Life After Orthopedic Surgery: The Diet
Strong On The Inside: Strong On The Outside
There’s no doubt that there’s a connection between diet and the health of bones and joints. Alongside other lifestyle factors like exercise, what you eat will significantly impact your knees, shoulders, hips, ankles, or wrists. And it should come as no surprise that, following orthopedic surgery, this aspect can become even more crucial. Since the task for the patient in recovery is to do everything they can to ensure the best possible outcome, ensuring the right kind of diet is absolutely essential.
So what does a post-surgery diet look like? If you undergo surgery, you’ll no doubt get more exact guidance from your doctor, but let’s take a look at what should be emphasized:
Since bones are composed of about 55 percent protein, it’s important to feature this in your post-surgery diet.  Emphasizing protein-rich foods such as (leaner) meats, eggs, nuts, or other sources will help reduce bone loss, promote healing, and reduce the risk of infection. Even more crucially, deficiencies in protein can worsen outcomes and impede the production of essential hormones.
What are good sources of protein? Here’s a quick breakdown:
• Soy products
The nice thing is that meats aren’t the only sources of protein; even vegetarians can ensure a good supply of this important component of the diet.
Vitamins & Minerals
After orthopedic surgery, vitamins and minerals play a key role in ensuring the body has what it needs to build bone mass back up and fully heal. A post-operative diet should emphasize vitamins C and D as well as zinc. What makes these so essential? Let’s take a closer look at each one:
• Vitamin C: This vitamin is most closely associated with immune system function as it neutralizes the effects of “free-radicals,” or incomplete oxygen molecules in the body that bond with electrons from other molecules leading to damage. Furthermore, vitamin C is a component of “collagen synthesis,” which is essential for ligament repair and healing from wounds.  Good sources of vitamin C are fruits like oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, and kiwi, as well as some vegetables: broccoli, bell peppers, and brussels sprouts.
• Vitamin D: The basis for the common wisdom you that drinking milk leads to strong bones rests in part with the positive effects that vitamin D has on the body. This vitamin plays a crucial role in your bones’ ability to absorb calcium, which is essential for their strength and ability to heal.  A primary source of this vitamin actually comes from exposure to the sun on the skin; however, season as well as lifestyle may limit time spent in daylight. Foods such as fattier fish like salmon or tuna, alongside dairy products are good sources of vitamin D.
• Zinc: Deficiencies of this mineral are associated with poorer bone health, so ensuring higher levels of intake helps speed up recovery.  How so? Zinc plays a big part in wound and bone healing because, like vitamin C, it’s involved in collagen synthesis. Good sources of zinc are red meats, darker poultry meat, oysters, spinach, chickpeas, and cashews among others. 
Omega 3s are fatty acids commonly found in foods like salmon and tuna (“fatty” fish), tofu, walnuts, canola oil, and flax seeds. What makes them so helpful for recovery? They play a crucial role in reducing inflammation, which helps with pain management , while also serving an instrumental role in bone formation and healing. Patients with diets that emphasize these fatty acids see quicker recovery and less bone loss.
Fiber, as found in leafy greens, other vegetables, and most fruits, help promote healthy digestion. How is this related to recovery from surgery? In most cases, patients will be prescribed pain medicines to manage discomfort following surgery, at least in the early stages. While these are quite effective, many such drugs cause constipation, which a high fiber diet, alongside healthy intake of water, eases. 
Getting Back on Track
It can take a while to get back to complete, pain-free mobility following orthopedic surgery. That said, by ensuring your diet helps rather than hinders this process, you’ll find yourself back on track in less time. Not only that, if you keep up with a good diet even after you’ve fully recovered, you’ll have stronger, more resilient bones and joints over the long term. This means you’ll be less likely to face orthopedic issues down the line. As both prevention and response, there’s nothing like a healthy diet.
If you suffer from conditions of your shoulders, knees, wrists, hips, ankles, or elbows, the team at Onward Orthopedics is ready to help. These experts employ the latest in technologies and minimally invasive techniques to ensure positive outcomes for their patients. Learn more about what they do by calling (800) 577-1693 today!
1. Winslow, S. (2017). 7 Foods to Eat After Having an Orthopedic Surgery. [online] Orthogate. Available at: https://www.orthogate.org/articles/education/7-foods-to-eat-after-having-an-orthopedic-surgery [Accessed 6 Apr. 2018].
2. “8 Foods High In Zinc – What Are Their Benefits?”. 2010. Dr. Group’s Healthy Living Articles. Accessed April 6 2018. https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/foods-high-in-zinc/.
3. Popović NM, et al. 2018. “[Postoperative Use Of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Agents In Orthopedic Surgery]. – Pubmed – NCBI “. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov. Accessed April 6 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20