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Abdominal surgery two weeks ago: nutritional questions

By Anonymous July 23, 2009 - 10:33am
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Two weeks ago I had emergency surgery to correct an unusual type of bowel obstruction (cecal volvulus). An appendectomy was performed as part of the correction and one of my ovaries was removed with a large benign tumor (an "incidental find"). The surgery was done by enlarging a previous vertical opening in my abdomen (extensive hernia repair less than two years ago). I was slightly anemic before this surgery, and had struggled with anemia following the previous surgery. My question is about nutrition in general in these kinds of situations: aside from the iron supplements I obviously need, what about increased protein requirements for healing? How long will I have increased need for protein? What other kinds of nutritional considerations are there? Any other healing advise?

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HERWriter Guide

Hi Anon!

Some people take longer to recover than others.

I had an emergency appendectomy last year (I am in good shape and work out) and it took over a month for me to get back to normal. It took well over two weeks for my belly to deflate (they had to pump air into me for the surgery).

As long as you have no underlying medical complications from the surgery then time is all you need, along with your healthy diet - Alison gave you some great nutritional tips that will help.

I know it takes time - it took me twice as long to recover from my appendectomy than it did my c-sections, which really surprised me.

As long as you are eating a varied diet (it sounds like well balanced small meals are best for you) then give yourself another week or two before seeing someone about it. Here are some additional tips for finding iron rich foods : http://www.empowher.com/news/herarticle/2009/04/19/iron-rich-food-sources-improve-your-iron-markers

I hope it helps. And please feel free to call your doctor if you feel unwell or feel like your recovery has stalled.

August 8, 2009 - 11:29am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for these ideas and thoughts. It is now more than a month post-surgery, and some of my questions remain. I find that physicians and nurses don't have much to say about the nutrition question. I am surprised that I am still somewhat weak (blood tests ruled out current anemia, or rather, it's borderline), and can't seem to get enough to eat. I've regained maybe 5 of over 15 pounds lost (I was a bit thin to begin with) and can't eat a lot at any one time. So it's a constant challenge to figure out if I am getting enough to eat, and getting the right food in. Even though I am inching my way back to daily life (emphasis on "inching"), I sense that it's a long haul toward full strength and stamina after major surgery. Any other thoughts/ideas appreciated!

August 8, 2009 - 10:53am
(reply to Anonymous)

You are right that doctors don't seem to have much to say about nutrition questions; many of us have found this to be the case as well!

My only other suggestion would be to see a Registered Dietitian (RD), and I would assume that there are a few RD's associated with your hospital and/or doctor's office. Can your physician provide a referral for you? Now that we are talking about it, it makes perfect sense for an RD to be a part of your team of experts helping you through the recovery process---maybe all you have to do is ask? And, if you are not given a good recommendation, you can tell us what location you live in, and we can try to find a recommendation from our community of women for you!

August 9, 2009 - 5:48am

- There is also some research that supports the theory, "laughter is the best medicine!", and make sure you are able to enjoy some laughs with family & friends, watch a comedy, or read an enjoyable book.
- Surrounding yourself with things you love, that engage all of your senses (smell, touch, sight, sounds, taste), can be helpful, too. These can be flowers, aromatherapy, music, desktop waterfall.
- Social support is also crucial, as having family & friends can provide you with another patient advocate, a sounding-board, healthy meals, and great conversation.

July 23, 2009 - 1:18pm

This is an important question for you to ask your referring doctor, nurses or surgeon. They will want to provide you with the best nutritional and diet recommendations, based on your specific condition, recovery and current healing process.

When you do you return to the doctor for a post-surgical exam?

How are you feeling?
If you are not experiencing any complications (including pain), but would like to know in more general terms how to promote healing, here are some helpful tips. Please know that you will need the approval of your doctor(s) before adding any herbs or supplements to your diet, as well as before adding any movement exercises:
- Eat nutrient-rich, high-antioxidant, anti-inflammatory foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds to help your body deal with the stresses of surgery
- Practice relaxation techniques: guided imagery, deep breathing, meditation
- When feeling better, add some movement techniques that promote relaxation: gentle yoga, tai chi
- With the approval of your doctors, some people find acupressure, acupuncture or massage beneficial to the healing process

July 23, 2009 - 1:13pm
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