In 2018, 129 million outpatient surgical procedures were performed in the United States. That number is expected to reach 144 million by 2023. The most common surgical procedures include cancer surgeries, joint replacements, cataract surgery, fracture repairs, biopsies, heart surgery, and back operations. While the recovery process is different for each of these types of surgeries, your care needs are similar. We want to help make your healing as speedy and easy as possible, so we’ve put together a guide to recovering from surgery at home that includes a prep checklist to make sure you have everything you need, as well as the top foods and supplements to eat so you’re back on your feet in record time and enjoying your normal activities.
Preparing for Recovering from Surgery at Home
Preparing for recovery from surgery starts with a consultation with your surgeon, who will be able to tell you exactly what you will need for your home after surgery, including the necessary gear, such as oxygen tanks or shower seats, the prescription and over-the-counter pain medications to have filled in advance, and the assistance of a care team, be it a family member or health aide to monitor your recovery at home. If you do need home care services, you can seek recommendations from your health care provider or insurance company.
No matter what type of surgery you will be recovering from, we recommend following the tips below to make sure you are prepared and comfortable.
Stock Up on Supplies
Depending on the surgery, you’ll likely be resting in bed for much of your recovery at home. To reduce your risk of falling, infection, or further injury, you’ll want to have all your supplies at the ready.
Fill your prescription medications and any OTCs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief and have them ready at your bedside. Also program medication reminders into your phone.
Make sure you have your entertainment needs met, whether that’s magazines, audio books, video games, or television. Keep them handy at a bedside table. Don’t forget that remote!
Prepare as many meals as you can prior to your surgery. Freeze or refrigerate so they are easily accessible, and keep snacks, such as nuts and fruits, by your bed for easy access, as well as several bottles of water. Dehydration is common after surgery and can stall your recovery.
Lay out your comfy clothes ahead of surgery. It’s also helpful to have baby wipes and hand sanitizer on hand so you can freshen up as comfortably as possible.
Optimize Your Environment
Make sure your home is cleaned and sanitized before surgery. Germs and dust can delay recovery and cause infection to spread.
Remove all tripping hazards—furniture, carpets, etc.—and clear a space from bed to bathroom to kitchen.
Set up all your recovery equipment, such as elevated toilets, walkers, or crutches in advance. Follow the guidance of your physical therapist, doctor, or registered nurse.
If you’re undergoing hip replacement surgery or another surgery that inhibits your ability to walk up and down stairs, then set up a cot or prepare a bed downstairs for use during your recovery.
Know the Complications to Watch For
If you experience any of the following side effects post surgery, enlist the help of a loved one and call your doctor or 911.
- Pain that keeps getting worse
- Pain during urination
- Unrelenting nausea and vomiting
- Racing heart beat
Nutrition for Recovery After Surgery
Surgery puts you at risk for weight gain or weight loss, falls, infection, pneumonia, impaired mobility, muscle loss, and loss of energy and depression. The foods you eat to support the healing process can help promote better health outcomes and accelerate recovery. Let’s get your pantry stocked with the best recovery foods.
Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Berries are full of flavonoids and vitamin C, which helps fight off infection and build collagen and tissue. Fill your plate with:
- Goji berries
But don’t just stick with berries. When it comes to fruit, help your body heal with every color of the rainbow:
Vegetables also serve up a ton of antioxidants that help fight off infection and oxidative stress, like vitamins A, C, and E, as well as carbohydrates and iron for energy and fiber to help reduce constipation, which is often a side effect of pain medications. Dark leafy greens also offer up vitamin K for healthy blood clotting. Your pre-surgery meal preparation should include:
- Bell peppers
- Brussel sprouts
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Turnip greens
Healthy fats like avocado and avocado oil help the body absorb more nutrients, strengthen the immune system, and lower your risk of infection. Nuts and seeds, a terrific source of healthy fats, also contain vitamin E to help speed healing and reduce the risk of scarring.
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Dark chocolate
Probiotics are the live healthful bacteria that live in our guts and keep our immune system strong and our moods regulated. Surgery and the medications that accompany it, however, can zap these friendly microorganisms from our gastrointestinal tract, leaving us vulnerable to infection. To help support your digestive and immune systems, you can take a probiotic supplement before and after surgery, and eat probiotic-rich foods, such as:
- Full-fat yogurt
Whole grains support your at-home recovery by providing carbs to keep up your energy levels and fiber to help defend against digestive upset. Incorporate the following whole grains into your recovery meal prep:
- Black rice
- Wild rice
- Brown rice
- Wheat berries
Your protein needs increase dramatically after surgery. Your muscles need help repairing, and protein helps form tissues and speeds wound healing. Protein also helps the body produce antibodies to fight infection and produce collagen to minimize scarring. Lean protein and fatty fish consumption is a must.
- Nuts and seeds
When it comes to wound care and healing, getting enough protein in your diet, especially after surgery when appetite is low, can be incredibly challenging. That’s why experts recommend supplementing with a protein-based meal replacement, and have been for years.
Recent research, however, is proving that commercial protein replacements, like Ensure, just don’t measure up to an essential amino acid supplement proven to protect against the loss of muscle mass due to bedrest, accelerate healing, and reduce inflammation and the likelihood of infection.
Take a study conducted by the top protein nutrition experts and published in Nutrition Journal. It showed that an essential-amino-acid-based formulation helped preserve lean muscle in the elderly, even under conditions of bed rest and illness, to a far greater degree than a competitive meal replacement (1).
Or a separate study that showed that essential amino acids and whey protein both stimulate muscle protein synthesis in older adults, but essential amino acids impart the greatest muscle-building effect. Essential amino acids are also a more energetically efficient nutritional supplement because they are so low in calories (2).
But a properly balanced essential amino acid formula does far more than just protect muscle mass after surgery. Essential amino acids also help reduce infection and speed healing, whether it be from cancer surgeries, brain surgeries, stroke, hip replacement surgery, knee replacement surgery, or other injuries (3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
For the first time ever, the precise formula used to accelerate recovery after surgery in these studies is available to the public. The patented formula was developed by the world’s foremost amino acid researchers and it’s brought to you by the Amino Co team. It’s called Heal, and you’ll want to start taking it about a month before your surgery, and then continue with 2-3 scoops a day as you are recovering from surgery at home. It comes in tasty grape, chocolate, and vanilla flavors and can be easily mixed with a glass of water.
Ready for Your Checklist?
Let’s get you all prepped for surgery and a speedy recovery with the checklist below.