Often it is challenging to follow the correct diet after surgery or when living with a partial or full gastrectomy. After surgery, it is important not to irritate the post-operative area that may be inflamed or healing. As you begin to heal, there are certain foods that are important to avoid as they may be harder to digest or contribute to uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
Here are some helpful tips to help guide you on how to plan your meals after surgery:
1. Consume small, frequent meals - Try to consume a small portion every 1-3 hours as you are able. Your body is learning how to digest food again and similar to a newborn, it is helpful to eat more frequently and in smaller quantities to allow your body to more easily adapt to digesting after surgery
2. Separate eating and drinking - It is suggested to wait 30-60 minutes after eating solid foods to have a beverage to avoid irritating the post-operative area and prevent nausea
3. Limit foods high in sugar/sugar alcohols and avoid added sugars like sugar, honey, syrup, sorbitol, xylitol - These can affect the movement of food through your digestive system and may cause discomfort.
4. Avoid high fiber foods (>2 grams of dietary fiber per serving) such as whole grain or whole wheat breads, rice, cereals, and pastas - It is also important to avoid raw fruits and vegetables and any fruits and vegetables that are not cooked well. For example, even a stir fry with broccoli can be difficult to digest because often the broccoli and vegetables are still firm and crunchy. Certain foods are tough to digest whether cooked or not and should be avoided – including foods like corn, nuts and seeds.
5. Consume low fiber foods (<2 grams of dietary fiber per serving) such as white breads, rice, pastas, cereals - Consume only well-cooked vegetables that are tender enough to cut with a fork and canned fruits canned in their own juices (not in syrup).
6. Avoid gas-producing foods such as artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green pepper, peas, lentils, beans, onions, apple, apricot, banana, melon, and prunes. - Sugar substitutes can also contribute to gas. If you are sensitive to lactose, choose lactose-free dairy products. Also avoid drinking through a straw, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated beverages as these can also contribute to gas.
7. Avoid meals that are too heavy such as those with dense gravies and sauces, large amounts of cheese, oils and grease - Full fat dairy products, poultry skin, and red meats are also more significant sources of fat.
8. Be sure to eat slowly - Eating to quickly you can contribute easily to digestive discomfort. Small frequent meals are important to promote better digestion and allow your body to handle small amounts of food at a time.
9. Keeping a food diary - Keeping a food diary is very helpful for those who have undergone gastric surgery. It is important to slowly introduce one new food at a time. A food diary may help you to assess your tolerance of a new food or meal and identify those that may be triggering pain, discomfort, or indigestion. Even though the food suggestions above are a guideline, everyone's body may have different sensitivities to various foods, and meals cooked with different oils, spices, etc. Be sure to communicate with your healthcare team if you experience anything unusual. It is also very important to seek the advice of a registered dietitian during this time to ensure that you are able to meet your nutritional requirements for healing.
Some easy food suggestions:
• Sandwiches with a soft, tender lean meat or fish
• Blenderized soups with well-cooked vegetables
• Well-cooked pasta and rice dishes with lean meat or fish and without heavy sauce or gravy
• Egg dishes and breakfast cereals