – Eat oily fish (preferably local caught in clean waters!) for maxing your omega 3 intake.  Omega 3 are anti-inflammatory (reduce pain, heat and swelling).  Find out which other foods are high in omega 3 here.

TIP! If you are taking any supplements or meds, don’t forget to tell your surgeon at least a two weeks before the op. You may need to stop things like fish oil supplements a few days/weeks before, and for a few days after the op.  


4 – Avoid the following whilst you focus on fresh being best:

  • Vegetable oils (except moderate amounts of cold pressed coconut or olive oil). They cause inflammation
  • Sugars – including soft drinks and artificial sweeteners.  They will stall your recovery.
  • Take outs. They are cooked in inflammatory oils.
  • Refined carbohydrates such as pasta, breads, popcorn, pizza, cookies and other baked goods.
    • What is unrefined? Sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, and other starchy veg such as parsnip, potato, corn, peas, pumpkin, squash.
  • Alcohol.  It will give your liver too much to do and stall your recovery
  • Caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate and cacao after 2pm.  If you don’t sleep well you will miss out on growth and repair hormones.
  • Dairy products (if they usually give you mucus or headaches, stuffed sinuses, sore throats, joint pain, swollen glands, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation then you have classic signs of food intolerance and should avoid dairy for a few months at least, and maybe forever).
  • Any other food intolerance you have e.g. gluten, nightshades, soy, eggs.


5 – Drink Bone Broth – If you eat meat then make a broth with bones/skin/leftovers from an organic source. Broth surges your with body with repairing collagen and glutamine; some even say it banishes cellulite!  If you don’t eat meat, then you can get some collagen from pea or rice protein powders.  

Check out the best (and simplest) broth recipe here.

TIP! Make a few batches of broth before your op and out them in the freezer.  


6 – Eat a little Sauerkraut every day – fermented foods are also known as probiotic foods.  They are helpful for repairing the damage done to ‘good’ bacteria by painkillers, anaesthetics and antibiotics.  You need your bacteria to extract nutrients from foods, and talk to your immune and nervous systems.  

Other fermented foods include

  • miso,
  • natto,
  • kefir (avoid dairy grains right now and use those grown in water/coconut milk),
  • kombucha (kombucha and kefir need sugar added for bacteria to eat – stick to those with the minimal sugar added),
  • sugar-free coconut yogurt with probiotic added.


7 – Eat Pineapple.  Pineapples contain bromelain – a natural anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling and pain. 

TIP: Put a little in a smoothie with spinach, unsweetened coconut milk, kefir, pea protein and flax seeds for a fibre, phytonutrient, omega 3, vitamin, amino acid rich, probiotic and anti-inflammatory tasty healer!


8 – Add in Veggie Juices!

Juices taste yummy, add hydration, fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and carbs. Stick to whole veg in the nutrininja/bullet/vitamix etc – this retains fibre and reduces chance of blood sugar imbalance that some people suffer after full juicing.  Beetroot, carrot, apple, ginger, lemon and purified water is a classic; as is celery, apple, lemon, ginger and purified water. 

TIP: These can be heavily detoxifying so start small and build up otherwise they can give you nausea or loose bowels!  


9 – Mushrooms such as maitake, reishi, shitake, cordyceps, and coriolus are known to increase immune function – your body needs maximum support right now.


10 – Last but not least – CLEAN WATER!  Hydration reduces your risk of blood clots.

TIP: Right now your liver is busy dealing with painkillers, anaesthesia and antibiotics.If you are drinking a town supply it will contain chlorine and other deposits that your liver has to work hard to detox.    Give your body a better chance by drinking clean water – purify it yourself or buy it in.  At the very least, add lemon (see number 2 here for more info). 

In summary:

  • Eat Fresh! Use the phytonutrient rainbow checklist to ensure you get enough veg and fruit into your days.
  • At each meal include some fibre (veg, salad, fruit, unrefined carbs), healthy fats (coconut oil, olives, oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocado, olive) and protein (lean meats, eggs, tempeh, tofu, protein powders). That’s: Fibre, fat, protein – at every meal!
  • Smoothies, juices, steamed veg, ready-made sauerkraut, boiled eggs and salads with seeds and avacado are quick easy fixes.
  • Stay hydrated with clean purified water.
  • Add turmeric and ginger for extra soothing powers

Following these nutritional guidelines for 3 weeks before your op will put you in the best possible nutritional status to recover quickly. Carry on after for rapid recovery.  Additional supplements such as vitamin C and lifestyle tricks (e.g. being fit before surgery) are immensely helpful.

About Claire Bhavani


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