Patients often ask me if there is something that they can do to speed up healing after surgery. Although there is no magic bullet when it comes to recovery after surgery or a sports injury, there are certain types of foods that may aid in the recovery process. It is a good idea to focus on whole foods as much as possible and to avoid processed foods, as they will contain the highest levels vitamins or amino acids your body will need for a speedy recovery. Amino acids appear to help wounds heal faster. These can be found in foods such as chicken, egg whites, fish, brown rice, healthy nuts like walnuts and almonds or sunflower seeds.
Some studies also indicate that boosting Vitamin C in your diet as well as increasing your zinc level can be helpful. Strawberries are not only tasty but full of vitamin C. Strawberries have the added benefit of being high in fiber and full of antioxidants. Most citrus fruits are also great sources of vitamin C, which you can get by drinking orange juice or eating an orange or grapefruit. When available, papayas are another great way to maximize your vitamin C intake. By putting some papaya in your morning smoothie or protein shake, you will get 100% of your daily requirements of this vitamin.
Eating a fortified breakfast cereal is a good way to get zinc in your diet, but you can also find it in foods like oysters, which have one the highest zinc levels found in any food. Taking a zinc supplement is another option, but you don’t normally want to take it excessively as it can disrupt the absorption of copper and iron. Check with your doctor if you plan to take a supplement to aid wound healing. For healthy individuals 15mg of zinc daily is the recommended amount
The other amino acid that has been shown to speed wound healing is glutamine. In study out of Harvard, glutamine was shown to shorten wound healing by about four days. Foods rich in glutamine include; beef, chicken and all types of fish. Animal based dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs contain glutamine with ricotta and cottage cheese being two of the best sources. If you’re a vegetarian, you can get glutamine in beans and and lentils. Glutamine may also be taken as a supplement, but it is important to check with your own doctor to find the level that is right for you. Following a healthy diet filled with lean fish and meat, fresh fruits and vegetables should have you back in the game quickly.
For more information about reducing recovery time after surgery or to schedule a consultation, please call Grand Rapids Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Steven Ringler at 616.328.8800