Nutrition in hospital after critical illness

15 Jun 2020

It is common to find it difficult to eat after critical illness and maintain a healthy weight. This information tells you about the nutrition to have in hospital and how to help with common problems you may have with eating. You can click the tabs above to access each section.

This information forms part of advice on "Nutrition and recovery after critical illness’, so also see the ‘Nutrition when at home’ and 'Tips to help with some common problems with eatinginformation.


Recovery from critical illness starts on the intensive care unit (ICU), and continues long after leaving ICU and hospital. It is therefore important that you and your family receive as much information and support as possible to help you during this time.  You may particularly need information about nutrition to help your recovery.  Nutrition is the term used to describe what you eat and drink, which gives you energy and other nutrients to help your body recover and stay healthy.

This information sheet tells you about the nutrition you would have had in ICU, and then on the ward afterwards, and gives tips on what can help you with eating in this stage of your recovery while still in hospital.

This information sheet is part of a series of information about nutrition and recovery after critical illness. The other information sheets are about nutrition when you leave hospital and tips to help with some common problems with eating.

Having this information may help you to understand more about nutrition, how it can help your recovery and overcome any difficulties with eating after your critical illness. We hope it will help you and your family, but if you have any particular nutritional questions or worries about your eating or weight, please ask your doctor if they can refer you to a dietitian. A dietitian is a registered health care professional who is an expert on the science of nutrition, advising people how to use nutrition to improve during illness or to maintain good health.

Why will advice on nutrition help me after critical illness?

Critical illness can affect many parts of our bodies. It can change what nutrition our bodies need, and also how the body uses the nutrition. During critical illness, your body will have used some of its stored fat and muscle to turn it into energy to help the recovery from your illness and this can cause weight loss.

Getting the right nutrition during your recovery can help:

  • improve wound healing
  • reduce infection risk
  • fight infection and have a strong immune system
  • avoid losing any more weight
  • you get stronger
  • your body recover
  • reduce how long you stay in hospital.