A balanced diet will supply you with the nutrients you need to heal and rebuild strength after a hysterectomy. Here are the best foods to eat after your hysterectomy, including what to snack on in the first few days following your procedure and foods to include in your longer-term recovery diet.
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To help promote healing after your initial hysterectomy recovery period, fill your diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fat.
1. Soft Foods
After surgery, you'll likely stay in the hospital for a few days, according to the Mayo Clinic. During the first day or so, you'll stick to a clear liquid diet to avoid putting any digestive strain on your body, per University of Utah Health. Here are some clear liquids to include in your initial hysterectomy recovery diet:
- Pulp-free juice like white grape or apple juice
- Electrolyte sports drinks
- Clear sodas like ginger ale
- Tea or coffee (without milk or cream)
- Ice pops or fruit ice
- Clear hard candy like lemon drops
- Fruit-flavored gelatin or Jell-O
- Clear soups and broths like vegetable, beef and chicken broth or bouillon
- Plenty of water to stay hydrated
Once your body adjusts to clear liquids, you can start to eat soft meals, according to University of Utah Health. Mushy, bland and cooked products are all considered optimal soft foods to eat after surgery, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
According to the NLM, here's a list of soft foods to eat after surgery:
- Low-fat dairy products like milk or yogurt
- Fruit and vegetable juice
- Cooked or canned fruit with the skin and seeds removed, like applesauce
- Cooked or canned vegetables
- Refined cooked cereals like oatmeal and cream of wheat
- Lean, tender meats like poultry or fish
- Creamy peanut butter
Foods to Avoid
What should you not do immediately after a hysterectomy? Don't eat the following foods, according to the NLM, because they can strain your digestive system and cause unpleasant symptoms like gas in the days following your procedure.
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Greasy or fried foods
- Spicy food
- In some cases, carbonated beverages, according to UCLA Health
You can generally start to eat solid foods again a few days after surgery (though follow your doctor's recommendations when it comes to the specifics of your diet), per UCLA Health.
As you start to transition from your surgical soft diet to a longer-term post-hysterectomy diet for your months of recovery and beyond, fiber is one nutrient to prioritize. That's because a common side effect of a hysterectomy is difficulty with bowel movements, and fibrous foods can help ease the constipation and support overall gut health, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The best high-fiber foods to eat after hysterectomy include:
- Fruits like pears, avocados and berries
- Vegetables like artichokes, kale and parsnips
- Starches like sweet potatoes and squash
- Legumes like lentils, peas and beans
- Whole grains like buckwheat and oatmeal
The Best Stool Softeners After a Hysterectomy
Your doctor might also recommend you take medicine to help ease constipation after surgery. Per the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, options may include:
- Milk of magnesia
3. Protein and Fat
It's also important to include plenty of foods with protein and fat after a hysterectomy to help restore your energy, strength and overall nutrition, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Solid sources of protein and beneficial fats include:
- Meat like chicken and turkey
- Fish like salmon and tuna
- Soy products like tofu and tempeh
- Legumes like lentils and beans
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
- Peanut butter
- Nuts and nut butters like pecans, walnuts and almond butter
Additional sources of fat include:
- Oils like flaxseed oil, avocado oil and sesame oil
Besides being high in fiber, fruits and vegetables pack an additional nutritional punch. Fresh produce — particularly plants with vivid colors — contain lots of phytonutrients, which are are natural plant compounds that help support immunity, per the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Sources of phytonutrients include:
- Vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, carrots and asparagus
- Fruits like berries, kiwi, mango and peaches
- Starches like sweet potatoes and squash
- Herbs and spices like cilantro, parsley and turmeric
If you have a hysterectomy that removes your ovaries, you'll experience a condition called surgical menopause, where the sudden lack of estrogen triggers menopause regardless of your age, according to the National Health Service. Symptoms may include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Difficulty sleeping
Your doctor may prescribe hormone replacement therapy to help ease symptoms. You can also eat foods that contain phytoestrogens, which are natural plant compounds that may have weak estrogenic effects in the body, per the Mayo Clinic.
Foods high in phytoestrogen include:
- Soy products like soybeans, tofu and tempeh
- Dried fruits like apricots and prunes
- Seeds like flaxseeds and sunflower seeds
- Brussels sprouts
However, more research is needed to understand the effect — if any — that phytoestrogens have on menopausal symptoms, so speak to your doctor about whether these foods might help you.
If you have less of an appetite after your surgery, try eating small meals with snacks in between, per the NLM.
Drinking plenty of fluids is another important part of your post-hysterectomy diet, per the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Staying hydrated with water or other nourishing liquids like herbal tea can help your body flush out waste and prevent constipation, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How much you need to drink to stay hydrated varies from person to person based on factors like your age and size, per the University of Missouri System. To determine how much you should drink in a day, try the following calculation:
- Body weight (in pounds) ÷ 2 = minimum ounces of water you should drink per day
Items to Have on Hand After a Hysterectomy
Soft meals and a balanced diet aren't the only thing to consider after surgery. Per the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, other important items to have at the ready when you return from the hospital include:
- Comfortable, loose clothes that won't irritate the incision areas
- Anti-inflammatory pain medication like Motrin (or whatever your doctor recommends)
- Mild soap to keep the incision areas clean
- Clean gauze to bandage the incision areas
- Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: "Recovering From Your Hysterectomy"
- University of Utah Health: "Eating After Surgery"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Bland diet"
- UCLA Health: "Hysterectomy"
- Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: "Phytonutrient-Rich Foods: Add color to your plate"
- National Health Service: "Hysterectomy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Perimenopause"
- Mayo Clinic: "Functions of water in the body"
- University of Missouri System: "How to calculate how much water you should drink"
- Mayo Clinic: "Abdominal hysterectomy"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.