Nutrition after Abdominal Surgery

Healthy food immune boosting selection.
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Nutrition is an important part of recovering from any surgery. However, the effects of surgery and anesthesia may cause you to experience some nausea or a decreased appetite for the first few days of your recovery after surgery.

You may pick and choose from the “regular” or “low residue/fiber” diets (whichever your surgeon has assigned you), but we recommend that you start slow and choose foods that are bland and easy to digest.

Only eat if you are feeling hungry. Tell your care team if you are nauseous or have been vomiting. While in the hospital, you may order whatever food sounds appealing and then slowly advance your diet to what you would normally eat over the next few weeks.

It is important to know that forcing yourself to eat will not stimulate your first post-surgical bowel movement. Instead, eating when you don’t feel hungry often backfires and causes nausea. Your bowels will “wake up” when they are ready, so the most important thing to do is listen to your body and be patient.

Below is a list of tips for your recovery period:
  • Avoid carbonated beverages, or let the bubbles go flat before drinking.
  • Avoid foods that may cause indigestion, like tomato sauces and chili, or dairy products (for some people).
  • Avoid high-fiber foods that may be harder to digest, such as raw vegetables or salad greens.
  • Avoid spicy, greasy or fried foods.
  • Drink plenty of fluids – especially water – six to eight glasses per day.
  • Eat four to six small meals throughout the day rather than three larger meals.
  • Make sure to chew your food very well and take small bites.
Examples of bland food choices include:
  • Applesauce
  • Bagel
  • Baked potato
  • Cereal
  • Chicken breast
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Crackers
  • Cream of wheat
  • Jell-o
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Milkshake
  • Oatmeal
  • Plain pasta
  • Popsicles
  • Pudding
  • Rice
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Soups or broths
  • Toast or English muffin
  • Yogurt