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What Foods Are Good After Knee Replacement?

By Saksham Bhatia +2 more

Knee arthroplasty or knee replacement surgery is undertaken to relieve the pain in the knee and restore the normal functioning of the knee joint that is severely affected by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, injury or other reasons. The procedure involves the replacement of damaged cartilage and bone from the thighbone, shinbone and kneecap. These are then replaced with a prosthetic implant or artificial joint constructed of high-grade plastics, polymers and metal alloy. 


An orthopaedic surgeon advises knee replacement surgery only after a thorough assessment of the strength, stability and range of motion of the knee through X-rays and other forms of diagnostic investigations. The surgical procedure takes about two hours and complete recovery happens in approximately 4-6 weeks.

Food guide to promoting healing after surgery

After surgery, the focus is on healing and recovery and diet plays an important role in this process. Foods that help regain strength and aid the recovery process are obvious choices. A dietician will usually provide you with a recommended diet plan to be followed during the recovery period once you are discharged after your knee arthroplasty. The dietician will consider your specific nutritional requirements based on your age, gender, build and your medical history while finalising your diet plan. In general, post-surgery foods need to be loaded with proteins, minerals, vitamins, calories and fluids.

An important thing to keep in mind is that healing is a complex process that requires calories to provide energy, protein to build and repair the body and tissues and vitamins to repair and rebuild the damaged tissues. So make sure your diet involves a balanced diet encompassing these three components.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Foods that aid healing and recovery after knee replacement

  1. Calcium-rich foods – Apart from being a critical requirement for strong bones, calcium plays an important role in helping blood vessels move blood. Calcium is also a good regulator of heart rhythm and nerve functions while helping in muscle contraction. Greater blood flow and effortless contractions of muscles are crucial for your recovery. Milk is a good, widely available source of calcium. Curd or yoghurt, soya milk and soya products like tofu, calcium-enriched juices and cereals and green leafy vegetables are good sources of calcium.
  1. Food rich in iron – Seafood, nuts and seeds, fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, beetroot and pomegranate are rich in iron content Iron is a major component of haemoglobin, the Protein in red blood cells that act as carriers of oxygen to all parts of your entire body, including the knees.
  1. Vegetables, especially the ones rich in fibre – Vegetables are the best natural source of vitamins and minerals. High-fibre vegetables stave off constipation keeping your bowel movement regular. The reason why you should be wary of constipation after your knee replacement is that sitting on the toilet for long stretches of time can exert too much stress on the knees and slow down healing.

So, go for bell peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables like spinach, mustard leaves (if in season), methi leaves (if in season) etc., water spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumber and green peas and give yourself the required nutrients by way of vitamins and minerals.

  1. Fruits – Fruits are an important source of vitamin C and other antioxidants essential for rebuilding collagen and soft tissues to aid wound recovery. Collagen supports and strengthens your soft tissues, connecting muscles and bones- and hence vital for your recovering knee. Berries oranges, kiwi, papaya, guava and lemon are rich sources of vitamin C. Bananas, apples, pears and melons are packed with nutrients and fibre. 
  1. Protein – Chicken, fish, cottage cheese, soybeans, yoghurt, beans, lentils, peanut butter and low-fat milk are sources of Protein. Protein is essential for muscle strength, tissue repair and building. Try avoiding animal meat because that comes with unhealthy fats, which contribute to obesity, putting stress on your digestive system and often leading to constipation. 
  1. Healthy fats – Omega 3 fatty acids are a good source of energy and after your knee replacement surgery (after any surgery in general), make it a point to include an adequate amount of healthy fat in your diet. These fats are good for joints and your overall health. Healthy fats are those with lower saturated fat content and a higher level of unsaturated fat in them. Olive oil and nuts, like walnuts, almonds and flaxseeds, are sources of omega-3 fatty acids. 
  1. Whole grains – Oatmeal, cereals, wholemeal/whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat noodles/pasta etc. provide your body with the carbohydrates to keep you energised so that you don’t find yourself drained and unwilling to resume your normal activities and exercise after your surgery. These whole grains being rich in nutrients and fibre, provide important nutrition that supports post-surgical wound healing while simultaneously helping prevent constipation. 
  1. Fluids and water – Post-surgery recovery requires plenty of hydration to expedite the healing process. Therefore, keeping your body well-hydrated after an operation is essential. Every cell in your body requires hydration to maintain its normal function. Water is also a necessity for smooth digestive function. Consume water, soup, milk, buttermilk, fruit or vegetable juice and fortified soya beverages throughout the day at regular intervals. 
  1. Nominal spices – Avoid any excess spicy, acidic powders, as these interfere with your bowel movement. Add just that little quantum so as to bring a light taste to your food and remove blandness.

Foods to avoid after knee replacement surgery

  • Large meals – Large, elaborate and heavy meals are best avoided through the recovery period. Consume adequate potions of easy-to-digest meals at frequent intervals. They tend to slow down the digestive system and make a person lethargic. Post-knee surgery, a person needs to exercise and use the new knee to get accustomed to it. 
  • High-acidic foods – High-acidity foods like citrus dips, pickles, vinegar etc., are ill-advised following knee arthroscopy because they may trigger digestive issues, something to avoid because you should not spend too much time on the toilet seat.
  • Sugary foods – Cakes, cookies, chocolate, sweetened drinks, soft drinks and any other food with high content of refined sugar are not to be consumed after surgery. This also helps in keeping rising blood sugar levels and body weight managed. 
  • Alcoholic beverages – Alcohol is likely to interact with prescribed pain medications, reducing the potency of the medicine. Alcohol also causes dehydration and adversely affects the process of wound healing.
  • Processed food – Processed food like fast food, chips and fries contain high levels of sodium, sugar, fat and preservatives. In turn, they are low in nutrients, fibre, vitamins and minerals. These have an adverse impact on the digestive system and often impair the healing and recovery after surgery.
  • Cook healthy – Sauté, steam, boil or bake your food rather than deep frying. This controls the intake of fat and is also good for digestion. 

One of the important factors that play a role in healing post-surgery is immunity. Make sure you involve foods in your diet that boost your immunity and reduce your risk of infectious disease. Zinc is a mineral associated with boosting the immune system. Zinc also plays a crucial role in tissue healing. Some sources of zinc include red meat, shellfish, eggs, milk and dairy products.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Try these two easy foods at home

Carrot soup 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 kg of carrots, peeled and cut up. 
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth. 
  • One medium size onion, chopped. 
  • One bay leaf. 
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric.
  • ¼;
  • Two tablespoons honey. 
  • Two tablespoons of light coconut milk.

Process:

  • Place carrots, broth, onion, bay leaf, allspice and turmeric in a large soup pot. Add water
  • Bring to a boil. 
  • Thereafter, reduce heat and cover and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes until the carrots are tender. 
  • Remove the bay leaf.
  • Puree soup in a blender in batches until smooth. 
  • Return pureed soup to pot and stir in honey. 
  • Serve the soup topped with a spoonful of coconut milk swirled in.

Chicken salad

Ingredients

  • One chicken breast, boiled
  • Two tablespoons of plain yoghurt or curd
  • ⅛ teaspoon rock salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
  • A pinch of black pepper

Instructions

  • Grind the chicken and then cook it.
  • Stir in yoghurt or curd, rock salt, onion powder and pepper.
  • Serve

Conclusion

Any surgery is perceived as a stressful event by your body. Knee replacement surgery requires a special dedicated diet for quick recovery and resumption of regular daily activities. The healing and recovery time, too, is reasonably high. Also, knee replacement being a factor connected to age, the natural ability of the body to recover is on the slower side. Therefore, the foods that you consume or should not consume need careful consideration. The purpose of your post-knee-surgery diet is that it should act as a catalyst for healing and recovery. Additionally, the diet needs to focus on bone and muscle repair, especially around the locations of the prosthetic knee insert. Your diet will invariably need tweaking beyond conventional do’s and don’ts to suit your health condition and body needs.

FAQs

Q1. What foods to avoid after knee replacement surgery?

Ans. Foods that may cause stomach upset, aggravate constipation or bloating are best avoided. Such foods include spicy foods, citrus foods, oily fried foods and foods devoid of fibre. 

Q2. What is good to eat after knee arthroplasty?

Ans. Foods rich in proteins, fibre, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids are good after knee replacement surgery. 

Q3. Is alcohol consumption allowed after knee replacement surgery?

Ans. Alcohol causes dehydration which is bad for recovery as your body needs plenty of hydration to recover. Alcohol may also interact with post-surgery medications. 

Q4. Is pineapple good after my surgery?

Ans. Yes, pineapples are good for you after surgery. So are papayas unless advised otherwise. Both fruits are known to reduce swelling and inflammation because of their protease enzyme content. Your body uses this to digest proteins. These fruits are rich in antioxidants and fibre. 

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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