Following a tonsillectomy, in which your tonsils are surgically removed, or an adenoidectomy, in which your adenoids are removed, your throat will be sore for up to two weeks. To speed up healing and decrease the pain, find out what foods to eat after a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.
To promote healing, stick with soft, nutrient-rich foods, such as smoothies, soups and homemade popsicles. Eating chips after a tonsillectomy, as well as other spicy or acidic foods, will be off-limits for a while.
What Is a Tonsillectomy?
A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure in which the tonsils (the oval-shaped balls of tissue at the back of your throat) are removed. The nearby adenoid glands may also be removed through a procedure called adenoidectomy. According to the Mayo Clinic, tonsillectomies used to be performed on those with recurrent tonsillitis, but now they are mostly prescribed to people with sleeping and breathing issues.
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Your tonsils do have a purpose, as the Mayo Clinic reports. They produce white blood cells that help fight diseases and are considered the first line of defense against pathogens. They are, however, vulnerable to infection, especially in kids. For people who have frequent infections or those born with naturally large tonsils, a tonsillectomy will help improve sleeping and breathing.
On average, the recovery time after the surgery is 10 days to two weeks. During this time, it's important to watch what you eat so you don't harm the surgery site, which may cause pain or bleeding. Certain foods can help (or hinder) the natural post-surgery swelling.
Foods to Avoid After Tonsillectomy
Your doctor will give you specific instructions on the best foods to consume after your surgery to promote healing. Still, there are some general rules to follow. For instance, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, eating "scratchy" foods like popcorn or chips is not recommended.
Other highly-textured foods, such as cold cereals and crunchy vegetables, may irritate your throat and delay healing. To stay safe, avoid foods that contain natural acids, such as citrus fruits, as they will burn your throat. Remember, this includes orange juice and lemonade. Also, steer clear of spicy foods, such as chili or salsa, because they may cause severe pain and irritation.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends avoiding high-fat dairy products after tonsillectomy. Dairy can increase the mucus in your throat, making it hard to swallow. A September 2018 study in the journal Laryngoscope supports this recommendation, showing that a dairy-free diet may significantly reduce mucus production.
Read more: Exercises After a Tonsillectomy
Best Drinks After a Tonsillectomy
According to the Cleveland Clinic, drinking water, apple juice, Gatorade or grape juice is a good way to ease the pain and keep hydrated. Smoothies may help prevent dehydration while also providing vital nutrition to help you heal.
Try a spinach smoothie loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and proteins to help your body recover faster. This Acai Banana Berry Smoothie is another great option to soothe your throat while providing the nutrition you need. It's rich in healthy fats, fiber and antioxidants that promote healing.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to stick to cold drinks and foods. A March 2019 study in the Iranian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology looked at the differences between eating cold or room temperature foods in regards to post-tonsillectomy pain relief. Researchers have found that the cold diet wasn't more effective at reducing pain compared to the room temperature diet.
After consulting with your doctor, just consume food at the temperature that feels best on your throat, as long as it's not overly warm.
Foods and Snacks After Tonsillectomy
So, what can you eat after a tonsillectomy? The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends soft, nutritional foods. Jell-O or pudding are common staples, but the store-bought versions of these foods are filled with empty calories. This vegan chocolate pudding recipe is a great option because it's dairy-free and packed with healthy ingredients, including avocado.
Whole-grain pasta and mashed sweet potatoes are also smart choices. Scrambled eggs are soft, easy-to-swallow and rich in protein, so include them in your diet. Gazpacho, a cold, vitamin-packed vegetable soup, might also feel great on your tender throat. Surprisingly, the Cleveland Clinic also recommends chewing gum after surgery as it can speed up healing.
Read more: Best Foods After Surgery
Sherbet, popsicles and low-fat ice cream are ideal after surgery too. Many store-bought desserts are loaded with artificial colors, flavorings and sugar, though, so your best bet is to make your own. This recipe for all-natural honey ginger popsicles will likely be soothing on your sore throat. Just make sure to leave out the pinch of cayenne pepper.
- Mayo Clinic: "Tonsillectomy"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Tonsil and Adenoid Removal - Discharge"
- The Laryngoscope: "Effect Of a Dairy Diet On Nasopharyngeal Mucus Secretion"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Tonsillectomy Postop Care"
- Iranian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology: "Effect of Cold Diet and Diet at Room Temperature on Post-Tonsillectomy Pain in Children"