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Diet becomes more important when healing


Weight maintenance is a high priority with dental patients who have had broken jaws, arthroscopic surgery for transmandibular joint pain or facial reconstruction because their jaws don't fit together properly.

Dr. Richard Nessif, a Columbia maxillofacial surgeon, rebuilds about 100 jaws a year. He points out that patients may chew no solid food during the healing period, which lasts six to 12 weeks. During the first six weeks, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs and oatmeal are the chewiest foods allowed. Even a banana is too much work.

Adequate nutrition is crucial for healing. Protein rebuilds soft tissue. Calcium mends bone and clots blood. Vitamin A forms and maintains skin. Vitamin C helps develop bone matrix, cartilage and collagen. Potassium maintains water balance. And iron builds the blood supply.

So eating well is really important.

Dr. Nessif recommends liquid supplements like Ensure, Sustacal and even Carnation Instant Breakfast, which provide total nutrition if you drink enough of them.

But 12 weeks is a long time to exist on such drinks.

So Dr. Nessif also provides his patients with "Drink To Your Health," a marvelously creative 40-page booklet by Denise Woolford, a registered dietitian and dentist in Dallas.

Her 75 recipes include blended soups and shakes that range from 160 to 1,200 calories per serving. Ice cream, whole milk, full fat cheese and half-and-half supply the bulk of the calories in many items.

Men usually require about 2,600 calories each day and women about 2,000. While healing, more calories, protein and vitamins than normal may be required, Dr. Woolford says.

Although these high-saturated fat choices may seem inappropriate in this age of low-fat living, remember this is a temporary way of eating designed to meet short-term goals. Twelve weeks of high fat foods won't do you in.

If lack of protein becomes an issue, you might substitute evaporated milk for half-and-half some of the time. Half-and-half provides 320 calories per cup from 6 grams of protein and 24 grams of fat. Evaporated whole milk provides 340 calories, 17 grams of protein and 19 grams of fat.

Evaporated milk just doesn't taste as good as half-and-half, though, and anyone surviving that long on a liquid diet deserves some pleasure.

One note of warning: A number of the recipes use raw eggs. Instructions note their safety as long as shells are washed before use. This was good advice until recently, when the East Coast experienced an outbreak of salmonella poisoning from eggs that were laid with the bacteria inside. Easterners should avoid raw eggs altogether.

* For a copy of "Drink to Your Health," send a check or money order for $2.60 to: Denise Woolford, 8817 Arbor Park, Dallas, Texas 75243.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

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