Post-operative Nutrition Care following Abdominal Surgery

After any abdominal surgery involving the stomach or intestine, the gastro-intestinal function will be affected.  This means the process of food digestion, nutrient absorption or waste removal by passing motion will be disturbed and may stop working for a while.  It may take a few days for the gut to start working again after the surgery so you need to prepare yourself to eat more efficiently.  If you do not eat a balanced diet after surgery, you may become malnourished and your healing process will be affected giving rise to potential complications. 

Click to view AHS Channel video on Eating & Moving after surgery

Common Gastro-Intestinal symptoms after Surgery

1. Altered bowel habit will occur for between a few months after surgery with symptoms such as constipation or diarrhoea.  Your gut will produce a lot of gas and passing wind (farting) is a good sign.  There may be ‘good and bad days’ as the bowel gradually heals to regain normal function.  Other symptoms include;

  • Bloated sensation
  • Excess wind
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bowel obstruction

2. Dehydration may occur because you may not feel like eating or drinking immediately after surgery.  The urine output will be reduced and your urine will look darker.

3. Difficulty to cough after surgery may in retention of phlegm in your lung or throat. 

After your surgery, it is a good idea to have a dietician / nutritionist help your recovery journey to reduce the effects caused by the surgery

Nutrition Principles

  • In the first few days after the surgery, you may want to try blended, pureed or soft diet
  • When you move on to solid foods, try to chew your food slowly and thoroughly because it makes it easier for your body to digest.  As a rule of thumb, chew around 20 times before swallowing
  • Eat meals at regular intervals but more frequently such as 5-6 small meals a day (rather than 3 large meals).  It is easier for your stomach and intestine to digest and absorb the food in smaller quantities
  • Choose foods which are high in nutrients, protein and calories but low in sugar
  • Drink at least 8 cups of fluid every day and this includes liquid foods like soups and yoghurt.  Avoid alcohol, highly sugared or carbonated drinks for the first month
  • If you experience some food sensitivities, avoid it for a while and wait until you are stronger before you try it again
  • Keep a food diary to share with your dietician
Image IndianExpress
Food CategoryFoods allowedFoods to avoid
Meat & ProteinChicken, fish, tender red meat, eggs, tofuSausages with skin, tough part of red meat with tendon or gristle, shell fish, all nuts
VegetablesWell-cooked or canned vegetablesRaw vegetables or fibrous vegetable such as potato with skin or celery and legumes
FruitsBanana, papaya, avocado, canned fruitsDried fruits or sour acidic fruits like pineapple
CerealsLow fibre such as white rice, noodles or pastaGranola, whole grains or cereal with nuts
BreadWhile bread, plain biscuitsWhole grain bread, granola or cereal with nuts
DairyMilk, cheese, yoghurtChocolate with nuts
DrinksClear fluids  like water or teaAlcohol, caffeinated carbonated or highly sugared drinks,

Eating well is important for your body to recover after surgery.  Speak to a dietician to help your journey to recovery

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Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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