An article from the Human Nutrition, Applied Nutrition Journal and US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reported that individuals/patients on a surgical, a medical, an accident service and an elective orthopedic ward were given foods that reflected a very low daily intake of iron and vitamins as compared to those recommended for healthy adults. When I worked in hospitals and rehabilitation centers in Florida and in California, I noticed that people recovering from major surgery, those battling cancer, patients that were recovering from pneumonia and those in hospital beds for chronic illnesses were given white bread, canned (saturated with sodium) soups and canned (marinated in sugar water) fruits, and Jell-O. I questioned many times to myself and to the dietary staff, as well as hospital/rehabilitation management how people (most of them seniors) were supposed to recuperate when we are feeding them junk food that was essentially “dead”?
I was never given more of an answer except, “these foods are easiest to digest” and “the patients chose them.” After working many years in the healthcare industry, I did discover a spin to the marketing aspect of what management would tell to family members thinking about placing their loved ones in centers or a hospital of their choice. They would use fancier words to dress up regular old dishes. Menus would be written in fancier fonts. And now patients, re-labeled “guests” would have options to what they were given to eat. I had many opportunities to visit the kitchens of hospitals and rehabilitation centers and look at the ingredients of these upgraded foods. Just as I thought, however. Even in the private pay, best of the best centers, most foods were still chock full of hydrogenated oils, trans fats, high fructose syrups, MSG and sodium. Even the simple crackers and jam fruit spreads had these ingredients. Forget even asking for organic and seasonally fresh produce. I found it sad that the most important ingredient in our functional and overall health, nutrition, was still lacking in so many aspects and no one questions it enough to make true change. I later found out that when budgets are cut from hospitals and rehabilitation centers, be it public and insurance accepted or private/self-pay, the dietary department suffers. Prime cuts of meat are no longer available. Margarine will substitute for real butter. Herb and mixed green salads will now be iceberg lettace. Here’s to your health! Eat up.
I am not the only one that feels this way, even though my opinions and experience are voiced in this article. Chef Marcus Guiliano, a “chef on a mission” talks about how unhealthy hospital foods really are. You can access his Youtube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR1plZZpNSw.
According to an article published in the Journal of American Dietitic Association (1990), three characteristics best determined the satisfaction of the hospital/rehabilitation consumer/patient when it came to food: taste, temperature of the food at time of consumption and presentation. There is very little regarding the nutrition of the food and how certain foods will aid in body recovery. Is food nutrition not elementary enough for people to realize that we are exactly what we eat, and that eating processed white foods with corn syrup and Trans fats will not optimize the wellbeing of the not-so-well.
Though many resources suggest eating whole foods, whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables and lean, high quality animal protein (which I disagree with) and drink clear liquids following surgery and cancer surgery recovery, most of these resources fail to mention the supplements to such “clean” eating. The following are my suggestions for people in the hospital and recovering from most types of illness or hospital procedure that does not involve feeding tubes and stomach shrinking of re-routing. Certainly there are innumerable types of medical procedures that one could have experienced, so to be meticulous and name them all would be difficult. Take this list as a general guideline and get the flavor and gist of what I am suggesting. While this list is not for everyone (every person should analyze and know their own tolerance, allergies, and list of current medications), following this list will aid in the body to best recover and get people on their feet again, feeling strong and whole.
Many nutritionists agree that certain amino acids seem to help wounds heal faster, and will suggest —especially after surgery, meals and snacks that include lean animal meats and proteins such as fish, chicken, eggs (especially the whites), and other great foods such as brown rice, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds. I suggest more, if not all plant based recovery foods, including blue green algae and sea vegetables. Studies suggest that vitamin C and zinc can also help you mend; drinking emergenc-c powder is a great and delicious way for our bodies to absorb the vitamin c. Stay away from commercial orange juice as your form of vitamin c. Eat the daily recommended amount of fruit and produce (5-7) per day, especially kiwi, and the assorted berries, plus don’t forget about those dark leafy greens chock full of vitamin c. As a last resort, many of the fortified breakfast cereal will contain vitamins, too (so read the lables). I suggest a trusted brand of a daily multivitamin (such as Usana, LifeExtension and Premiere Labs), but choose one that delivers B12 and iron, both of which aid bone marrow in forming new blood cells and take a Vitamin D3 tablet. I suggest taking a daily dose of 2000 mcg vitamin K (blood and bone builder) and black cumin seed oil—500mg. Finally, consider supplements of one amino acid in particular: glutamine. A Harvard Medical School review of research on glutamine indicates that people who got the amino acid intravenously after surgery spent, on average, four fewer days in the hospital. Dosages on these supplements will vary depending on your health needs. Seek out your nutritional health professional for proper intake.
There are also some nutrients that have been recommended for a speedy recovery after surgery. These include Omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish like tuna, salmon and mackerel) and avocados, Omega-6 (hemp seed products, chia seeds and flax seeds), L-arginine (found in dairy products, meat, poultry and fish, as well as nuts, rice, whole-wheat, soy and raisins), L-glutamine (found in meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables), branched chain amino acids (found in meat, whey protein, egg protein and other dairy products), and nucleotides (found in organ meats such as liver and kidney, legumes and seafood). These nutrients have been found to boost the immune system, and allow for a faster recovery (Source: Oprah.com). Include a pure protein drink (iso pure is a great choice).
Here are additional tips to help with the nutritional process of healing well after your stay at the hospital or rehabilitation center:
Aside from what type of foods you are consuming during your recovery, pay attention to your food consumption by eating smaller meals. Your body needs the extra energy to heal, not expel energy digesting bid meals. Try to stay away from heavy animal protein focused meals, as well. Animal protein is difficult to digest and causes inflammation, slowing down the healing process. At most, following surgery, drink clear organic, low sodium chicken or beef broth (Vietnamese pho broth is a good example).
Add iron and mineral rich foods to your daily diet, which will assist in blood and immunity building. Examples include: green juicing green vegetables as a smoothie (kale, cucumber, parsley, spinach, mustard greens, celery lemon), spinach, blue green algae, black strap molasses, cherries, walnuts, pine nuts, red dates, sea weed, sea vegetables, black eyed peas, asparagus and chestnuts.
If you have had antibiotics in your system or are currently taking antibiotics, take a daily dose of acidophilus (probiotics), as this will help build a strong and flourishing intentional gut. Antibiotics tend to destroy the digestive and intestinal gut, and people who have had surgery tend to suffer from frequent yeast infections and have digestive problems.
Get regular sessions of acupuncture and massage. Research has shown that patients that have acupuncture and massage report less pain, more relaxation and faster healing. Try meditation and restorative yoga (once you are cleared by your medical professional to begin body moving and gentle exercise). Take it easy and ease back into your daily routine. Don’t hesitate to ask for health and change your mind set to an optimistic and healing one. Your mind is a very strong tool that can help you heal. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!
(Additional Sources: Get Living.CA)