Bariatric weight loss surgery is associated with a 42% reduction of the risk of cardiovascular disease and 30% reduction of all-cause mortality, national data from the World Journal of Diabetes shows. It’s been proven to improve blood pressure, eliminate sleep apnea and reverse type 2 diabetes. It can help cure depression and improve quality of life.
In other words, its benefits are lifesaving.
But, it does have its drawbacks. People who have weight loss surgery — especially Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) — may struggle to get all of the nutrition they need. This makes them susceptible to vitamin deficiencies, which can lead to debilitating diseases such as anemia, osteoporosis and malnutrition.
Luckily doctors know which surgeries put patients at risk and have strategies in place to help prevent nutritional complications. Knowing your body, understanding your options and committing to lifelong nutritional monitoring can help you handle vitamin deficiencies after weight loss surgery.
Weight Loss Surgery Procedure Type Matters
All bariatric procedures alter the anatomy and physiology of the digestive tract to some degree. Because of this, patients are susceptible to nutritional complications. But not all weight loss surgeries are created equal. Lap banding and gastric sleeve patients may develop vitamin deficiencies because their stomachs are smaller, they’re eating less, and their food preferences have changed, but in general, these procedures don’t affect how the body absorbs calories and nutrients.
Roux-en-Y gastric bypass patients, on the other hand, are at higher risk to develop vitamin deficiencies because not only are they eating less, but food is actually bypassing parts of the small intestine, whose main function is to absorb nutrients and minerals from food.
Vitamin Deficiency Symptoms
A smaller stomach and changes in food preferences, such as developing an intolerance for meat and dairy products, can affect how many nutrients your body absorbs after weight loss surgery. Here is a list of common vitamins that weight loss surgery patients may experience deficiencies in (according to information compiled from Mayo Clinic and National Institutes of Health):
While malnutrition is a known possible complication of weight loss surgery, a recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins show that many obese people may be suffering from vitamin deficiencies before they undergo the procedure. Because of that, some suggest that a nutritional workup should be part of the presurgical, as well as the post-op, care.
After Surgery Nutrition Guidelines
After weight loss surgery, it’s typical to eat only liquid or pureed foods for up to three weeks as your body gets used to your new stomach. Your health care provider will provide specific diet guidelines based on your individual situation. In general, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting enough protein, vitamins, and minerals. That means eating mostly protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
What to Eat After Weight Loss Surgery
Protein may be the most important food to focus on immediately after surgery as your body is recovering and losing weight quickly. Follow your weight loss doctor’s instructions for the best types and amounts of protein. Low-fat protein options include:
- Chicken and turkey
- Lean beef or pork
- Fish and shellfish
- Whole eggs or egg whites
- Soy milk and tofu
- Low-fat dairy products, such as cheese, cottage cheese, milk and yogurt
- Peanut butter
Always check with your healthcare provider before undergoing surgery to make sure you understand dietary restrictions and requirements post surgery.
When to Eat
Meal planning is essential after weight loss surgery, as it helps you have healthy and nutritious options on hand. You may also want to keep a daily food and drink log to track what you’re consuming. On paper it’s easier to see if you’re lacking a certain food group or overeating in another. Or try a calorie counter and diet tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal, to keep an eye on what you’re eating.
What to Avoid
Sugary, fatty and fried foods can slow your weight loss, make you nauseated and cause dumping syndrome. This includes sugary and carbonated drinks. Doctors also suggest avoiding empty calories such as alcohol, and smoking, which can cause stomach ulcers after gastric bypass surgery.
Vitamins for Life
After weight loss surgery, your body won’t be able to absorb all the vitamins and minerals it needs through food. You’ll need to take vitamin and mineral supplements every day for the rest of your life to prevent deficiencies that could lead to serious health problems. These supplements could include:
- A multivitamin with iron
- Vitamin B12
- Calcium citrate with vitamin D
Living Well After Weight Loss Surgery
After bariatric surgery, nutrition complications can happen, but they don’t have to. With the right amount of planning, effort and commitment, you can learn to not just live with vitamin deficiencies — but live well — and the experts at Soma Weight Loss can help. Because we want your weight loss journey to be successful for long after your procedure, you receive free weight loss services to continue living a healthy lifestyle and keep weight off. These free services include nutrition and exercise guidance, a monthly support group, a patient coordinator and regular follow-ups.
Call 855-SOMA-411 to speak to someone at Soma Bariatrics, or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.