Jennifer Irvine is a food health writer and entrepreneur who founded The Pure Package for London-wide meal deliveries in 2003. In January 2013 she successfully launched The Pure Package’s sibling, Balance Box, developing her business into a UK-wide venture. Follow her on Instagram: @thepurepackage
The importance of preparing your patients for surgery might be comparable to getting athletes ready for a major sports event. The maxim is that if you fail to prepare, then you’re preparing to fail, and that’s as true for aesthetic procedures as with everything else. Making sure your patients are in optimal health before a surgery or invasive treatment can help deliver the optimal outcome. Patients are advised as standard practice to avoid substances such as alcohol or nicotine and are often encouraged to include vitamin supplementation before surgical procedures, but how heavily does nutrition feature in your pre- and post-operative patient plan?
The impact of nutritional status on surgical outcomes is well recognised, and as studies have shown that even those very last few meals might make a difference to recovery after surgery1 , most aesthetic providers are advising patients to adopt a proper diet plan before and after surgery to ensure the best results. So, what foods are best to eat before and after a cosmetic procedure, and when should one advise patients to start to make these changes?
FOODS TO RECOMMEND BEFORE SURGERY
As surgeries are typically scheduled weeks or months in advance, the time between scheduling and prior to surgery is the ideal time to advise patients to increase their intake of foods that have the nutrients the body needs for recovery. Foods rich in protein and healthy fats will aid new blood cell creation and collagen. Protein is also vital for a strong immune system. Free radicals appear as a natural response to stress (such as surgery) and can cause tissue damage and slow the healing process, so a variety of fruits and vegetables, including plenty of green leafy vegetables, will benefit an individual’s ability to fight free radicals.
Equally important as what patients do eat in the lead up to a cosmetic procedure is what they don’t. Patients should avoid consuming high doses of omega-3s because they can thin the blood, and foods high in sodium should also be avoided.
• Unprocessed carbohydrates like sweet potatoes: Healthy, unrefined carbohydrates are an essential part of a balanced diet. They are the body’s preferred source of energy, and some are surprised to learn they often come in the form of vegetables. Sweet potatoes can not only provide the energy required to heal, but also have an abundance of healing enzymes, vitamins and minerals including carotenoids that may enhance immune response.
• Lean protein like chicken or turkey: Poultry such as chicken and turkey are considered lean sources of protein. Their meat is low in fat but high in quality protein, providing amino acids which are the building blocks for repair. Glutamine and arginine are present in both chicken and turkey; these are amino acids that aid in recovery and wound healing.
• Plant-based fats including plenty of nuts and seeds: Both nuts and seeds provide a wealth of plant protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, all of which support healing.
As well as being an invaluable energy source, they help the body to absorb nutrients from other foods we consume. Nuts, particularly almonds, are high in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant in the body, protecting against cellular damage and helping to minimise scaring. Vitamin E also improves production of protective immune cells to help fight off any infection.
• Shellfish: Shellfish like mussels, prawns, and clams are rich in the mineral zinc, which is important for optimal immune function, needed to protect against any risk of infection.
•A wide variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
FOODS TO RECOMMEND AFTER SURGERY
Post-operative nutrition is of equal, if not more, importance than eating right before the big day. Many aesthetic providers advise their patients to schedule food deliveries when they return home after surgery so as to encourage the patient to rest. This also allows the patient to pre-plan their meals. Patients will understandably crave comfort food, but most of all they will desire convenience. With my clients, we pre-plan personally tailored meals in advance of their surgery so that the meals can be delivered from the moment they return home.
After the body experiences trauma, adequate nutrition helps it heal and recuperate. Since vitamins and supplements are generally frowned upon in the weeks following surgery for medical reasons, properly fueling the body with food is more important than ever.
• Green leafy vegetables: Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and cabbage are brimming with vitamins, minerals and fibre. Fibre is essential, particularly for those recovering from a treatment involving anesthetics, as the digestive system can be caused to slow right down as a result. Fibre is known to help to keep things moving and can prevent constipation in patients that have been treated with anesthetic.
• Berries: Berries are rich in phytonutrients; plant compounds which will help support patients’ recovery. They are particularly high in antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which give berries their characteristic bright colours. Anthocyanins are thought to promote anti-inflammatory and antiviral benefits. Berries are rich in vitamin C, essential for stimulating the production of collagen, the protein most involved in wound healing. This can help speed up the healing of any scars following a treatment. Blueberries and blackberries are considered to be the highest in antioxidants.
• Omega-3-rich foods like salmon: Salmon is packed with protein and essential omega-3 fats. “Essential” means that these fats cannot be synthesised by our bodies and must be obtained through diet. These omega-3s are particularly beneficial for reducing inflammation, as well as promoting wound healing and enhancing immune response. However, salmon and other sources of omega-3 fats (other oily fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds), should be reserved for post-treatment rather than before, as high doses of omega-3s can thin the blood, as previously mentioned.
• Eggs: When required to heal, the body needs significantly more protein than usual. Eggs are a great source of easily-absorbed protein (providing on average 6g protein per large egg). They also contain a variety of nutrients that support wound healing and immune health, including vitamins A and B12, iron, zinc and selenium. They are a versatile ingredient and can be prepared ahead of time for maximum convenience during recovery.
• Probiotic and prebiotic foods: Some treatments may require a course of antibiotics which can wreak havoc on the gut. Having patients add a probiotic-rich yoghurt to their daily routine can help to restore balance to the digestive system. Advise them to look out for yoghurts with added live and active cultures; the healthy bacteria can help boost the immune system and fight off infections. Other probiotic-rich foods include kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. Prebiotics such as garlic and onion will also help to boost immunity – an important part of healing. Antiinflammatory spices such as turmeric can also be helpful.
• Water: Staying hydrated is essential for optimal health at all times, however its importance becomes even more prominent when the body is fighting to recover. Plenty of water is required to counteract any slowing of digestion or bloating as a result of anaesthesia. Hydration is essential for optimal wound healing and care.
All this being said, the most important diet for a patient is the one they can stick to. Between the initial consultation, booking, treatment and recovery stages, many patients can feel overwhelmed, with food and dietary choices being the last thing on their mind, so mealdelivery services can be a real saving grace for many. By taking away the stress of planning, buying, preparing and cooking every meal, services like The Pure Package take care of everything. Patients can rest assured that they are receiving nutritionally-balanced meals tailored to their individual needs – maintaining vital nutrients needn’t be one more thing to worry about. Patients can get the most from their treatments and optimise their results with a commitment to their nutrition and overall health.
The Pure Package offers people the opportunity to consult with a trained nutritionist and devise a plan that is tailored to their needs, depending on their surgery. Whether they are looking to prioritise protein and collagen levels to optimise recovery and wound healing, lose weight ahead of a surgery, or boost their immunity to protect from any potential infection, The Pure Package has a suitable plan. Knowing that their diet is in tip-top condition will give patients the confidence they need before heading into a new procedure. And, with rest and recuperation being the key to a successful recovery, The Pure Package gives clients the opportunity to do this by delivering prepared nutritious and balanced meals each day, directly to their door.
1. ScienceDaily. (n.d.). What you eat before surgery may affect your recovery. https://www. sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130321111015. htm