The appendix is a small finger-like pouch located on the intestines near where the small intestine meets the colon. Stool may block the appendix and cause an infection from trapped bacteria. This infection, referred to as appendicitis, requires surgical removal of the organ, referred to as an appendectomy. Symptoms of appendicitis include pain in the right lower portion of the abdomen that worsens with movement, fever, nausea and an inability to pass gas. After an appendectomy, a person needs to slowly resume a normal diet.
After any surgery, the gastrointestinal tract may wake up slowly. Sticking with a clear liquid diet is best until all nausea and vomiting pass after waking up from anesthesia. Clear liquids consist of foods and beverages such as apple juice, clear soda, broth and gelatin. If a medical professional hears normal bowel sounds with a stethoscope and the person tolerates clear liquids, advancing the diet to bland foods is usually okay.
As the body continues to recover from surgery, eating soft, bland foods will allow the intestines to heal without additional stress. Bland foods include potatoes, rice and cooked chicken. Avoiding spicy, greasy and fatty foods may help prevent gastrointestinal distress when recovering from an appendectomy. Foods that produce intestinal gas, such as beans, may increase the pain associated with having a laparoscopic appendectomy because the surgeon fills the abdomen with air during the operation. After surgery, people may feel gas pains. Eating a healthy diet will help speed the healing process and lower the risk of a postoperative infection.
Risk factors, such as decreased walking and pain medications, may cause a person to experience constipation after an appendectomy. Slowly adding high-fiber foods to the diet may help prevent the constipation. High-fiber foods include whole grains, beans, dried fruit and raspberries. Adding too many high-fiber foods to the diet all at one time may increase the risk of developing uncomfortable intestinal gas.
Eating small, frequent meals after an appendectomy may help decrease stress on the intestines while the area heals. Eating before taking medications such as pain medicine or antibiotics may help decrease potential side effects, such as nausea and vomiting. Without any complications, a person who undergoes an appendectomy should return to a normal diet within a week or two after surgery.
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- University of Maryland Medical Center: Appendectomy; Robert A. Cowles, MD; May 2009
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Appendicitis
- American College of Surgeons: Appendectomy; Thomas Whalen, MD et al.
- MedlinePlus: Appendectomy; Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD; May 2010
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber: Start Roughing It