Guide To Eating For Your Immune System (Tonsils And Adenoids)

Photo credit: Nhia Moua

Photo credit: Nhia Moua

Tonsil and Adenoidectomy Post Op Nutrition

It is important to stay nourished and hydrated after surgery, therefore getting in adequate protein and liquids is important for healing and for overall health and wellness. 

Hot (temperature and spicy), acidic foods (like citrus and tomato), and crunchy foods may irritate the throat after surgery and should be avoided. Think cool and soothing.

Start with liquids and add soft solids as you are able.

What to eat and drink:

  • Lots of water

  • Coconut water is a natural and healthy source of electrolytes (instead of Gatorade or sports drinks)

  • Coconut ice cream (preferred over regular dairy* ice cream)

  • Milk alternatives: almond, coconut, flaxseed, hazelnut, hemp, and rice

  • Banana ice cream    

    • Frozen banana, berries, other favorite items (even raw cacao to make it chocolate), can add coconut oil and/or avocado for healthy fats and calories, blend in food processor or blender

  • Chocolate pudding (made healthy)

    • Mashed avocado, raw cacao powder to taste, honey or maple syrup to taste (really tastes like chocolate pudding AND is loaded with healthy fats)

  • Applesauce, soft canned fruits like peaches, mashed bananas

  • Cooled soups, bone broths (with soft, well-cooked rice, vegetables and protein sources like very soft tender chicken or fish) 

  • Oatmeal (cooled)

  • Well-cooked rice (cooled)

  • Mashed potatoes and/or sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes are more nutrient dense) (cooled)

  • Mashed butternut squash, other mashed squashes (even zucchini) (cooled)

  • Very cooked/soft/pureed vegetables (cooled)

  • Add grass-fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, or ghee to foods for healthy fats

  • Smoothies are a great way to get in all sort of nutrients

    • Add fruit, vegetables, coconut oil and/or other healthy fats, other as desired, include probiotics, vitamins, pain medications, etc.

    • If feeling adventurous, add some baby kale or spinach to the smoothies, it might turn them green, carrots (orange), or beets (red of course), etc., but really has no taste to it otherwise, and it’s a great way to get in some vegetables and extra nutrients (and fun to drink different colored smoothies!).

    • If you’re looking for more specific smoothie recipes, click here

  • Protein ideas

    • Add a favorite protein powder to smoothies, banana ice cream, avocado pudding, yogurt, etc.

    • Use an unflavored protein powder to add to mashed potatoes and oatmeal (and other foods) for example

    • Coconut or Greek yogurt (full fat versions)

    • Canned tuna or salmon

    • Soft, cooked and cooled fish

    • Scrambled eggs

    • Mashed beans, bean dips, hummus and lentils

Dairy is a common allergen, is often loaded with hormones and antibiotics, and can contribute to leaky gut and inflammation.

For reference, examples of non-dairy foods high in calcium that can be eaten after surgery and as the area begins to heal include mashed canned salmon, mashed beans and lentils, spinach, kale, collard greens, and broccoli juiced/added to smoothies, and enriched rice, almond, hemp and coconut milks.

About Tonsils and Adenoids

Tonsils and adenoids are part of the immune system, and are made of lymphatic tissue. They trap germs that come into the body through the nose and mouth.

Because of their location, tonsils and adenoids are the first line of defense against pathogens that we eat or breathe in, making them an important part of our immune defense system. They also are important for the health of our oral and digestive microbiomes (good bacteria in our mouths and guts respectively).

When the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged, inflamed and infected, it can mean the immune system is in overdrive and something is chronically triggering it.

Removing the tonsils and adenoids (the usual treatment for persistent issues) does not necessarily address the underlying cause of why the immune system is chronically in overdrive. This can leave the root cause unaddressed, and lead to other health problems in the future. 

Eighty percent of the immune systems is located in the gut microbiome. Gut imbalances therefore can have a negative effect throughout the body. Examples of gut imbalances are gut dysbiosis (abnormal/imbalanced gut bacteria) and leaky gut, and these can be causes of systemic, chronic immune system stimulation, dysregulation, and inflammation.

Before undergoing surgery many patients have been on multiple rounds of antibiotics, and use over the counter pain medications to manage symptoms associated with their enlarged, inflamed and infected tonsils and adenoids.

  • Over use of antibiotics damage the gut microbiome and can cause dysbiosis and leaky gut. This weakens the immune system, and impairs digestive health.

  • Over use of pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can negatively effect the gut lining (contributing to leaky gut) and microbiome, and therefore the immune system.

We aren’t what we eat, we are what our bodies can do with what we eat. Problems in the gut adversely effect the digestion, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients from foods we do eat.

This can lead to nutrient insufficiency and deficiency over time. Our bodies run off of nutrients from foods we eat, and if they are missing, for any reason (including due to an inability to digest, absorb and use them because of impaired gut health), imbalances develop and so do symptoms and health problems.

Food is medicine and is our first line of defense against illness and disease

  • We start with nutrition!

    • Poor diet can adversely affect the microbiome and lead to dysbiosis and leaky gut.

      • First, we remove inflammatory foods including processed, sugary, and artificial foods, as well as gluten, and dairy.

    • Food sensitivities cause dysregulation of the gut microbiome, and dysregulation of the gut microbiome can cause food sensitivities, resulting in leaky gut. It’s a vicious cycle. Keep in mind that food sensitivities are not a root cause of the problem. They are a symptom of impaired gut health.

      • There is functional testing that can be done to explore gut health, and there are natural interventions that can be implemented to resolve identified imbalances including nutrition, lifestyle and nutrient supplement interventions.

    • Food allergies and intolerances are linked to enlargement of adenoids and tonsils

      • Food allergies are different from sensitivities and intolerances, and must be avoided. Food allergy testing can be done to identify offending foods so they can be removed from the diet.

We can also incorporate foods containing supportive, immune boosting nutrients into our diets.  

Incorporate these nutrients into your diet to help boost your immune system

Nutrients important for boosting the immune system: Vitamins A, B6, C, D, and E, folate, iron, selenium, zinc, probiotics

Foods containing nutrients to help boost your immune system

Vitamin A: Beef liver, cod liver oil, egg, butter, milk, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, cantaloupe, mango, spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, butternut squash (essentially all red, orange, yellow, and green plant foods)

Vitamin B6: Tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potato, potato, sunflower seeds, spinach 

Vitamin C: All will be higher in vitamin C if uncooked. Bell peppers, papaya, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, kiwi 

Vitamin D: Salmon, herring and sardines, cod liver oil, canned light tuna (lower in mercury), oysters, egg yolk, mushrooms

Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, avocados, turnip greens, asparagus, mustard greens 

Folate: Liver, chicken giblets, egg yolk, dried beans, lentils, split peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, beet root, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, kale, bok choy, asparagus, oranges, peaches

Iron: Beef, chicken liver, oysters, clams, tuna (light canned in water), muscles, raisins, prune juice, prunes, potato with skin, quinoa, spinach, Swiss chard, beans, lentils, hazelnuts, cashews

Selenium: Tuna, sardines, salmon, turkey, cod, chicken, lamb, beef

Zinc: Beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, lentils, garbanzo beans, quinoa, turkey

Probiotic foods*: Cultured vegetables (sauerkraut and kimchi), kombucha, coconut kefir, natto, coconut yogurt, apple cider vinegar, salted gherkin pickles, tempeh, miso, brine-cured olives

*Probiotic foods are also high in histamine, which some people are sensitive or intolerant to, especially those with skin rashes like eczema.

Avoid High Mercury Fish

High mercury fish: Bluefish, grouper, mackerel (Spanish, Gulf, King), marlin, orange roughy, sea bass (Chilean), shark, swordfish, tilefish, and tuna (canned albacore, yellowfin, bigeye, ahi)

Low mercury fish: anchovies, butterfish, catfish, croaker (Atlantic),  flounder, haddock (Atlantic), hake, herring, mackerel (North Atlantic, chub), mullet, perch (ocean), pollock, salmon (fresh, wild), sardines, sole (Pacific), squid, tilapia, trout (freshwater), whitefish, and whiting

General Nutrition Recommendations

Go organic when possible for fruits and vegetables.

Go organic, pastured, free range, grass fed, wild caught, etc. for animal products.

Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day. For little ones, drink one 8 oz glass per year of age, per day.