Correct nutrition after abdominal surgery

17.04.2017 News

Hirslanden hospitals look after patients before, during and after surgery, and even provide nutrition advice.

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This holistic approach is designed to detect any nutritional deficiencies prior to the operation, so that a personalised plan can be devised to improve the patient’s nutritional health. This helps to reduce possible complications and promotes better healing after the surgery.

Before an operation, it is worth examining the patient’s nutritional status, digestive functioning and to discuss individual measures for improvement. This could include the introduction of snacks, adding supplements to meals or using liquid foods. After the operation, a nutritionist meets with the patient to design a tailored food plan (e.g. low-fibre foods or those rich in energy and protein). The effects are continually monitored and the patient’s diet is altered if necessary. After they are discharged from hospital, the patient should still be able to tolerate food well, maintain a stable bodyweight and enjoy a high quality of life.

Nutrition after pancreatic surgery

The pancreas affects two key bodily functions – the digestion of food and the regulation of blood sugar levels. After the operation, both processes must be monitored and if necessary improved by means of nutritional therapy and/or medication.

If there are not enough digestive enzymes present after the operation, it can cause flatulence, bloating and yellow diarrhoea (fatty stool) (article only available in German and French). These symptoms cause a lot of energy to be lost, which can lead to weight loss. To fully digest their food, patients can take medications such as Creon® or Panzytrat® with their meals. These medications contain digestive enzymes that help to break down the nutrients, so they can be absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream. Eating five to six small meals per day or enriching food with supplements can also help the patient meet their daily energy and protein requirements. Consequently patients are able to maintain their weight. Similarly blood sugar levels are regularly measured during the initial postoperative period and regulated if necessary using medication or nutritional therapy.

Nutrition after colorectal surgery

The surgical removal of part of the colon, or large intestine, can lead to altered bowel movements and possibly also problems such as flatulence. It takes a while for the digestive process to normalise again. If large sections of the colon are missing, this can cause issues such as thin stools, increased frequency of bowel movements, or limited water recovery (i.e. excessive water loss through the stool), which can result in dehydration.

There are no universally applicable rules when it comes to nutrition. However, a person’s food intake can counteract a loss of fluid and have a positive influence on their stool consistency or any other problems they may be experiencing. Their individual tolerance of different foods plays a key role. Certain foods such as some types of vegetable, fresh fruit, salad and wholemeal products can cause bloating and flatulence. People who suffer from such symptoms should avoid those products. In the long term, however, it is possible and indeed advisable for patients to have a varied and balanced diet.