After hernia surgery, your body needs to heal. You can support this process naturally by following a healthy diet and your doctor’s protocol for a speedy recovery. Your physician or surgeon will provide a complete list of guidelines to follow after your surgery, which will likely include dietary restrictions. Here are some of the common recommendations for what to eat after hernia surgery.
The Importance of Knowing What To Eat After Hernia Surgery
Hernia surgery involves anesthesia, which typically requires an individual to fast before the operation. Sedation medication can often cause feelings of discomfort, which is one reason why there are dietary restrictions before as well as following the procedure.
During the surgery itself, part of the stomach gets loosely wrapped around the lower part of the esophagus. It should not constrict the esophagus, but it does cause some swelling. It’s natural for the swelling to last for several weeks after the surgery, possibly causing food to get stuck. Following the dietary guidelines is for both your safety and your comfort while healing.
The Timeline of What To Eat
Your healing process will take several weeks. As you get stronger, the guidelines for what to eat and what not to eat after hernia surgery will change. The first few hours are the most restrictive, while the ability to incorporate more foods and return to a regular diet comes around six weeks after your surgery. The location of your hernia and the extent of the repair also influence what you can eat and how soon after surgery.
12 to 24 Hours Following Surgery
For the first 12 to 24 hours after your surgery, your surgeon is likely to restrict your diet to nothing but clear liquids. This is often the case when the surgery involves your intestines. Being on a liquid diet supports the body as it recovers from anesthesia, as many patients experience vomiting and nausea. Solid foods tend to aggravate the nausea. Liquids also keep too much pressure from building up on the intestines and abdomen right after the repair.
Clear liquids include things like broth and non-acidic juices. Water, apple juice and tea are acceptable as clear liquids. While they don’t have much nutrition, they help prevent dehydration during this time.
Once the effects of the anesthesia wear off, you should be able to tolerate more than clear liquids. Your diet may start to include soft foods like squash. Your abdomen and intestines will still be sensitive to too much pressure in these first few days, though, so eat or drink foods in small amounts. Avoid gulps or bites that could cause indigestion or gas.
Choose clear foods and liquids that don’t have a lot of colored dyes or contain a lot of pulp. Some of the better choices to eat during this stage include:
- Pureed foods
- Creamed vegetables
- Plain or vanilla yogurt
- Sherbet, sorbet or vanilla ice cream
- Vanilla pudding
While your normal routine may involve three meals a day, remember to eat only small amounts for this first week. This means eating more frequently throughout the day.
You should still avoid any heavy, hard-to-digest food during this week, even if it’s soft. You should also avoid caffeinated coffee and tea at this point. Decaffeinated coffee or herbal teas are a better option.
Weeks Two and Three
You can start to change what to eat after hernia surgery once you’ve made it past the first week of recovery. Move on to sloppy foods, or foods that are moist and easily broken down into small pieces with a fork. Typically, you can safely handle pureed foods, smooth soups and cereals softened in milk. As for what not to eat after hernia surgery in the second and third weeks, don’t consume any crackers, bread products, chunky meats, dry meals or biscuits.
The use of painkillers and the lack of physical activity during your recovery can lead to constipation. In addition to staying hydrated, choose soft foods that are high in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Weeks Four and Five
If your recovery is progressing and able to tolerate more foods, you can move on to eating soft foods in week four. Start to add in cooked rice, well-cooked pasta, steamed vegetables, flaked fish and minced meat. You should still be careful about consuming foods that are acidic or spicy or have the potential to aggravate the intestines.
Select foods that have a high water content in addition to high fiber. Choose brown rice or whole wheat pasta. Zucchini, eggplant and green beans are good vegetable choices. Breakfast items can include oatmeal, bananas and eggs.
By the sixth week, your body should be to healing to the point where you can return to a normal diet. However, only do so on the advice of your doctor and if your body has successfully handled the other transitions or additions to your diet. Bread and chicken shouldn’t be included until this point, since these have a higher tendency to get stuck in the esophagus and intestines.
The Best Foods To Avoid Complications
As well as helping the healing process by knowing what to eat after hernia surgery, you can avoid complications by knowing what not to eat after hernia surgery.
Stay away from foods that are highly acidic or harsh on the digestive tract. Avoid red meats, chocolate, caffeine, fried foods, spicy foods and orange juice. Also skip carbonated beverages and tomato-based products, especially if your surgery addresses anti-reflux or GERD. While you can consume dairy, do so in moderation and only if your body can handle it. Some cheese and products can lead to constipation, and straining the bowels can hurt your recovery.
Improve Your Recovery by Knowing What To Eat After Hernia Surgery
Keeping in mind what to eat after hernia surgery as well as what not to eat will help your body recover. Your diet fuels the body’s repair and healing process, and it can also avoid certain complications that aggravate your recovery. For more information on hernia surgery procedures and what to expect, contact the team at Arizona Premier Surgery.