Advise Me

Are You Overlooking This Important Aspect of Your Medical Care?

When you’re recovering from an illness, surgery or injury there are lots of steps you can take to help yourself heal. You can take medication as directed, follow physical therapy instructions and get the rest you need.

You can also pay attention to the foods you’re eating—nutrition is a part of your medical care that often gets overlooked.

The right food choices can help fuel your recovery, boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. Foods to consider include:

  • Leafy green veggies
  • Eggs
  • Salmon and shellfish
  • Berries
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Chicken, turkey, and organ meats
  • Cruciferous veggies
  • Sweet potatoes

You can also talk to your health care provider about the food choices that are best for your individual situation. Dawn Gielau, director of the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center said, “It’s important to ask about your nutrition interventions (or nutrition guidance and advice) when you leave the hospital or doctor’s office. Too often nutrition interventions stop at discharge.”

Here are some questions to ask your health care provider:

  • How do I know if I’m getting the proper nutrition?
  • What foods can help me in my recovery?
  • Are supplements safe for me? Are there any supplements I should be taking?
  • Should I see a registered dietitian?

How a dietitian can help

Your primary care provider can refer you to a dietitian. “It’s especially important to get a referral to a dietitian after a new medical diagnosis or when you’re being discharged from the hospital,” Gielau said.

A dietitian can evaluate your health history and review what you like to eat, what you don’t eat and how you like to prepare food. They can recommend changes to your diet that work for you and can help you get healthy.

Dietitians can help you improve your health through nutrition,” Gielau said. “They can also help you manage conditions such as obesity, food allergies, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

Working with a dietitian is especially important for older people. That’s because problems with chewing and swallowing or loss of appetite can crop up as we age. “Because of this, many older adults are not getting all of the benefits from healthy eating they need,” Gielau said.

Here’s why good nutrition is always important

Even after you’ve recovered from illness, surgery or injury, it’s important to keep focused on good nutrition. A healthy diet can help you recover more quickly from future problems. “People who are diagnosed with malnutrition stay in the hospital three times longer than other people,” Gielau said.

And a healthy diet isn’t just important when you’re healing. It can help keep your body strong and active even when you’re not dealing with medical conditions. “A healthy diet can improve many aspects of our health, from brain function to physical performance to improvement in diseases such as diabetes and heart disease,” Gielau said.

The bottom line

Making the right food choices can help your body heal. And sticking with those choices can help you stay healthy all the time. If you need help learning what’s the best way for you to eat, a dietitian can help. To connect with one, visit

To learn more about the link between nutrition and health, check out these articles:

Nutrition Wellness