Your hysterectomy recovery diet can help you optimise healing (tissue repair) and avoid some of the common bowel problems after abdominal or vaginal hysterectomy surgery.
Read on below this video for information to help your hysterectomy recovery:
- Diet that promotes fast tissue healing
- Best foods to restore the gut microbiome after a hysterectomy
- Diet for managing hysterectomy constipation
- Foods that soften the stool after hysterectomy
- Diet to reduce gas and bloating after hysterectomy surgery
- How to reduce IBS symptoms after hysterectomy
- Postoperative hysterectomy recovery is not the time to experiment with your diet
Hysterectomy Recovery Diet Timestamps
1:02 Protein sources to promote healing
3:05 Prebiotic foods to restore the gut microbiome
5:01 Foods that cause painful gas and bloating
6:59 Diet for hysterectomy constipation
Hysterectomy Recovery Exercises eBook
Reduce the risk of common hysterectomy side effects and promote the speed of your recovery.
- Early hysterectomy recovery (abdominal or vaginal hysterectomy)
- Preparing for a hysterectomy
- Reducing the risk of common side effects e.g. low back pain, constipation and gas
- Preparing your body for return to work and regular activity.
Hysterectomy Recovery Diet
Your postoperative hysterectomy diet includes the food and fluids you consume.
The best hysterectomy recovery diet depends on individual needs and levels of tolerance to different foods and fluids.
There are general dietary principles that can promote tissue healing and reduce the risk of some commonly occurring postoperative bowel problems after a hysterectomy.
Diet-Related Problems After Hysterectomy
A number of potential bowel problems after a hysterectomy can be addressed with an appropriate hysterectomy recovery diet.
Bowel problems after hysterectomy include:
- Excessive gas and bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Gut problems related to altered microbiome
Hysterectomy Recovery Diet that Promotes Fast Healing
Protein demands are increased for tissue healing during hysterectomy recovery. The human body uses amino acids derived from protein to build collagen and repair tissues.
The body doesn’t store protein so it needs to be consumed daily. Most women require around 2.5-3 daily servings of protein during postoperative hysterectomy recovery.
Aim to include one serving of lean protein in each of the three main meals throughout the day to ensure adequate protein intake.
Examples of one single serve of lean protein:
- 65g or 2.2oz cooked lean red meat (e.g. beef, lamb, veal or pork)
- 100g or 3.5 oz cooked fish or small can tinned fish (tuna or salmon)
- 80g or 2.8oz lean (skinless) chicken or turkey
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup pulses (beans and legumes)
- 170g or 6oz tofu
- 1 serve of low fat dairy e.g. 3/4 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese or 1 cup milk
- Protein supplements including whey protein, pulse protein or egg (albumin) protein mixed into a protein rich smoothie
Diet to Restore the Gut Microbiome After a Hysterectomy
The bacteria, viruses and fungi are microorganisms that live in our gut and make up our gut microbiome.
Some women develop long-term bowel problems after hysterectomy which may be related to altered microbiome.
It’s now thought that the gut microbiome may be affected by surgery. It’s possible that the stress of surgery may alter the gut microbiome 2. Antibiotics after surgery can also disturb the gut microbiome causing bowel symptoms.
Symptoms of a disturbed gut microbiome include:
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive gas and bloating
Probiotic supplements are not necessarily the answer to restoring the microbiome after antibiotic treatment. Recent research suggests that taking probiotics after antibiotics may be of no benefit in restoring the original microbiome3.
Including certain foods in the diet can feed beneficial gut bacteria and improve the overall health of the gut microbiome. Foods that feed the gut microbiome are called prebiotic foods.
It’s important to note that some of the following prebiotic foods can cause gas and bloating. Avoid introducing new foods or foods that upset your gut causing gut symptoms particularly during your early hysterectomy recovery.
Prebiotic foods that promote a healthy gut microbiome include:
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Root vegetables (potatoes cooked and cooled before to eating)
- Rice (cooked and cooled before to eating)
- Yogurt (Greek yogurt or homemade)
- Fermented drinks (Kombucha or Kefir)
* These foods can cause gas and should be consumed with caution after hysterectomy.
Foods that disrupt the gut microbiome include:
- Animal protein*
- Saturated fats e.g. visible fat on meat, butter, cheese, palm oil
- Alcohol overconsumption
* Protein in the daily diet is important for healing, especially during the first 3 months after hysterectomy. If you reduce your animal protein intake, make sure that your overall daily protein intake is adequate for healing.
Hysterectomy Recovery Diet for Constipation
Constipation is a common problem after hysterectomy.
Postoperative factors contributing to constipation after hysterectomy include:
- pain relieving medications
- decreased physical activity
- internal swelling
- gut flora changes (after antibiotics and surgery)
- pelvic pain
- being away from home in the hospital.
How to Soften Your Stool After Hysterectomy
Various problems can cause constipation after hysterectomy. One factor causing constipation is having a hard stool.
Hard stools can make emptying painful and women are often fearful of pain with bowel movements after hysterectomy.
Keeping your stool soft and well formed can make bowel emptying more comfortable and help to avoid straining.
Foods that soften the stool
Some foods, spices and fluids can soften the stool. Examples of stool softener foods include:
- Fruit – prunes, peaches, plums, pears*, kiwi fruit, apricots
- Vegetables – squash, capsicum, spinach, leafy greens, broccoli*, brussel sprouts*, legumes*
- Cereals – oats, bran, wholemeal bread, multigrain cereals
- Spices – chilli, curry
- Fibre supplements – psyllium* husks (Metamucil)
* These foods can increase gas so avoid or eat with caution after hysterectomy. Tinned beans create less gas than beans that are dried and soaked before cooking so these may be an option for some women prone to gas.
Foods that firm the stool
Some foods can firm the stool. If your stool is too hard you may try limiting your intake of some of the following foods after surgery.
Foods that firm the stool:
- White bread
- White rice
- Low fibre pasta
- Fatty foods (slow digestion)
- Processed foods (cakes, biscuits, pretzels)
Avoid Eating too Much Fibre
Eating a diet rich in fibre is important for bowel health. Healthy adults are usually advised to eat 30g or 1oz of fibre daily.
Eating too much fibre can make constipation worse if you’re already constipated, especially foods high in insoluble fibre.
Insoluble fibre doesn’t break down well with chewing and can’t be digested in the gut. Insoluble fibres include whole grains and thick skins of some fruit and vegetables.
If you’re already constipated, eating too much insoluble fibre can further slow your bowel and make you even more constipated.
Some women need to reduce their intake of high fibre to a lower fibre diet when constipated. When the bowel is emptied (often with the assistance of laxative medication) more fibre can then be gradually re-introduced into the diet.
Medication for Constipation After Hysterectomy
If you’re prone to constipation, it’s a good idea to discuss the use of appropriate laxative medication with your medical caregiver prior to hysterectomy surgery.
Osmotic laxatives are routinely prescribed by some gynaecologists to avoid constipation and straining after hysterectomy. These laxatives are often taken daily to prevent constipation during early hysterectomy recovery.
Osmotic laxatives work by drawing fluid into the bowel rather than irritating the gut lining so they act gently, don’t develop dependency and are usually safe to use e.g. Movicol, Osmolax or MiraLAX. When taking osmotic laxatives ensure that you have a good fluid intake for maximum benefit.
Check with your pharmacist or doctor before starting any new medication after surgery.
Diet to Reduce Gas and Bloating After Hysterectomy Surgery
Gas pain and bloating can be very painful and distressing after a hysterectomy.
If you’re suffering from gas pain you may reduce gas by avoiding or minimising your intake of gas producing foods.
Gas producing foods for caution include:
- Brassica family vegetables e.g. cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower
- Peas and beans
- Dried fruits (especially sulphur dried) e.g. figs, pears, apricots and prunes
- Some artificial sweeteners e.g. Sorbitol
- Soft drinks
Diet to Relieve IBS Symptoms after Hysterectomy
The low FODMAP diet is a research-based approach to eating developed at Monash University (Australia) and is used extensively by dieticians world-wide.
Some women gain almost immediate relief from their IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) symptoms by following a low FODMAP diet.
The low FODMAP diet removes or reduces certain foods and additives from the diet that are not well absorbed in the gut. These foods contain symptom triggers known as fermentable carbohydrates (abbreviated to FODMAPS). FODMAPS sit in the gut and ferment producing gas, flatulence and abdominal pain in some individuals.
A complete discussion and links to further reading on the low FODMAP diet can be found at Monash University.
The low FODMAP diet can provide an effective solution for managing IBS symptoms associated with altered gut microbiome. Research shows that IBS is linked with having an altered gut microbiome 1.
When you can manage your IBS symptoms through the low FODMAP diet you may then choose to address your diet to improve the health of your gut microbiome (see next section).
Early Hysterectomy Recovery is not the Time to Experiment With Diet
Early postoperative hysterectomy recovery diet should ideally consist of foods that your body tolerates well.
During the early stages of hysterectomy recovery your abdomen is likely to be more sensitive. Foods that cause constipation, diarrhoea, gas and bloating can increase abdominal pain especially if you’re someone who is already susceptible to bowel discomfort.
Some women find that eating a bland diet including readily digestible high protein foods is most appropriate during early stage recovery. Notice how your body reacts to your diet and progress your diet according to how well you feel and your physical symptoms.
Key Points for Hysterectomy Recovery Diet for Bowel Management
- During early recovery eat foods that you normally tolerate well
- Address constipation by managing your fibre intake and stool consistency with appropriate diet and/or medication
- Manage gas and bloating by eliminating or limiting your intake of gas producing foods
- Manage IBS by learning about the low FODMAP diet and working with a dietician to help you identify and reduce the foods that are triggering your symptoms
- Improve the health of your gut microbiome with your diet after your initial healing to avoid gut symptoms such as gas and bloating.
1 Y. Ringel, Y and Ringel-Kulka, T (2015). J. Clin. Gastroenterol. 49 Suppl 1 (2015) S56-59.
3 Suez, J. et al (2018) Post-Antibiotic Gut Mucosal Microbiome Reconstitution Is Impaired by Probiotics and Improved by Autologous FMT. Cell. Sep 6;174(6):1406-1423.