Photo: Mackenzie Stroh
Q: I'm scheduled for surgery soon. Are there particular foods I should be eating to boost my immune system and help speed recovery?
— Awele Makeba, Oakland
A: It is possible to tweak your diet to enhance recovery from surgery. Certain amino acids seem to help wounds heal faster, so before—and especially after—surgery, make sure your meals and snacks feature fish, chicken, eggs (especially the whites), brown rice, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds. Some studies suggest that vitamin C and zinc can also help you mend; drinking a glass of orange juice and eating the daily recommended amount of fruit and produce should provide all the C you need, while a fortified breakfast cereal is an easy way to get zinc. If you take a multivitamin, choose one that delivers B12 and iron, both of which aid bone marrow in forming new blood cells. 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. One note: The dosage people took varied, so talk to your doctor about an amount that makes sense for you.
David L. Katz, MD, is director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and president of the nonprofit Turn the Tide Foundation.