What to Eat Before and After a Surgical Procedure

health nutrition well-being Mar 17, 2024
Doctor in a white lab coat can only see their torso. The doctors arms are out stretched and they are holding a bottle of water and a dish with carrot, tomato, lettuce and apple on it.

I have been fortunate not to have needed many surgical or nonsurgical procedures. I got my tonsils out when I was a kid, I have had a few bothersome sun spots frozen off, and the last time I went under general anaesthesia, it was for a routine colonoscopy. So, while there is always a risk, fortunately, I haven’t experienced anything too significant. As I have gotten older and more content within myself, my obsession with plastic surgery has faded, so unless that changes - God willing, I won’t need any major surgeries/procedures! I believe food is part of our health care, so even for simple procedures, preparing your body and skin with a nutritional boost for healing and helping minimise any potential side effects is essential. Here are my tips to do this.


What to eat before a procedure

1. Eat whole foods and avoid heavily processed foods

Whole foods, particularly vegetables, fruit and whole grains, support cellular health. They offer fibre for digestive health, support detoxification and elimination pathways, and are rich in antioxidants that support healing and immune function. Heavily processed foods generally do the opposite, and a diet consisting of mainly processed foods may lead to chronic inflammation and be unsupportive of your body’s natural healing pathways.

Include protein-rich foods like beans, eggs, dairy, nuts, tofu, lean meat, fish, and poultry. You may even add in a protein shake. A general recommendation is .8g per kilo of weight; if over 50, 1.8g per kilo of weight. For example, if you are 35 and weigh 65 kilos, your recommended protein intake is 52 grams. Protein is vital for enzyme production, hormones, muscle repair and bones, and post-procedure, it will support healing and tissue repair.

Make water your main drink for at least a week or two before the surgery/procedure. You can access some of my tips on drinking more water here


2. Load up on antioxidant-rich foods

You can’t supplement your way out of not eating enough antioxidants! You have to eat whole foods to experience their incredible benefits. Antioxidants offer free radical protection by scavenging and neutralising them, preventing oxidative stress and the damage they can cause when accumulated.

What are free radicals? They are unstable molecules that can cause damage to cells and genetic material in your body. They are natural to us and are produced during normal metabolic processes. However, they are also triggered by lifestyle and UV radiation. They are known to be linked to diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Too many free radicals can also accelerate the aging process.

This is one of the reasons you will hear the term ‘eat the rainbow’ as it allows you to eat a variety of antioxidants, including Beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and polyphenols.

Some great sources of antioxidants include

o Blueberries, cranberries, plums, oranges and figs

o Kale, spinach, red capsicum and tomatoes

o Nuts, walnuts (rich in omega-3 fatty acids)

o Legumes, red kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans

o Herbs and spices, including ginkgo, rosemary, turmeric and ginger

o Green tea (an abundant source of polyphenols)

o Dark chocolate … any excuse right πŸ˜‚


3. Avoid blood thinning medications, foods and herbal supplements

Ask your practitioner for personalised advice; medications and supplements can react to anaesthesia, so it is essential to know this beforehand. Also, avoiding blood-thinning substances may help prevent bruising and support healing. Some general recommendations include avoiding aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin E, green tea, St. John’s Wort, Omega-3’s salmon, ginger, flaxseed oil and ginseng. And while I have mentioned some of these as high in antioxidants, avoid them a couple of weeks before your procedure. If they are included in your nourishment plan for medical reasons, discuss with your practitioner when to stop.


What to eat after a procedure

1. Supplement with Vitamin C and zinc

Your body is under stress and will need a boost of micronutrients, including A, C and E. This will come if you are eating the rainbow, but a supplementary dose of Vitamin C and zinc may be helpful to support healing. Eat whole foods such as red bell peppers, citrus fruits, and pineapple for Vitamin C. Add zinc by including shellfish, organ meats, eggs, and legumes into your diet. Many Australians are zinc deficient. Learn more about how zinc works for us, and find some dietary sources here.


2. Eat anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods

For some of the same reasons as you eat these foods before your surgery/procedure, eat them to support healing post-surgery/procedure. If you can, swap out the coffee for green tea too. Avoiding anything that acts as a stimulus will support healing.

Anti-inflammatory foods include

o Leafy greens, spinach, kale, collards

o Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges

o Nuts and seeds

o Hemp seeds

o Olive oil

o Avocado

o Beans and legumes

o Onion and garlic


3. Increase fibre and probiotics

Fibre will act as your prebiotic, supporting a good gut bacteria profile to support healing and help avoid the discomfort of constipation or diarrhoea that can follow major surgery. Probiotics will support your immune system against infection. A good gut bacteria profile will also support your detoxification and elimination pathways. This means phase ll of detoxification will function optimally, and substances are less likely to be recycled back through your body, stored and become problematic to your healing. Also, as you increase your fibre intake, keep your water intake up.


If you already focus on whole foods, small tweaks will make all the difference. If you are still exploring and working out your relationship with food and your health and well-being, you will want to grab a self-guided Seasonal Nutrition Reset. These include recipes using seasonal produce, meal plans to follow (if that is your thing), nutrition education, mindfulness practices to manage stress and a journal if you want to explore your relationship with food and your health and well-being a little deeper. You can learn more about them here.


Ensure you allow enough time to rest, too! Even if it is a day surgery/nonsurgical procedure – take the day off (if you can) and let your body heal. When things seem routine and common, we often dismiss the impact it can have on us physically and emotionally. I know I have inhibited the healing process by jumping back into activities. I was back at work four days after my youngest son was born. I mean, he was with me the whole time, and I stopped to breastfeed, but upon reflection, gee whizz, I didn’t allow my body time, and I feel I paid the price for that. Another aspect I believe is important is taking the time to express gratitude. For example, we can all be grateful for the technology that detects things early before they are too serious. You can thank your body for letting you know that something is up and needs attention. Gratitude is just as much part of the healing and healthcare process as the medical intervention itself.


Thanks for reading and sharing some of your time with me.

As always, when you fall in love with yourself everything else falls into place.


OM xx


Blog posts are not intended to provide medical advice or take the place of medical advice and treatment from your doctor. Readers are advised to consult their qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Ocea Marie does not take any responsibility for possible health consequences for anyone reading or following the information available on the blog. All readers, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their doctor before beginning any nutrition or supplement program.

Want to be your healthiest, most vibrant self?

Download my FREE 5 day Live More, Love More,

Create More program

A combination of healthy recipes, mindfulness meditation, and movement ideas to supercharge your well-being and support you in becoming your healthiest most vibrant self.