When we speak of “diets” in the United States, we generally do so in the context of losing weight or improving certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. Most of us have heard or read that a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, with moderate amounts of lean proteins and whole grains, is generally better for overall health than, say, a diet consisting of processed foods and sugar. Did you know though, that your diet, specifically what you eat before and after surgery, may help you recover faster, and experience a better overall outcome?

A 2014 article written by Dr. Levi Harrison, a prominent orthopaedic surgeon in Southern California, suggests that the Paleo Diet, consisting chiefly of lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and excluding dairy, grain products and processed food, may aid patients in faster healing after surgery:

It has been astoundingly clear that the patients who follow the Paleo Diet suggestions, do better post-operatively than the conventional eating patients whose diets are filled with sugar, salt, and highly processed, refined foods that do not have substantial nutritional value and minimal EPA and DHA. After observing the correlation between the use of the Paleo Diet and efficient recovery times in operative patients, it has become clear that the Paleo Diet yields excellent postoperative healing benefits. More high-powered double-blind studies may provide further illumination of this apparent truth about the life-enhancing virtue of the Paleo Diet.

The Paleo Diet, which is superior in nutritional value to many restrictive standard diets, provides a patient with appropriate vitamin, mineral, Omega-3 and antioxidant profiles. This is critical for healing due to the post-operative decrease in gut motility, potential increases in leaky gut syndrome, insomnia (poor sleep patterns) and stress from any surgical procedure. The body needs proper and abundant antioxidants and phytonutrients to support expeditious healing post-operatively and to assist with returning to appropriate circadian rhythms and hormonal balance.

Dr. Harrison goes on to say:

The Paleo Diet has a profound effect on minimizing metabolic derangement, which can be fairly common after many surgical procedures. The body is forever in a battle to decrease inflammation globally when we are well. This battle intensifies post-operatively with the body trying to regain a homeostatic balance nutritionally. It is clear that the Paleo Diet can have a profound effect on minimizing the war between elevated levels of insulin, cortisol, glucagon, thyroxin and human growth hormone. The Paleo Diet allows the body to have an equitable balance without the deleterious effects of high and low hormonal crescendos, which can affect post-operative healing, appetite, sleep patterns, intestinal motility and gastric permeability.

At Sebastopol Orthopaedics, we believe there is a link between a patient’s diet and their ability to heal more quickly. Because of this, we often discuss diet choices with patients, especially if they are considering surgery. That said, because significant changes to a patient’s diet may affect other medical conditions or medications being taken, it’s important to review those changes with a primary care physician before making the change. If you’re considering surgery or simply have questions about the link between your diet and your orthopaedic health, please contact our office to schedule an appointment for nutritional counseling.