A Diet After Surgery: Evidence-Based or Just a Lot of Hype?

The majority of people who have had surgery can agree that following the protocol laid out by their surgeon was both challenging and sometimes even painful. But despite the inconveniences that the post-surgery diet may have caused, many people quickly adopted a new lifestyle that benefited their health in many ways. In the weeks and months after surgery, the majority of people were eager to get back to eating how they wanted, which often meant a dramatic shift in their diet. While this may result in weight loss, it doesn’t come without risks.

To ensure that people’s health interests are met without risking excessive weight loss, surgeons must examine the evidence behind the popular fad diets after surgery and determine if these diets are, in fact, safe and effective in aiding patients’ recoveries. Let’s examine the evidence behind a ‘diet after surgery’, shall we?

The Mediterranean Diet

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and herbs is considered to be healthy as it contains nutrients that enable our bodies to function properly. It also encourages normal blood circulation and reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. As such, the Mediterranean diet has been adopted by many health authorities around the world for its proven health benefits. The majority of people who have had knee, hip, or other forms of osteoarthritis were advised to follow this diet after surgery to reduce their pain and get back in shape. There is also evidence that it may reduce the risk of some types of cancer. Due to its reputation for health, the Mediterranean diet has become very popular amongst people who have had knee, hip, and other forms of orthopedic surgery.

The Atkins Diet

Also known as the ‘Artificial Diet’, the Atkins Diet was developed in the 1940s and was originally intended for those with diabetes. It has since then gained popularity amongst people who want to lose weight as it enables them to limit their intake of carbohydrates, thus leading to a weight loss. As the name would suggest, the Atkins Diet emphasizes protein over carbohydrates and fats, and minimizes the use of processed foods. The high protein content of the diet may also help people who have had knee, hip, or other forms of orthopedic surgery. Due to the fact that it promotes a rapid weight loss, the Atkins Diet has also become a popular choice amongst those who have had surgery.

The Raw Food Diet

Derived from the theory of food combining, the raw food diet excludes all processed foods and promotes the intake of only whole natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It may be a better choice for those who want to follow a plant-based diet as it does away with the use of dairy products, which are often a source of fat and cholesterol. While this type of diet has been around for centuries, it saw a dramatic rise in popularity in the 1970s when patients with heart disease found that it helped them to lower their cholesterol levels.

The Vegetarian Diet

People who have had knee, hip, or other forms of orthopedic surgery may also choose a vegetarian diet because of its health benefits. In addition to helping reduce cholesterol, the vegetarian diet restricts the intake of meats, which are high in saturated fats. This limits the amount of fat that is stored in the body, as well as offering some protection against heart disease and certain types of cancer. There is also some evidence to suggest that a vegetarian diet may ease the recovery process after surgery.

Fad Diets

While the majority of people who have had knee, hip, or other forms of orthopedic surgery may follow one of the abovementioned diets, there is also a category of patients that favors fad diets over evidence-based medicine. While the effectiveness of these diets in aiding recovery is unproven and may even be harmful in some cases, their popularity amongst this group cannot be denied. To quote from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), “If a surgeon says it’s good for you, it must be good for you”. These diets emphasize the inclusion of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and avoid processed foods as much as possible. As a result, they often include high amounts of sugar, providing a short-term burst of energy but also increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

All of the abovementioned diets have helped many people to lose weight and improve their health, but it’s not always easy to determine which one is the best. One thing that surgeons must consider when advising patients on post-op diets is which one is the most suitable for their individual circumstances. For example, older people or those who already have a high BMI may need to avoid high-protein diets as it may result in increased blood pressure. Those who are already following a vegetarian diet may find that the Mediterranean diet provides the best balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and so on. The choice of diet is often a matter of personal preference and medical advice must be tailored to fit the individual needs of the patient.